Krishnamurti on Consciousness
This week’s episode on Consciousness has four sections.
The first extract (2:07) is from Krishnamurti’s first talk in Saanen 1981, titled ‘Consciousness is common to all mankind’.
The second extract (20:51) is from the fourth talk at Brockwood Park 1977, titled ‘Observing consciousness’.
The third extract (38:06) is from the third talk in Bangalore 1974, titled ‘What happens to consciousness when one dies?’
The final extract this week (55:14) is from the fourth talk in New York 1974, titled ‘The emptying of consciousness’.
Consciousness Is Common to All Mankind
Our consciousness is a very complicated affair. Volumes have been written about it both in the East and in the West. We are not aware of our own consciousness, and to examine that complicated consciousness one has to be free to look, to be choicelessly aware of its movement. And that is what we are going to do together. When we use the word ‘together’, it is not that the speaker is directing you to look at it in a particular way, or to listen to all the movement, inward movement of our consciousness. We are together looking at consciousness, which is not yours or mine, theirs or his.
Consciousness is common to all mankind. All mankind whether they live in the Far East or the Near East, West, or in the far West, that consciousness, with all its content, is common to all mankind. When you go to India or the Far East, there they suffer inwardly as well as outwardly, as here. They are anxious, uncertain, utterly, despairingly lonely, as you are here. They have no security; they are jealous, greedy, envious, suffering. And in the West, it is the same thing. So human consciousness is one whole; it is not your consciousness or mine, it is the consciousness of humanity. Please understand this. It is logical, sane, rational, because wherever you go, in whatever clime you live, whether you are affluent or degradingly poor, whether you believe in God or in Christ or in some other entity, the belief, the faith is common to all mankind. The picture may vary, the image may be different, the symbol may be totally different from another, but that is common to all mankind. This is not a mere verbal statement. If you take it as a verbal statement, as an idea, as a concept, then you will not see the depth of it, the deep significance involved in this.
The significance is that your consciousness is the consciousness of all humanity because you suffer, you are anxious, you are lonely, insecure, confused, exactly like another who lives ten thousand miles away from you. The realisation of it, the feeling of it, the feeling in your guts, if I may use that word, is totally different from mere verbal acceptance of that. When one realises that you are the rest of mankind, it brings… you have tremendous energy; you have broken through the narrow groove of individuality, the narrow circle of me and you, they and we. And we are going to examine together this very, very complex consciousness of man – not the European man, not the Asiatic man or the Middle East man, but this extraordinary movement that has been going on for millions of years as conscious movement in time.
Please, don’t accept what the speaker is saying because then it will have no meaning, but begin to doubt, begin to question, be sceptical to inquire, not hold on to your own particular belief, faith, experience or the accumulated knowledge that you have been given, or that you have, and reduce it all to some kind of petty little ‘me’. If you do that, if one may point out very respectfully, you are not facing the tremendous issue that is facing man. So, together – I mean together, not you think one way, I think another – together we are human beings confronted with this tremendous danger of existence of the whole of humanity. Because the atom bomb, the wars, whether in the Middle East or somewhere else, the terror that is spreading all over the world, the kidnapping, the killing, the brutality of it all – we as human beings are responsible for all this. So we have to examine very closely and carefully the state of consciousness. We understand the meaning of that word: to be conscious, to be aware, to recognise, to see what our actual consciousness is.
First, thought and all the things that thought has made, put together, are part of our consciousness: the culture in which we live, the aesthetic values, the economic pressures, the national inheritance. If you are a surgeon, a carpenter, if you specialise in a particular profession, that group-consciousness is part of your consciousness.
Do you understand what we are saying? Are we making it difficult? We are not scholars, at least the speaker is not. We are dealing with human existence with all its complexities.
