Commentaries on Living Read by Terence Stamp 5

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. Two further volumes were published in 1958 and 1960. Chapters included in this episode are titled Experiencing, Virtue, Simplicity of the Heart, Facets of the Individual, Sleep, and Love in Relationship.

Terence Stamp is an Oscar-nominated actor, known for his roles in The Limey, Superman, The Collector, Wall Street and many others. It was through working with Fellini that he met and became friends with Krishnamurti. Stamp includes his experiences with Krishnamurti in his recent memoir The Ocean Fell Into the Drop.

We thank the Karina Library in Ojai, California and Terence Stamp for these recordings, most of which have not been released before.


Part 1: Experiencing

The valley was in the shadow, and the setting sun touched the faraway mountain tops; their evening glow seemed to come from within. To the north of the long road, the mountains were bare and barren, exposed by the fire; to the south, the hills were green and heavy with bushes and trees. The road ran straight, dividing the long and graceful valley. The mountains on this particular evening seemed so close, so unreal, so light and tender. Heavy birds were circling effortlessly high in the heavens. Ground squirrels were lazily crossing the road, and there was the hum of a distant airplane. On both sides of the road were orange orchards, well ordered and well kept. After the hot day the smell of purple sage was very strong, and so was the smell of sunburnt earth and hay. The orange trees were dark, with their bright fruit. The quail were calling, and a road-runner disappeared into the bush. A long snake-lizard, disturbed by the dog, wriggled off into the dry weeds. The evening stillness was creeping over the land.

Experience is one thing, and experiencing is another. Experience is a barrier to the state of experiencing. However pleasant or ugly the experience, it prevents the flowering of experiencing. Experience is already in the net of time, it is already in the past, it has become a memory which comes to life only as a response to the present. Life is the present, it is not the experience. The weight and the strength of experience shadow the present, and so experiencing becomes the experience. The mind is the experience, the known, and it can never be in the state of experiencing; for what it experiences is the continuation of experience. The mind only knows continuity, and it can never receive the new as long as its continuity exists. What is continuous can never be in a state of experiencing. Experience is not the means to experiencing, which is a state without experience. Experience must cease for experiencing to be.

The mind can invite only its own self-projection, the known. There cannot be the experiencing of the unknown until the mind ceases to experience. Thought is the expression of experience; thought is a response of memory; and as long as thinking intervenes, there can be no experiencing. There is no means, no method to put an end to experience; for the very means is a hindrance to experiencing. To know the end is to know continuity, and to have a means to the end is to sustain the known. The desire for achievement must fade away; it is this desire that creates the means and the end. Humility is essential for experiencing. But how eager is the mind to absorb the experiencing into experience! How swift it is to think about the new and thus make of it the old! So it establishes the experiencer and the experienced, which gives birth to the conflict of duality.

In the state of experiencing, there is neither the experiencer nor the experienced. The tree, the dog and the evening star are not to be experienced by the experiencer; they are the very movement of experiencing. There is no gap between the observer and the observed; there is no time, no spatial interval for thought to identify itself. Thought is utterly absent, but there is being. This state of being cannot be thought of or meditated upon, it is not a thing to be achieved. The experiencer must cease to experience, and only then is there being. In the tranquillity of its movement is the timeless.

Part 2: Virtue

The sea was very calm and there was hardly a ripple on the white sands. Around the wide bay, to the north, was the town, and to the south were palm trees, almost touching the water. Just visible beyond the bar were the first of the sharks, and beyond them the fishermen’s boats, a few logs tied together with stout rope. They were making for a little village south of the palm trees. The sunset was brilliant, not where one would expect it, but in the east; it was a counter-sunset, and the clouds, massive and shapely, were lit with all the colours of the spectrum. It was really quite fantastic, and almost painful to bear. The waters caught the brilliant colours and made a path of exquisite light to the horizon.

There were a few fishermen walking back to their villages from the town, but the beach was almost deserted and silent. A single star was above the clouds. On our way back, a woman joined us and began to talk of serious things. She said she belonged to a certain society whose members meditated and cultivated the essential virtues. Each month a particular virtue was chosen, and during the days that followed it was cultivated and put into practice. From her attitude and speech it appeared that she was well grounded in self-discipline and somewhat impatient with those who were not of her mood and purpose.

Virtue is of the heart and not of the mind. When the mind cultivates virtue, it is cunning calculation; it is a self-defence, a clever adjustment to environment. Self-perfection is the very denial of virtue. How can there be virtue if there is fear? Fear is of the mind and not of the heart. Fear hides itself under different forms: virtue, respectability, adjustment, service and so on. Fear will always exist in the relationships and activities of the mind. The mind is not separate from its activities; but it separates itself, thus giving itself continuity and permanence. As a child practises the piano, so the mind cunningly practises virtue to make itself more permanent and dominant in meeting life, or to attain what it considers to be the highest. There must be vulnerability to meet life, and not the respectable wall of self-enclosing virtue. The highest cannot be attained; there is no path, no mathematically progressive growth to it. Truth must come, you cannot go to truth, and your cultivated virtue will not carry you to it. What you attain is not truth, but your own self-projected desire; and in truth alone is there happiness.

