Krishnamurti on Confusion

Episode Notes

This week’s episode on Confusion has two sections.

This first, longer, extract (2:16) is from Krishnamurti’s third talk in New York 1966, titled ‘Action born of confusion leads to more confusion’.

The second, shorter, extract (1:00:40) is from the fourth talk in Madras 1970, titled ‘Confusion tells its own story’.

Part 1

Action Born of Confusion Leads to More Confusion

We said that we would talk over together the question of confusion. Before we go into that, we should understand what we mean by freedom, whether there is such a thing as freedom, and also what we mean by choice. Freedom from something, which is really a reaction, is not freedom at all. Mere revolt against a certain pattern of thought or a certain structure of society is not freedom. Freedom implies a state of mind in which there is no imitation or conformity, and therefore no fear. We can revolt and yet conform, as is happening in the world now, and this revolt is generally called freedom. But that revolt, whether it is the communist revolution, or any other social revolution, must inevitably create a pattern. There may be a different social order, but it is still a pattern of conformity. When we are talking about freedom, surely we mean a state in which there is no conformity at all, no imitation. Imitation and conformity must exist when there is fear; and fear invariably breeds authority: the authority of the experience of another, the authority of a new drug, or the authority of one’s own experience, one’s own pattern of thinking.

We should be clear when we talk about freedom. The politicians talk about freedom, and they really don’t mean it at all. The religious people throughout the world have talked about freedom from bondage, freedom from sorrow, freedom from all the travails of human anxiety. They have laid down a certain course, a certain pattern of behaviour, thought and action to bring it about. But freedom is denied when there is conformity to a pattern, religious or social. Is there freedom?

Is there freedom when there is choice? Choice, it seems to me, is an act of confusion. When I am bewildered, uncertain, confused, then I choose, and I say to myself, ‘I choose out of my freedom; I am free to choose.’ But is not choice the outcome of uncertainty? Out of my confusion, bewilderment, uncertainty, the feeling of being incapable of clarity – out of this I act. I choose a leader, I choose a certain course of action, and I commit myself to a particular activity, but that activity, that pattern of action, the pursuit of a particular mode of thought is the result of my confusion. If I’m not confused, if there is no confusion whatsoever, then there is no choice; I see things as they are. I act not on choice.

A mind capable of choosing is really a very confused mind. Perhaps you may not agree with this, but please, if I may suggest, just listen to the very end of it, neither agreeing nor disagreeing. As we said the other day, we’re not doing any propaganda for any particular philosophy, for any particular course of action, and we are not laying down certain principles. All those are the indication of an utter lack of freedom. When we are confused, bewildered, as most people are right throughout the world, out of this confusion we choose a political leader, a religious system, or follow the dictates of the latest craze.

We must go into this question of what clarity is, and whether the mind, which is so confused, uncertain, which thinks that it is incapable of real clarity, can see clearly, since it is so conditioned by various social influences, religious patterns, by the propaganda that goes on incessantly to force us to think this way or that way, conditioned by the innumerable political and religious leaders that exist in the world, and by the various sects. All these have brought about confusion in the mind. When I am dissatisfied with one particular pattern of activity, or a course of thought, or a particular philosophy or dogma, I move to another series; and so I am always held, always committed. I think that there will be clarity, freedom from confusion, when I’m committed to a particular course of action.

The mind is confused – and we know the various reasons, religious and political for this confusion, the philosophies, the theologians with their particular patterns of thinking, telling us what to believe and what not to believe, with their commitments – an ordinary human being is lost, does not know what to do. It seems to me that the first thing is not to be committed to any organization: religious, political, sectarian; or to any latest drug. Not to be committed. And that’s very difficult because all the pressure around us says that we must be committed. We must do something: do this or do that, take the latest drug, or go to this particular philosophy, or to that particular teacher. Because they assert so clearly, so positively and with such clarity, out of our confusion we accept, hoping that out of this acceptance there will come about a certain clarity of thought, a feeling of certainty. Can the mind be in a state of noncommitment?

As we said the other day, a talk of this kind is only worthwhile if we can go beyond the word, because the explanation and the word are not the thing. There can be a hundred explanations of the reasons for confusion, but a mind that wants, that demands freedom from confusion, is not satisfied with explanations, with words, or with any authority. Can we this evening find out for ourselves whether it is possible for a mind which realizes that it is confused, realizes it is committed to a particular course of action, social or religious, to cease to be committed? Not because someone tells it to do so, but through understanding that any commitment to any particular pattern of thought or action engenders more confusion.

