Krishnamurti on Freedom
This week’s episode on Freedom has five sections.
The first extract (2:07) is from Krishnamurti’s second Q&A meeting at Brockwood in 1980, titled ‘What is freedom?’
The second extract (11:40) is from the fourth talk in Saanen 1965, titled ‘Freedom and order’.
The third extract (30:17) is from the first talk at Brockwood in 1972, titled ‘Freedom from thought’.
The fourth extract (45:13) is from the first talk in San Juan 1968, titled ‘Freedom is not at the end, it’s at the very first step’.
The final extract this week (50:58) is from Krishnamurti’s fourth talk in New Delhi 1973, titled ‘Meditation is absolute inward freedom’.
What Is Freedom?
You know, many philosophers have written, talked, about freedom. We talk about freedom – freedom to live where we like, freedom to have any job we like, freedom to choose a woman or a man, freedom to read any literature, or freedom not to read at all. We are free, and so what do we do with that freedom? We use that freedom to express ourselves, to do what we like – right? Whatever we like. More and more it is becoming permissive.
You have every kind of freedom and what have we done with that freedom? We think where there is choice we have freedom. I can go to Italy or France, a choice – only I would have to have a passport and a visa. And does choice give freedom? Please follow me. Why do we have to choose? If you are very clear – clear, purely perceive, clear, then there is no choice. Out of that comes right action. It is only when there is doubt or uncertainty that you begin to choose. So choice, if you will forgive my saying so, prevents freedom. And the totalitarian states have no freedom at all because they have the idea that freedom brings about the degeneration of man, therefore control, suppress, and all the rest of it.
So what is freedom? Is it based on choice? Is it to do exactly what we like? Some of the psychologists are saying: if you feel something do it immediately, don’t suppress it, don’t restrain it, don’t control it – express. And we are doing that very well, too. And it is also called freedom. Throwing bombs is also freedom. Right? Just look what we have reduced our freedom to.
So what is freedom? Does freedom lie out there, or here? I am just asking; I am not saying. Where do you begin to search for freedom? In the outward world, which is to express and do whatever you like, so-called individual freedom. Or does freedom begin inwardly, which then expresses itself intelligently outwardly? Do you understand my question? That is, freedom exists only when there is no confusion – right? – confusion inside me, when I am seeking, perhaps psychologically, religiously, not to be caught in any trap. There are innumerable traps – gurus, saviours, preachers, excellent books, psychologists and psychiatrists, they are all there. And if I am confused and there is disorder, mustn’t I first be free of that disorder before I talk of freedom? If I have no relationship with my wife or husband, with another person… I haven’t got relationship with another; our relationship is based on images. You have an image about me and I have an image about you. And so the conflict which is inevitable where there is a division – right? So shouldn’t I begin here, inside me, in my skin, in my mind, in my heart to be totally free of all the fears, anxieties, despairs, hurts and wounds that I have received through some psychic disorder – all that, to watch it for oneself and be free of it?
But apparently we haven’t got the energy. We go to another to give us energy. The psychiatrists, by talking to them you feel much more relieved – you follow? – confession and all the rest of it, always depending on somebody else. And so that dependence inevitably brings great conflict and disorder.
So to begin to understand the depth and the greatness of freedom. one must begin quite near. And the nearest is you. As long as there is you and me there is no freedom. As long as you have your prejudice, and I have my prejudice, your experience, my experience, etc., etc., and so on, so on, there is no freedom. We can express, we can criticise each other, we can do all that; that is what is called freedom, the right to think what you like. But freedom, the greatness of freedom, and the enormity, the dignity, the beauty of it is in oneself when there is complete order. And that order comes only when we are a light to ourselves.
Krishnamurti at Brockwood Park 1980, Question and Answer Meeting 2
Freedom and Order
So you cannot have order without freedom, and you cannot have freedom without space. Space, freedom and order, the three go together; they are not separate. A society of the extreme left hopes to create order through dictatorship, through the tyranny of a political party, but it cannot create order, economically, socially or in any other way because order requires the freedom of man within himself – not as an individual saving his petty, dirty little soul, but as a human being who has lived for two million years or more, with all the vast experience of mankind.
Order is virtue, and virtue or goodness cannot flower in any society which is always in contradiction with itself. Outside influences – economic adjustment, social reform, technological progress, going to Mars, and all the rest of it – cannot possibly produce order. What produces order is inquiry into freedom – not intellectual inquiry, but doing the actual work of breaking down our conditioning, our limiting prejudices, our narrow ideas; breaking down the whole psychological structure of society, of which we are part. Unless you break through all that, there is no freedom, and therefore there is no order. It is like a small mind trying to understand the immensity of the world, of life, of beauty. It cannot. It can imagine, it can write poems about it, paint pictures, but the reality is different from the word, different from the image, the symbol, the picture.