If you live in a particular country with its particular tradition, with its religion, culture and so on, that particular form has become part of your consciousness, the group consciousness – right? – the national consciousness, the particular professional consciousness. These again are facts. If you are a carpenter you have to have certain skill, understand the wood, the nature of the wood, the instruments, so you gradually belong to a group that has cultivated this special, particular form, and that has its own consciousness; like the scientist, like the archaeologist, like the animals have their own particular consciousness as a group and so on, so on, that is part of your consciousness. Right? Please see the fact of this for yourself. If you are a housewife you have your own particular consciousness, like all the other housewives – it is a group consciousness.
Permissiveness has spread throughout the world; it began in the West, far West and has spread right through the world. That is a group conscious movement. See the significance of it. Please understand, go into it for yourself, see what is involved in it. They are discovering scientifically, they are experimenting with certain animals, say in England and Australia, and those animals learn much quicker there because one set of animals, like rats, have learnt after twenty generations certain actions, and the twenty-fifth or twenty-eighth generation learns much more rapidly. And in Australia these rats have learnt much quicker without going through all the experiments – you understand all this? So it is not a genetic transformation, genetically evolving, but there is the group consciousness that is operating – you understand this? I hope you understand this.
The Catholic consciousness: one group believes in something which begins to activate, live, spread. So our consciousness is not only a group, national, economic consciousness, a professional consciousness, but also much deeper consciousness which is our fears.
Man has lived with fear for generation after generation, with pleasure, with envy, with all the travail of loneliness, with depression and confusion. Watch it in yourself as we are talking. And with great sorrow, with what he calls love, and the everlasting fear of death. This is his consciousness, not only the professional, the group, the national, but the rest of it, which is common to all mankind. Do you realise what it means? That you are no longer – please don’t resist it; look at it – you are no longer an individual. This is very hard to accept because we have been programmed like the computer to think we are individuals. We have been programmed religiously to think that we have souls separate from all the others. And being programmed our brain works in the same pattern century after century.
So if one understands the nature of our consciousness, the particular endeavour, the ‘me’ that suffers, that has become something global, then it has a much greater… a totally different activity will take place.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1981, Talk 1
So we are going to examine together this question of consciousness and its content. In examination of this it is very important to find out whether you are examining it, or in observing, consciousness becomes aware of itself. You see the difference? I hope this is clear. That is, you can observe the movement of your consciousness, which is your desires, your hurts, your ambitions, your greeds, all the rest of it, which is the content of our consciousness; you can observe it from the outside as it were. Or whether consciousness becomes aware of itself. This is the problem. Whether you become aware of your consciousness, or – please go into this with me a little bit – consciousness is lighted up and you observe? Do you understand? This is only possible when thought realises that what it has created, which is its consciousness, when thought realises it is only observing itself, not you, which thought has put together, observing consciousness. I don’t know how to put it – do you understand this a little bit?
Look, nobody has to tell you that you are hungry. There is hunger. In the same way is it possible for thought to become aware of itself, for consciousness to be aware, itself, not you are examining consciousness? Is this somewhat clear or not? Because this is very important at the beginning of our examination.
I want to examine consciousness, so I begin to analyse the various aspects, the various contents of my consciousness. I am greedy, I am angry, there is hatred, there is jealousy, there is happiness, there is pleasure, there are a great many hurts from childhood, flowering or controlled. I can examine them. Or there is observation and therefore consciousness begins to reveal itself. Do you see the difference? I observe the tree and the tree tells me all its story, if I know how to observe. So in the same way, I must learn how to observe – observe only, not tell consciousness what it should do. Right? Am I making it somewhat clear?
That is, if I want to examine consciousness I separate myself from consciousness and then examine it as an analyst. Whereas if there is only observation – only observation – then consciousness begins to reveal its content, its story. I don’t have to tell the story about consciousness; consciousness tells its story. This is simple. I won’t elaborate.
So that is what we are doing: we are observing only, and so consciousness begins to show itself, not only the superficial consciousness but the deeper layers of consciousness, the whole content of consciousness. This is an art to be learnt – not memorised, not to say, ‘Well, I have heard this I am going to store it up in my brain and I am going to learn about it.’ Then that is merely a mechanical process, which has no meaning whatsoever. Whereas if you see the importance of sheer, absolute motionless observation, then the thing flowers – consciousness opens up its doors, as it were. So observation implies seeing the totality of consciousness.