If a mind demands clarity, demands that it be free from all confusion because it understands the necessity of freedom, that very understanding frees the mind from commitment. And that’s one of the most difficult things to do. We are committed because we think that commitment will lead us to a certain clarity, to a certain facility of action. And if we are not committed, we feel lost, because all around us people are committed. We go to this group or to that group, to this teacher or to that teacher; we follow a certain leader. Everyone is caught in this, and not to be committed demands the awareness of what is implied in commitment. If we are aware of a danger and see it very clearly, then we don’t touch it; we don’t go near it. But to see it clearly is very difficult because the mind says, ‘I must do, act; I can’t wait. What am I to do?’ Surely, a mind that is confused, uncertain, disturbed, must first realize that it is disturbed, and also understand that any movement of this disturbance only creates further disturbance. Not to be committed implies to stand completely alone; and that demands great understanding of fear. We can see what’s happening in the world. No one wants to be alone. I do not mean alone with a radio, with a book, sitting under a tree by yourself, or in a monastery with a different name or a different label. Aloneness implies an awareness of all the different implications of the various forms of commitments of man out of his confusion. When a mature human being demands freedom from confusion, then there is that awareness of the facts of confusion. Out of that, there is an aloneness. Then one is alone. Then one is really not afraid.

What are we to do? We see very clearly that any action born of confusion only leads to more confusion. That’s very simple and very clear. Then what is right action? We live by action. We cannot but act. The whole process of living is action. We must again go into this question of what action is.

We know very clearly the action born of confusion, through which act we hope to achieve certainty, clarity. If we see that, then, not being committed to any course of thought, philosophy or ideal, what is action? This is a legitimate question after we have said all these things. The only action that we know is the action of conformity. We have had certain experiences, certain pleasures, certain knowledge, and that has set the course of our action. We believe in certain things, and according to that belief we act, conform. We’ve had certain pleasures in our experience: sexual or non-sexual, ideological, and so on. Pleasure dictates the course of our action. Most of our action, the doing, is always the outcome of the past. Action is never in the present; it is always the result of the past. That action is what we call positive, because it’s always following what has been, in the present, and creating the future.

Please, we’re not talking any deep philosophy. We’re just observing the facts. We can go very, very, very deeply. But first we must clear the field.

The word ‘action’ implies an active present. Action is always action in the present, not ‘I have acted,’ or ‘I will act.’ Our action is an approximation of an idea, a symbol, an ideology, a philosophy, an experience which we have had, or of our knowledge, accumulated experiences, traditions, and so on. Is there an action which is nonconforming?

Only in freedom do we have passion. I’m not talking of lust. Not that it doesn’t have its right place, but I am talking of freedom in which there is intense energy and passion. Otherwise we can’t act; otherwise we’re merely repetitive, mechanical machines – machines set up by society, by the particular culture in which we have grown, or by the religious organizational machine. If we see the urgency of freedom, in that seeing there is passion. Passion is always in the present, not something that has passed or that you will have tomorrow, which is the passion created by thought. I have pleasure. Surely there is a difference between the passion of pleasure and the passion which comes when there is complete freedom from confusion, when there is total clarity. That clarity is only possible, with its intensity, with its passion, with its timeless quality, when we understand what action is, and whether action can ever be freed from imitation, from conformity to the dictates of society, of our own fears, or of our own inherent laziness.

We like to repeat, repeat, repeat, especially anything that gives us great pleasure: the sexual act and all the rest of it. That becomes much more important when society becomes more and more superficial, which is what is happening in the world. When progress is technological, outward, when prosperity is self-centred, then pleasure becomes of the highest importance, whether it’s the pleasure of sex or the pleasure of a religious experience. (Laughter) Please don’t laugh, because all these things are much too serious. We are facing a tremendous crisis in life. Some know this crisis, which is not economic or social but a crisis in consciousness itself, and to break through that, to answer that crisis as a challenge demands great seriousness.

We have to go into this question of action because life is a movement in action. We can’t just sit still, but that is what we are trying to do. We are in the movement of what has been. And young people say, ‘We are the new generation,’ but they’re not. To understand all this, we must go into the question of what action in freedom is. Is there such a thing as freedom? Can the mind be free from its conditioning, and the brain cells themselves, which have been so heavily conditioned for so many million years, which have their own responsive patterns?

What is action? Action according to an idea we know very well, and action according to a formula, either one imposed outwardly on the mind or a formula which the mind creates for itself, according to which it acts, a formula of knowledge, of experience, of tradition, and of fear of what the neighbour says – that’s the action we know, but that action is always limited. It always leads to more conditioning. Is there any other action which is not conditioning? Inevitably one must ask this question for oneself. Knowing what is taking place in the world – the misery, the wars, the political divisions, the geographical divisions, the divisions created by religions, by beliefs and dogmas – seeing all that, can there be an action which is not of that pattern?

As we have said, to agree or disagree has no meaning. We can turn our backs on the challenge, on the crisis, and amuse ourselves, entertain ourselves in various ways. Each one of us is confronted with a crisis because we are totally responsible for the whole structure of human society. We are responsible for these wars; we are responsible for these national, geographical divisions; we are responsible for the divisions of religion, with their dogmas, with their fears, with their superstitions, because we have committed ourselves to them. We cannot avoid them; there they are. How will we answer?

Is there any action which is not creating its own bondage? I think there is, and I’m going to go into it. Please, again, we’re not accepting any authority. The speaker has no authority whatsoever because there is no follower nor is there any teacher. The follower destroys the teacher and the teacher destroys the follower. What we are trying to do is to examine, and in the process of examination discover for ourselves what is true. It really is not a process. Process implies time, gradually, step by step. But there is no step by step; there is no gradual process of understanding. When we see something very clearly, we act; and clarity of perception doesn’t come about through a gradual process and time.