Order can come about only through the awareness of disorder. You cannot create order. Please do see this fact. You can only be aware of disorder, outwardly as well as inwardly. A disordered mind cannot create order because it doesn’t know what it means. It can only react to what it thinks is disorder by creating a pattern which it calls ‘order’, and then conforming to that pattern. But if the mind is conscious of the disorder in which it lives – which is being aware of the negative, not projecting the so-called positive – then order becomes something extraordinarily creative, moving, living. Order is not a pattern which you follow day after day. To follow a pattern which you have established, to practise it day after day, is disorder – the disorder of effort, of conflict, of greed, of envy, of ambition, the disorder of all the petty little human beings who have created and been conditioned by the present society.
Now, can one become aware of disorder, aware of it without choosing, without saying, ‘This is disorder and that is order’? Can one be choicelessly aware of disorder? This demands extraordinary intelligence and sensitivity. And in that choiceless awareness there is also a discipline which is not mere conformity.
Am I driving too hard? Am I putting too many ideas into one basket, as it were, presenting them all at the same moment?
You see, for most of us, discipline – whether we like it or not, whether we practise it or not, whether we are conscious or unconscious of it – is a form of conformity. All the soldiers in the world – those poor, miserable human beings, whether of the left or of the right – are made to conform to a pattern, because there are certain things which they are supposed to do. And although the rest of us are not soldiers trained to destroy others and protect ourselves, discipline is nevertheless imposed on us by environment, by society, by the family, by the office, by the routine of our everyday existence; or we discipline ourselves.
When one examines the whole structure and meaning of discipline, whether it is imposed discipline or self-discipline, one sees that it is a form of outward or inward conformity or adjustment to a pattern, to a memory, to an experience. And we revolt against that discipline. Every human mind revolts against the stupid kind of conformity, whether established by dictators, priests, saints, gods, or whatever it is. And yet one sees that there must be some kind of discipline in life, a discipline which is not mere conformity which is not adjustment to a pattern which is not based on fear, and all the rest of it; because if there is no discipline at all, one can’t live. So one has to find out if there is a discipline which is not conformity; because conformity destroys freedom; it never brings freedom into being – look at the organized religions throughout the world, the political parties. It is obvious that conformity destroys freedom, and we don’t have to labour the point. Either you see it, or you don’t see it: it is up to you.
The discipline of conformity, which is created by the fear of society and is part of the psychological structure of society, is immoral and disorderly, and we are caught in it. Now, can the mind find out if there is a certain movement of discipline which is not a process of controlling, shaping, conforming? To find that out, one has to be aware of this extraordinary disorder, confusion and misery in which one lives; and to be aware of it, not fragmentarily but totally and therefore choicelessly. That in itself is discipline.
I don’t know if you are following all this.
If I am fully aware of what I am doing, if I am choicelessly aware of the movement of my hand, for example, that very awareness is a form of discipline in which there is no conformity. Is this clear? You cannot understand this just verbally, you have actually to do it within yourself. Order can come about only through this sense of awareness in which there is no choice, and which is therefore a total awareness, a complete sensitivity to every movement of thought. This total awareness itself is discipline without conformity. Therefore, out of this total awareness of disorder, there is order. The mind hasn’t produced order.
To have order, which is the flowering of goodness and of beauty, there must be freedom, and there is no freedom if you have no space.
Look, I will put a question to you – but don’t answer me, please. What is space? Put that question to yourself, not just flippantly, but seriously, as I am putting it to you. What is space? Your mind now knows only the space within the limitations of a room, or the space which an object creates around itself. That is the only space you know. And is there space without the object? If there is no space without the object, then there is no freedom, and therefore there is no order, no beauty, no flowering of goodness. There is only everlasting struggle. So the mind has to discover by hard work, and not just by listening to some words, that there is in fact space without a centre. When once that has been found, there is freedom, there is order, and then goodness and beauty flower in the human mind.