Am I talking to myself? I hope not! One can have a dialogue with oneself. We did that the other day. I can have a dialogue about the whole question of meditation with myself but that is entirely different than having a dialogue with each other. That is what we are doing although there are so many people here. We are actually having a dialogue. There is only one person here and he or she and I are talking about this. I am telling him or her that to observe is the most important thing in life – not tell the observer how to observe but to learn the art of observing without any distortion, without any motive, without any purpose – just to observe. In that there is tremendous beauty because then there is no distortion. You see things clearly as they are. But if you make an abstraction of it into an idea, and then through that idea observe, then it is a distortion.
So we are merely freely, without any distorting factor entering into our observation, observing consciousness. So consciousness begins to reveal its own totality. There is nothing hidden. Which is, the content, which is our hurt, our greed, our envy, our happiness, our belief, our ideologies – all that makes up consciousness, the past traditions, the present, scientific or factual traditions, and so on, so on, so on – all that is our consciousness. To observe it without any movement of thought, because thought has put all the content of our consciousness. Thought has built it. When thought comes and says, ‘This is right, this is wrong, this should be…’ you are still within the field of consciousness; you are not going beyond it.
So one has to understand very clearly the place of thought. Thought has its own place in the field of knowledge, technology and all the rest of it. But thought has no place whatsoever in the psychological structure of man. When it does, then confusion begins, then contradiction and all the struggles, the images about you and another – all the rest of it follows. So the art – as we said, the meaning of art is to put everything in its right place, not the painter, not the sculptor or the poet, but in our daily life to put everything in its right place – that is art.
So can you observe your consciousness, and does it reveal its content – not bit by bit, but the totality of its movement? Then only is it possible to go beyond it. Not through analysis which we talked about, because analysis implies the analyser and the analysed, the division, the problem of time in division, and when you analyse each analysis must be totally complete. If there is not complete analysis then the imperfection of that analysis is carried over to the next analysis, so imperfection grows more and more and more. You understand? Like when you practise the piano and practise the wrong note all the time. So that is our inquiry. And in inquiry can you observe without any movement of the eye? Because the eye has an effect on the brain. You can observe it for yourself. When you keep your eyeballs completely still, observation becomes very clear because the brain is quietened. You can experiment with this. This is not a trick for something further, like going to a guru and learning a few tricks.
There is a lovely story; I must tell you about it. A young man goes to a guru, a teacher, and says, ‘Please tell me what truth is. I have searched everywhere and nobody seems able to tell me, and I’ve come to you. Please tell me what truth is.’ And the guru says, ‘Stay with me. Be with me.’ And so the pupil, the disciple, stays with him for about fifteen years watching him – you know, all the rest of it. At the end of fifteen years, he says, ‘Good lord, I have learnt nothing.’ And so he goes to the guru and says, ‘I am so sorry, you have taught me nothing. I haven’t found truth. I am going to leave you and go to that guru, the other one.’ And so after five years, he comes back and he says, ‘At last I have learnt.’ And the guru says, ‘What have you learnt?’ ‘You see that river? I can walk across it without a boat, without anything, I can walk, tread on the water.’ And the guru says, ‘You can do that for tuppence if you take that little boat.’ (Laughter) I think you should bear that story in mind when you approach any gurus.
So can you observe without any movement of thought interfering with your observation? It is only possible when the observer realises that which he is observing is one – the observer is the observed. Anger is not different from me: I am anger, I am jealousy. So there is no division between the observer and the observed. That is the basic reality one must capture. And to observe without the observer. Just to observe, then you will see the whole of consciousness; the whole of it begins to reveal itself without your making an effort. Which means, in that total observation there is the emptying or going beyond all the things that thought has put together, which is our consciousness.
Krishnamurti at Brockwood Park 1977, Talk 4
What Happens to Consciousness When One Dies?