As we said, there is positive action, with which we are all familiar. We are trying to find out if there is an action which is not positive at all in the sense we have understood as positive, which is conformity. To put it differently, we are confused. Of that there is no doubt. In our relationships with each other, in our activities, trying to decide which god to worship, if we worship at all, we are confused. Out of that confusion, any action is still confusing. That understanding, if you observe it very carefully, and I hope you are doing it now, brings about a negation of the positive. There is an action which is not positive. The very denying of the positive is negative action.

Let me put it differently. Is there action which is not based on a mechanical process? I’m not talking of spontaneous action. There is no such thing as spontaneous action, except perhaps when one sees some dangerous thing, or when a child is drowning. One does not face something like that every day. One must find this other type of action, otherwise one is a mere machine, which most human beings are, with the daily routine of going to an office for forty years, with the repetitive action of pleasure, and so on. We’re trying to find out if there is an action which is not at all conforming. To find out, positive action must come to an end. Is it possible for positive action to come to an end without any assertion of the will? If there is any assertion of the will, a decision that all positive action must come to an end, that decision will create a new pattern, which will be an action of conformity.

When I say to myself, ‘I will not do that,’ the assertion of will is the outcome of my desire to find something new. But the old pattern, the old activity, is created by desire, by fear, by pleasure. By denying the old pattern through an action of will, I have created the same pattern in a different field. Is this fairly clear? Not verbally clear; explanation is never the thing. The word is not the real. The symbol is never the real. What is real is to see a thing very clearly, and when you see it, then positive action comes to an end. Freedom is total negation of the positive, but the positive is not the opposite of the negative; it is something entirely different, at a different dimension altogether.

Death is the ultimate negation of life, ending. And the ending we resist through positive assertion of the known: ‘my family, ‘my house’, ‘my character’, my this and my that. We’re not going into the immense question of death now. What we’re trying to find out is whether there is an action in total negation. We have to negate totally all the structure of fear, all the structure that demands security or certainty because there is no security or certainty. There is no certainty in Vietnam. A man killed there is a man, is you.

Can we, in the very denying of the total positive fragmentary approach to life, deny that totally, not through any ideal or through any pleasure, but because we see the absurdity of the whole of that structure? Not belonging to any nation, to any group, to any society, to any philosophy, to any activity – completely denying all that because we see that it is the product of a confused mind. In that very denial is the action which is not conforming. That is freedom.

During the five thousand years since recorded history began, man has chosen the way of war: nearly fifteen thousand wars, two and a half wars every year. And we haven’t denied wars. We have favourite wars and not-favourite wars. We haven’t denied violence, which indicates that man does not want peace. Peace is not something between two wars, or the peace of the politician. Peace is something entirely different. Peace comes when there is freedom from the positive. When we totally deny war, or totally deny the division of the religious absurdities, because we understand the whole nature of it all, its structure, not because we don’t like this or that – it has nothing to do with like or dislike – in the very denial of that is the negation, and out of that negation is an action which is never conforming.

A confused mind seeking clarity will only further confuse itself, because a confused mind can’t find clarity. It is confused; what can it do? Any search on its part will only lead to further confusion. I think we don’t realize that. When it’s confused, one has to stop – stop pursuing any activity. And the very stopping is the beginning of the new, which is the most positive action, positive in a different sense altogether. All this implies that there must be profound self-knowing – to know the whole structure of one’s thinking-feeling, the motives, the fears, the anxieties, the guilt, the despair. To know the whole content of one’s mind, one has to be aware, aware in the sense of observing, not with resistance or with condemnation, not with approval or disapproval, not with pleasure or non-pleasure, just observing. That observation is the negation of the psychological structure of a society which says ‘you must’ or ‘you must not’.

Therefore self-knowledge is the beginning of wisdom; and also, self-knowledge is the beginning and the ending of sorrow. Self-knowing is not to be bought in a book, or by going to a psychologist and being examined analytically. Self-knowledge is actually understanding what is in oneself – the pains, the anxieties; seeing them without any distortion. Out of this awareness, clarity comes into being.

Krishnamurti in New York 1966, Talk 3

Part 2

Confusion Tells Its Own Story

As one knows very well, if you have at all observed your own life, what a conflict life is, how much sorrow there is, how much fear, anxiety, a sense of immense uncertainty. And being uncertain, wanting to be told what to do, either from a book or from another. Our life from morning till night, from the moment we are born till we die, is a battle, a series of resistances. And in this welter of confusion, how can a mind find out what it is to live? When a mind is confused, how can it find out what is not confusion?

So the first thing is to observe the confusion, not try to get out of it. Because the getting out of confusion is a form of resistance out of confusion, against confusion. But if you observe confusion, then it will tell you the story. That is if you know how to listen to the story. But if you interpret the confusion, evaluate or condemn or desire to have more enlightenment, then you are telling the story. Whereas if you observe completely, silently, and listen, then it will tell you an extraordinary story.

Krishnamurti in Madras 1970, Talk 4

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