Discipline, order, freedom and space cannot exist without the understanding of time. It is very interesting to inquire into the nature of time – time by the watch, time as yesterday, today and tomorrow, the time in which you work and the time in which you sleep. But there is also time which is not by the watch, and that is much more difficult to understand. We look to time as a means of bringing about order. We say, ‘Give us a few more years and we will be good; we will create a new generation, a marvellous world.’ Or we talk about creating a different type of human being, one who will be totally communist, totally this or totally that. So we look to time as a means of bringing about order; but if one observes, one sees that time only breeds disorder.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1965, Talk 4
Freedom from Thought
To learn implies time – learn a language, a technique, a method, acquiring certain information, knowledge about mechanics and so on – that requires time, several months, several years – learning a piano, violin, language. That is really memorising, practising, acquiring knowledge which can be translated into action, and that is all we are concerned with. Human beings are only concerned with that, because that gives them power, position, a means of livelihood and so on. And I say to myself, learning must be instantaneous, learning is the seeing and the acting, in which there is no seeing and a gap – acting. That is, time is required to learn a language but is time required to learn freedom? Is time required for the mind to see that as long as it functions within the pattern of thought there is no freedom, however expanded, however worthwhile, marvellous the expansion, the content of that expansion is, to see that, does it require time to learn about the truth that freedom is not within that pattern. Right? That is, are you going to take time to see the truth of that? You have understood my question?
Look, you have explained to me what thought has done in the world, you explain it to me that a new kind of pattern made by thought will help to bring about a different behaviour. And your explanation and my acceptance of that explanation, the logical process of it, the verbal communication, the reference to all the words you have used which are familiar to me, all that takes time. Right? And at the end of that the mind is still not free, is still within that pattern. And you tell me that to learn what freedom is, is instantaneous, it doesn’t require time; time is thought and don’t use thought to understand freedom at all. So I say to myself, ‘What are you talking about?’ I don’t understand because I have only one instrument, which is thinking. And I have used it wrongly, rightly, mischievously or nobly, but that is the only instrument I have. And you tell me to put that instrument aside and learn, not about the activities of thought, which you already know, but learn, which is instantaneous, how to look – learn what freedom is without time. Are we following each other or am I talking Greek? There are several Greeks here – so sorry! (Laughter)
That is, perception is learning and perception doesn’t require time. And time is basically the movement of thought, and through thought you cannot learn what freedom is. And to learn about freedom, thought must be completely silent.
Q: How can it be silent?
K: Wait, just listen. Not ‘how’ – do you see? The moment you say ‘how’ then you want a method, a practice, which is still within the pattern of thought.
So I have this problem from you: thought has its right place, otherwise you and I couldn’t communicate with each other. And to learn about communication I have to learn the language, and since you and I both know English we can communicate together, and to learn English takes time. Insight into freedom doesn’t take time, and you cannot have insight into freedom if there is the operation of thought, or the movement of thought which says, ‘I must understand what freedom is.’ Right?
So there is this problem then: how am I, who am used to thinking, which is the only instrument I have – and I have been educated, brought up to think; all my conditioning, all my existence is based on that, all my relationship is based on the image which thought has created. And you come along and tell me, ‘Don’t use that instrument, but look, perceive, learn, have an insight.’ And then I say, ‘How am I to have an insight if my mind is so heavily conditioned, so burdened with all the things of thought, how am I to be free of that in order to see the other?’ You have put the wrong question, you understand? If you say, ‘I must be free of this’ – which is the mechanical process of thinking, you have stated a wrong question because you are not learning about the new. You still are concerned with the old, and where you are concerned with the old you will remain with the old. I wonder if you get all this!
So the real question is: can the mind, knowing, knowing the whole content of the old, not be concerned with it now, because we are inquiring into something of a totally different dimension? And this inquiry demands freedom, not that you should understand the old and bring the old over, or control the old, or subjugate the old, or suppress the old, but move away completely from the old and learn about the new, which doesn’t take time.
Have you got it? It all sounds contradictory and absurd – it isn’t.
Q: Surely thought must precede perception? We can’t stop thinking.
K: That is just it. You can’t stop thinking.
Q: It isn’t something that just falls out of the sky onto a blank.
K: No, I understand, madame. I understand this. If you want to see something new, what do you do?
You are an inventor. You know all the old business and you want to find something new, totally new. What do you do? Keep on with the old? The old with which you are familiar. You know what the old is, the whole mechanism of the old. And if you carry that over, you can’t find anything new. So what do you do? You must leave the old. There must be a gap between the old and something new that may come into being. There must be a gap. And that gap takes place when you see the whole significance of the old – that the old cannot possibly give birth to the new.
So we all want the new because we are fed up with the old, bored. You know what the old is, and wanting the new we don’t know how to break the chain. So there are gurus, teachers and all the absurd people who say, ‘I’ll teach you how to break the chain.’ And their breaking the chain is still within the pattern of thought. They say, ‘Do this, don’t do that, follow this, think of that’ – they are still caught within the system of thought. Now if you see that, if you have an insight into that, to have an insight into that doesn’t require time. I don’t know if you see that. You see that instantly, how absurd this whole religious structure is, all the organisation around it, the popes, the bishops – you follow? – the absurdity of all that. Grown up people playing with childish things! If you have an insight it is finished. Then you ask: how am I to have an insight? Which means you haven’t actually listened. You are still holding on to your old… to the skirts of the old churches, beliefs and ideologies, and you say, ‘I can’t let go because I am afraid. What will my neighbour think? I will lose my job.’ So you don’t want to listen. So that is the problem, not how to acquire perception, not how to come by insight, but rather that you don’t listen to the danger of the whole thing which thought has built. And to have the insight you have to listen; you have to let go and listen. If you listen to that pigeon, which means to listen without naming, without condemning, to really listen, then when you listen you have the insight. Right?