The cunning adaptability of the mind in its own self-perpetuation sustains fear. It is this fear that must be deeply understood, not how to be virtuous. A petty mind may practise virtue, but it will still remain petty. Virtue is then an escape from its own pettiness, and the virtue it gathers will also be petty. If this pettiness is not understood, how can there be the experiencing of reality? How can a petty, virtuous mind be open to the immeasurable?

In comprehending the process of the mind, which is the self, virtue comes into being. Virtue is not accumulated resistance; it is the spontaneous awareness and the understanding of what is. Mind cannot understand; it may translate what is understood into action, but it is not capable of understanding. To understand, there must be the warmth of recognition and reception, which only the heart can give when the mind is silent. But the silence of the mind is not the result of cunning calculation. The desire for silence is the curse of achievement, with its endless conflicts and pains. The craving to be, negatively or positively, is the denial of virtue of the heart. Virtue is not conflict and achievement, prolonged practice and result, but a state of being which is not the outcome of self-projected desire. There is no being if there is a struggle to be. In the struggle to be there is resistance and denial, mortification and renunciation; but the overcoming of these is not virtue. Virtue is the tranquillity of freedom from the craving to be, and this tranquillity is of the heart, not of the mind. Through practice, compulsion, resistance, the mind may make itself quiet, but such a discipline destroys virtue of the heart, without which there is no peace, no blessing; for virtue of the heart is understanding.

Part 3: Simplicity of the Heart

The skies were open and full. There were not the big, wide-winged birds that float so easily from valley to valley, nor even a passing cloud. The trees were still and the curving folds of the hills were rich in shadow. The eager deer, consumed with curiosity, was watching, and suddenly darted away at our approach. Under a bush, of the same colour as the earth, was a flat horned toad, bright-eyed and motionless. To the west the mountains were sharp and clear against the setting sun. Far below was a big house; it had a swimming pool, and some people were in it. There was a lovely garden surrounding the house; the place looked prosperous and secluded, and had that peculiar atmosphere of the rich. Farther down a dusty road was a small shack in a dry field. Poverty, squalor and toil, even at that distance, were visible. Seen from that height the two houses were not far apart; ugliness and beauty were touching each other.

Simplicity of the heart is of far greater importance and significance than simplicity of possessions. To be content with few things is a comparatively easy matter. To renounce comfort, or to give up smoking and other habits, does not indicate simplicity of heart. To put on a loincloth in a world that is taken up with clothes, comforts and distractions, does not indicate a free being. There was a man who had given up the world and its ways, but his desires and passions were consuming him; he had put on the robes of a monk, but he did not know peace. His eyes were everlastingly seeking, and his mind was riven by his doubts and hopes. Outwardly you discipline and renounce, you chart your course, step by step, to reach the end. You measure the progress of your achievement according to the standards of virtue: how you have given up this or that, how controlled you are in your behaviour, how tolerant and kind you are, and so on and on. You have learnt the art of concentration, and you withdraw into a forest, a monastery or a darkened room to meditate; you pass your days in prayer and watchfulness. Outwardly you have made your life simple, and through this thoughtful and calculated arrangement you hope to reach the bliss that is not of this world.

But is reality reached through external controls and sanctions? Though outward simplicity, the putting aside of comfort, is obviously necessary, will this gesture open the door to reality? To be occupied with comfort and success burdens the mind and the heart, and there must be freedom to travel; but why are we so concerned with this outward gesture? Why are we so eagerly determined to give an outward expression of our intention? Is it the fear of self-deception, or of what another might say? Why do we wish to convince ourselves of our integrity? Does not this whole problem lie in the desire to be sure, to be convinced of our own importance in becoming?

The desire to be is the beginning of complexity. Driven by the ever-increasing desire to be, inwardly and outwardly, we accumulate or renounce, cultivate or deny. Seeing that time steals all things, we cling to the timeless. This struggle to be, positively or negatively, through attachment or detachment, can never be resolved by any outward gesture, discipline or practice; but the understanding of this struggle will bring about, naturally and spontaneously, the freedom from outward and inward accumulation with their conflicts. Reality is not to be reached through detachment; it is unattainable through any means. All means and ends are a form of attachment, and they must cease for the being of reality.