What is my consciousness? All its content, whatever it thinks, its Gods, its gurus, its books, its furniture, its house, its family, its name, all that is my consciousness. The Gods I have invented, the super atman, the brahman the God, everything is within that field of the known. And that known is the ‘me’, the ‘me’ that says, ‘I am God,’ the ‘me’ that says, ‘I am not God,’ the ‘me’ that rationalises and worships the state, the ‘me’ that is attached to the family, to the name, to the money, to, you know, the known. I know all that. So, the content of my consciousness is consciousness. They are indivisible. Remove the content, there is no consciousness as we know it. That is death. I wonder if you understand this. No, you don’t.
We may live long years, full of travail and sorrow and pain and pleasure and fear. The body, the organism wears out through misuse, through disease, through constant conflict inwardly, the battle that goes on inwardly, the right and the wrong, the good and the bad; I am a Hindu and you are a Muslim, I am a Christian, you are a Buddhist, the division, the ‘me’, the ‘we’ and ‘they’ and you – conflict. Psychologically, inwardly, this conflict wears down the body constantly. And living in a polluted world, as we are, the air is polluted, the sea is polluted, everything is polluted, not only our minds but the earth. We are polluting the air and the air that we breathe is destroying us. So there is disease, pollution, strife, inwardly and outwardly, which weighs down the body. Bad diet, overwork, overindulgence and all the rest of it. The organism must inevitably come to an end. We know that. That doesn’t cause us so much fear. What causes fear is this losing consciousness as the known.
I know myself. I know what I have achieved and what I have not achieved. I know my friends, my wife, my children, my desires, my pleasures, my anxieties. The whole thing is so obvious. I know this. And that is the totality of my consciousness – expand it, contract it, horizontally or vertically, it is still within the field of the known. All the movement of thought is in the field of the known. And the mind which has sought security in the known – please do listen, for your life – the mind that has sought security in the known faces death. That is, it has to enter into something it doesn’t know, therefore it’s frightened; not of the unknown but losing the known. Losing the ‘me’, losing my consciousness with all its contents, my gods, my knowledge, my wife, my children, my experience, everything in that content of consciousness, the mind is scared, frightened and is ready to believe that it will continue hereafter.
Now, can the mind die to the known, to its content? To my furniture, to my ambition, to my gods, to my gurus, can my mind die to all that? From day to day die. And you will see, if you so die to the known, fear comes to an end, totally.
Then there is the problem: if you don’t die so completely to the content of the consciousness which is the known, then what happens to people who are not free of its content? You have understood my question? I’ll put it differently. Are you all interested in all this? Does it mean anything to you, all this? Verbally or actually?
Are you going to die to the content of your consciousness, to your gurus, to your ambitions, to your private, secret desires? You won’t. You won’t. That’s part of your conditioning, part of your death. So, what happens if you do not die to the content of your consciousness? What happens?
What is your consciousness? Is it like everybody else’s consciousness? Is it the consciousness of your neighbour who also has his gods, his thoughts, his desires, his attachment to his house?
Your consciousness is the consciousness of another. You may not like it, you may think you are an extraordinary consciousness, but you are just like your neighbour though you have a different name, a different face, a different bank account. You are just like your neighbour who is anxious, frightened, worshipping his petty little gods, his little gurus, goes to the miracle-mongers, all that – just like everybody else living. You are like everybody else with little temperamental changes. You may be most proficient at your profession, and so is somebody else, but below that profession you are frightened, you are greedy, you are ambitious, your sexual appetite, you are attached, like my neighbour, like everybody else, whether he lives in India, in China or in America. Your consciousness is the consciousness of your neighbour. So you are the world and the world is you.
Now, what happens to that consciousness when you die, when the physical organism dies? Knowing it is going to die, there is fear and you have the comforting hope of reincarnation. You have never inquired what it is that reincarnates, but there is that hope. When you inquire what it is that reincarnates, what is it? Your attachments. Your contents of your consciousness, your gods, the things that you have not done, the things that you should have done, your beliefs, your ideas, your opinions, your second-hand knowledge – all that. That is me, that is you, the self. And if you, as you do, believe in that, in reincarnation, as most of you do, it means that you will be incarnated next life differently, depending on your karma. Karma means to act. Now, cause and effect and all the rest of it is too long; I’ll have to cut it short.