So freedom – absolute freedom, not relative freedom – absolute freedom is only possible when the mind understands thought and its place, and the freedom of thought.
Now where are we after saying all this? Because after all, you and I are learning together. You have spent time to come here, energy, money and all the rest of it, and are you learning or merely memorising? If you are merely memorising then you repeat what others have said and therefore you become second-hand human beings. Instead of repeating Lao-Tse, the Buddha, Marx, Engel, or whatever, now you’ll repeat what K is talking about. But you will still be second-hand. Whereas if you learn, you will be out of that class altogether, away from all that rubbish.
So where are we? Is there an insight into freedom, insight into freedom from thought? And when there is that insight into freedom from thought then in that freedom thought can function logically, sanely, objectively, non-personally.
So how am I, who am so heavily conditioned, who has used thought from morning till evening, during my sleep, dreaming, waking – all the time the mind is employed with thought – how is that mind to have an insight into the freedom in which there is no thought. Please put that question to yourself. And when you have put that question to yourself, is thought answering that question? If thought is answering that question then there is no freedom, but when you put that question really seriously, intensely, passionately – you want to find out – then you will see there is freedom which you have not sought. The seeking is the movement of thought.
Krishnamurti at Brockwood Park 1972, Talk 1
Freedom Is Not at the End, It Is at the Very First Step
Is it possible to uncondition the mind, uncondition your mind so that it is free?
You know, freedom is one of the most dangerous things, because freedom implies, for most people, to do what they want to do. Freedom for most people is an ideal, is something far away that cannot be had. And there are those who say that to be free you must be greatly disciplined. But freedom is not at the end. Freedom is at the very first step. Because if you are not free, you cannot observe the tree, the clouds, the flashing waters. You cannot observe your relationship with your wife or husband, with your neighbour. And most of us don’t want to observe because we are frightened what will happen if we observe very closely.
I do not know if you have ever observed your relationships, if you ever observed your relationship with your wife or with your husband. This is a very dangerous subject because if we observe very closely there might be a different kind of life, therefore we never observe. What we observe is the image that we have built about each other, and that image establishes a certain relationship between man and woman. And that relationship between the images is what we call actually being in contact, in relation with another.
So when we are inquiring into this question of unconditioning, freeing the mind from its own conditioning, first of all, is it at all possible? If it is not possible then we are forever slaves. If it is not possible then we invent a heaven, a god – ‘There alone can be freedom, but not here.’ And to free the mind from its conditioning – and I say it is possible, it can be done – one must become aware, aware how one thinks and why one thinks and what one’s thoughts are. To be aware. Not to condemn it, not to judge it but just to observe, as you can observe a flower. It is there in front of you. It is no good your condemning it, it is no good your saying I like it or dislike it – it is there for you to look at. And if you have the eyes, you will see the beauty of that flower. In the same way, if you are aware of yourself, without condemning, without judging, then you will see the whole structure and the cause of your conditioning. And if you pursue it deeply then you will discover for yourself that the mind can be free.
Krishnamurti in San Juan 1968, Talk 1
Meditation Is Absolute Inward Freedom
Meditation is the beginning of order. Meditation is the awareness of the movement of thought as the ‘me’. Meditation is the freedom, the total, absolute inward freedom, in which there isn’t a single image; freedom from all the things that man has put together as reality – philosophically, psychologically, other ways. Then when that takes place, the natural sequence is the flowering of silence. In that silence is that quality of energy that you have never touched before, and that is the transforming factor, that is the real creative movement of life. And in that silence there are a great many other things that go on, because in that silence – which means not only the mind as a whole but also the brain – the brain becomes orderly. It will function when necessary; otherwise it is completely quiet. And in this, or in this sense of silence, thought has no place. Therefore there is no time. And that silence cannot be measured. If you are capable of measuring it, it is not silence but the silence which thought has put together and therefore it knows and it can measure it: ‘I am silent today, I will be silent tomorrow,’ ‘Tell me how to be silent tomorrow.’
So, meditation is a most extraordinary thing if you know what it is. In that quiet stillness, that which cannot be described, which is nameless, which is not the product of time and thought, there is that movement, and that is all there is. And that is the creation.
Krishnamurti in New Delhi 1973, Talk 4