Part 4: Facets of the Individual

He came to see us surrounded by his disciples. They were of every kind, the well-to-do and the poor, the high governmental official and the widow, the fanatic and the young man with a smile. They were a pleasant and happy lot, and the shadows were dancing on the white house. In the thick foliage, parrots were screeching, and a noisy lorry went by. The young man was eager and insisted on the importance of the guru, the teacher; the others were in accord with him and smiled with delight as he made his points, clearly and objectively. The sky was very blue, and a white-throated eagle was circling just above us with hardly a flutter of the wing. It was a very beautiful day. How we destroy each other, the pupil the guru, and the guru the pupil! How we conform, break away to take shape again! A bird was pulling out a long worm from the moist earth.

We are many and not one. The one does not come into being till the many cease. The clamorous many are at war with each other day and night, and this war is the pain of life. We destroy one, but another rises in its place; and this seemingly endless process is our life. We try to impose the one on the many, but the one soon becomes the many. The voice of the many is the voice of the one, and the one voice assumes authority; but it is still the chattering of a voice. We are the voices of the many, and we try to catch the still voice of the one. The one is the many if the many are silent to hear the voice of the one. The many can never find the one.

Our problem is not how to hear the one voice but to understand the composition, the make-up of the many which we are. One facet of the many cannot understand the many; one entity cannot understand the many entities which we are. Though one facet tries to control, discipline, shape the other facets, its efforts are ever self-enclosing, narrowing. The whole cannot be understood through the part, and that is why we never understand. We never get the view of the whole, we are never aware of the whole, because we are so occupied with the part. The part divides itself and becomes the many. To be aware of the whole, the conflict of the many, there must be the understanding of desire. There is only one activity of desire; though there are varying and conflicting demands and pursuits, they are all the outcome of desire. Desire may not be sublimated or suppressed; it must be understood without him who understands. If the entity who understands is there, then it is still the entity of desire. To understand without the experiencer is to be free of the one and of the many. All activities of conformity and denial, of analysis and acceptance, only strengthen the experiencer. The experiencer can never understand the whole. The experiencer is the accumulated, and there is no understanding within the shadow of the past. Dependence on the past may offer a way of action, but the cultivation of a means is not understanding. Understanding is not of the mind, of thought; and if thought is disciplined into silence to capture that which is not of the mind, then that which is experienced is the projection of the past. In the awareness of this whole process there is a silence which is not of the experiencer. In this silence only does understanding come into being.

Part 5: Sleep

It was a cold winter and the trees were bare, their naked branches exposed to the sky. There were very few evergreen trees, and even they felt the cold winds and the frosty nights. In the far distance the high mountains were covered with heavy snow, and white billowy clouds hung over them. The grass was brown, for there had been no rain for many months, and the spring rains were still distant. The earth was dormant and fallow. There was no cheery movement of nesting birds in green hedges, and the paths were hard and dusty. On the lake there were a few ducks, pausing on their way to the south. The mountains held the promise of a new spring, and the earth was dreaming of it.

What would happen if sleep were denied to us? Would we have more time to fight, to intrigue, to make mischief? Would we be more cruel and ruthless? Would there be more time for humility, compassion and frugality? Would we be more creative? Sleep is a strange thing, but extraordinarily important. For most people, the activities of the day continue through their nocturnal slumbers; their sleep is the continuation of their life, dull or exciting, an extension at a different level of the same insipidity or meaningless strife. The body is refreshed by sleep; the internal organism, having a life of its own, renews itself. During sleep, desires are quiescent, and so do not interfere with the organism; and with the body refreshed, the activities of desire have further opportunities for stimulation and expansion. Obviously, the less one interferes with the internal organism, the better; the less the mind takes charge of the organism, the more healthy and natural is its function. But disease of the organism is another matter, produced by the mind or by its own weakness.

Sleep is of great significance. The more the desires are strengthened, the less the meaning of sleep. Desires, positive or negative, are fundamentally always positive, and sleep is the temporary suspension of this positive. Sleep is not the opposite of desire, sleep is not negation, but a state which desire cannot penetrate. The quietening of the superficial layers of consciousness takes place during sleep, and so they are capable of receiving the intimations of the deeper layers; but this is only a partial comprehension of the whole problem. It is obviously possible for all the layers of consciousness to be in communication with each other during waking hours, and also during sleep; and of course this is essential. This communication frees the mind from its own self-importance, and so the mind does not become the dominant factor. Thus it loses, freely and naturally, its self-enclosing efforts and activities. In this process the impetus to become is completely dissolved, the accumulative momentum exists no longer.

But there is something more that takes place in sleep. There is found an answer to our problems. When the conscious mind is quiet, it is capable of receiving an answer, which is a simple affair. But what is far more significant and important than all this is the renewal which is not a cultivation. One can deliberately cultivate a gift, a capacity, or develop a technique, a pattern of action and behaviour; but this is not renewal. Cultivation is not creation. This creative renewal does not take place if there is any kind of effort on the part of a becomer. The mind must voluntarily lose all accumulative impulse, the storing up of experience as a means to further experience and achievement. It is the accumulative, self-protective urge that breeds the curve of time and prevents creative renewal.