If you believe in reincarnation, what you do matters enormously now because you are going to pay for it next life. That means if you don’t behave properly this life, you are going to pay for it next life. Right? But that’s just an idea, therefore you carry on with your mischief and you believe most earnestly: reincarnation, karma and all the rest of that tommyrot. Because what matters is how you behave now. That is the cause. The effect of it is not next life: in the flowering of goodness, you incarnate now. Understand this. Not next life. Incarnation means to be reborn anew. You can’t be born anew next life; you have to be born anew this life, now. That is real incarnation, not reincarnation.
Therefore what happens to those who have never died to the known, who are always clinging to the known? It’s like a vast stream in which all human beings are caught. A stream from which my son, my brother, my wife, my husband, who have lived now are caught in the stream, and from that stream they can be evoked, they can be called. I can see my brother, my son, my wife, my husband, through a medium, through various other ways, but it is still the continuance of that consciousness with its content. Therefore there is no release from that unless you die to the known every day. That means, never be attached. Which doesn’t mean that in the freedom from attachment there is no love. There is total love when you are not attached to ideas, to people, to buildings, to your jobs, nothing. You understand?
So, love is as strong as death, and living is not separate from love and death. They are all one total movement. And human beings have divided it and in this division there is conflict. Wherever there is division, there is conflict. Nationally when you are divided against Pakistan or Russia or whatever it is, there must be conflict. Between the Arab and the Jew, there must be conflict. And when you divide life, this life, the future life, love is something different and death is something different, all divided. Then when there is division, you live in constant pain, struggle and sorrow. One who understands the total movement of life, that is living. Love and death are one whole movement of existence and that is the total meaning of life.
Krishnamurti in Bangalore 1974, Talk 3
The Emptying of Consciousness Is Meditation
Can the mind be free from all occupation? Which means, can consciousness be empty of its content? And the emptying of that consciousness, with its content, is meditation. That is, emptying the attachment to your furniture, to your bank account, to your wife, to your husband, to your girl. Attachment, not detachment. The understanding of attachment. Then you are neither attached or detached; you are something entirely different.
Your content, as we explained in previous talks, makes up your consciousness, and the content is always active, restless, chattering, acquiring, discarding; it is essentially the activity of self-centred thought. And meditation is the emptying of it. That means inquiring, looking, hearing the voice of your own activity, the voice of your own intentions, ambitions, pursuits and all that. Observe it, be choicelessly aware of the content of your consciousness. Not trying to control it, not trying to shape it, because truth is not joyful or sad, neither good or bad; it is just truth. And when you understand what that means then space has no direction, therefore no movement. And then the mind, without control, without following any system, without all the fears, such a mind becomes completely, utterly still.
In this process you may have certain faculties, such as clairvoyance, telepathy, do some kind of healing, some kind of magic, and now, which is popular in this country, this question of exorcising the devil. A religious man, in the true sense of that word, a religious man who is concerned with the total gathering of one’s energy to come upon this total silence, a silence in which there is no noise of the ‘me’, such a religious man is not concerned at all with all the tricks of healing, exorcising, doing some kind of magic. The speaker has been through all that – and don’t touch it! A religious man, a man who is deeply concerned with truth, in daily life, and therefore with the comprehension of this marvellous thing called meditation with its great beauty and creation, will not play with all those things. He has no time.
And when you come upon that silence, when the mind and the body is still, not made still, that silence is not between two noises, between two thoughts, between two incidents, but it is a silence that has not been put together by thought, and therefore it has a totally different dimension. It is only such a mind that has gone through all this that can understand or see that which is immeasurable, which is nameless. And that is not an experience.
Krishnamurti in New York 1974, Talk 4