Consciousness as we know it is of time, it is a process of recording and storing experience at its different levels. Whatever takes place within this consciousness is its own projection; it has its own quality, and is measurable. During sleep, either this consciousness is strengthened, or something wholly different takes place. For most of us, sleep strengthens experience, it is a process of recording and storing in which there is expansion but not renewal. Expansiveness gives a feeling of elation, of inclusive achievement, of having understood, and so on; but all this is not creative renewal. This process of becoming must wholly come to an end, not as a means to further experience, but as an ending in itself.

During sleep, and often during waking hours, when becoming has entirely ceased, when the effect of a cause has come to an end, then that which is beyond time, beyond the measure of cause and effect, comes into being.

Part 6: Love in Relationship

The path went by a farm and climbed a hill overlooking the various buildings, the cows with their calves, the chickens, the horses, and many farm machines. It was a pleasant path, wandering through the woods, and it was often used by deer and other wild animals who left their footprints here and there in the soft earth. When it was very still, the voices from the farm, the laughter and the sound of the radio, would be carried to quite a distance. It was a well-kept farm and there was an air of tidiness about it. Often the voices were raised in anger, followed by the silence of children. There was a song among the trees and the angry voices even broke through this song. Suddenly, a woman came out of the house, banging the door; she went over to the cow-shed and began beating a cow with a stick. The sharp noise of this beating came up the hill.

How easy it is to destroy the thing we love! How quickly a barrier comes between us, a word, a gesture, a smile! Health, mood and desire cast a shadow, and what was bright becomes dull and burdensome. Through usage we wear ourselves out, and that which was sharp and clear becomes wearisome and confused. Through constant friction, hope and frustration, that which was beautiful and simple becomes fearful and expectant. Relationship is complex and difficult, and few can come out of it unscathed. Though we would like it to be static, enduring, continuous, relationship is a movement, a process which must be deeply and fully understood and not made to conform to an inner or outer pattern. Conformity, which is the social structure, loses its weight and authority only when there is love. Love in relationship is a purifying process as it reveals the ways of the self. Without this revelation, relationship has little significance.

But how we struggle against this revelation! The struggle takes many forms: dominance or subservience, fear or hope, jealousy or acceptance, and so on and on. The difficulty is that we do not love; and if we do love we want it to function in a particular way, we do not give it freedom. We love with our minds and not with our hearts. Mind can modify itself, but love cannot. Mind can make itself invulnerable, but love cannot; mind can always withdraw, be exclusive, become personal or impersonal. Love is not to be compared and hedged about. Our difficulty lies in that which we call love, which is really of the mind. We fill our hearts with the things of the mind and so keep our hearts ever empty and expectant. It is the mind that clings, that is envious, that holds and destroys. Our life is dominated by the physical centres and by the mind. We do not love and let it alone, but crave to be loved; we give in order to receive, which is the generosity of the mind and not of the heart. The mind is ever seeking certainty, security; and can love be made certain by the mind? Can the mind, whose very essence is of time, catch love, which is its own eternity?

But even the love of the heart has its own tricks; for we have so corrupted our heart that it is hesitant and confused. It is this that makes life so painful and wearisome. One moment we think we have love, and the next it is lost. There comes an imponderable strength, not of the mind, whose sources may not be fathomed. This strength is again destroyed by the mind; for in this battle the mind seems invariably to be the victor. This conflict within ourselves is not to be resolved by the cunning mind or by the hesitant heart. There is no means, no way to bring this conflict to an end. The very search for a means is another urge of the mind to be the master, to put away conflict in order to be peaceful, to have love, to become something.

Our greatest difficulty is to be widely and deeply aware that there is no means to love as a desirable end of the mind. When we understand this really and profoundly, then there is a possibility of receiving something that is not of this world. Without the touch of that something, do what we will, there can be no lasting happiness in relationship. If you have received that benediction and I have not, naturally you and I will be in conflict. You may not be in conflict, but I will be; and in my pain and sorrow I cut myself off. Sorrow is as exclusive as pleasure, and until there is that love which is not of my making, relationship is pain. If there is the benediction of that love, you cannot but love me whatever I may be, for then you do not shape love according to my behaviour. Whatever tricks the mind may play, you and I are separate; though we may be in touch with each other at some points, integration is not with you, but within myself. This integration is not brought about by the mind at any time; it comes into being only when the mind is utterly silent, having reached the end of its own tether. Only then is there no pain in relationship.

From Krishnamurti’s Book Commentaries on Living 1

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