Krishnamurti on Observation
This week’s episode on Observation has four sections.
The first extract (2:11) is from Krishnamurti’s first talk in Madras 1969, titled ‘Seeing exactly what is.’
The second extract (7:54) is from the first question and answer meeting in Ojai 1980, titled ‘Can the observer be absent in observation?’
The third extract (20:22) is from the forth talk in San Diego 1970, titled ‘To observe clearly, the mind must be quiet.’
The final extract this week (29:17) is from the first talk at Brockwood Park 1973, titled ‘The observer is the observed.’
Seeing Exactly What Is
A scientist when he looks through the microscope has to put aside all his hypotheses, all his conclusions, all his previous knowledge, and look. He looks and lets what he sees through the microscope tell the story. He doesn’t tell the story about what he sees. What he sees through the microscope is telling the story. The thing that is seen through the microscope is telling the story, unfolding, and it must be proven to other scientists; otherwise it is not a fact. Other scientists must see through the microscope, discover the same thing, test it, and therefore there is no agreement or disagreement, there is only seeing what exactly is. So we have to put aside to observe, not only temperament but your conclusions, your wishes, your desires, your hypotheses and ideologies, and through observation let what you see tell the story.
So what we are going to do during all these talks and discussions is to learn through observation, not your observation or my observation, but the observation of a mind that sees very clearly, that has no prejudice. If it has prejudice, put it aside. Your conclusions, your tradition, your belief, put all that aside and look. When that is very clear, not only verbally but actually, that both of us are looking through the microscope, not at what you wish to see or what you want to see, therefore what you see and what the speaker sees, what he or she sees, is always the same. That’s a great discovery, that you and the speaker and the other person see through the microscope exactly what is. Therefore, your knowledge, your hypothesis, your conclusions have no place whatsoever and there is a great beauty in it.
So that is clear, not verbally or intellectually but to yourself as a fact, that when you want to see something clearly, all your prejudices and conclusions must be set aside. If you are a Hindu, Buddhist, communist, socialist, Muslim or Christian, all that must be set aside to observe, to learn, to look. Are you doing this? I hope so, otherwise we shall not be in communication with each other – communication being creating together, walking together, working together, learning together.
Krishnamurti in Madras 1969, Talk 1
Can the Observer Be Absent in Observation?
When we observe, do we really observe at all? Or we observe with the word. That is, I observe that thing and I say ‘tree’. So I observe with the word. There is an observation with the word. So can I find out, can we find out what it is to observe without the word? The word has become all-important, rather than the seeing. We observe, if we have a wife or a husband, with all the memory, pictures, sensations, the irritations about each other, so we never observe.
So the next step is, can we observe a person with whom we have lived, intimate and so on, so on, without the image, without the picture, without the idea? Can you do it? Perhaps we are able to perceive the thing we call the tree without the word. That’s fairly easy. If you have gone into it, that’s fairly easy. But to observe a person with whom you have lived, and observe without the accumulation of memory about that person, if you have gone into it, if you are interested in it… First of all, this observation through the image, through the picture, through the sensations and all the rest of it, through this accumulated memory, is no relationship at all. It is a relationship of one picture with another picture. And that’s what we call relationship. But when you examine it closely, it is not relationship – it is my idea and your idea. So can we in the observation not make an abstraction of what we observe as an idea?
You are following all this? Don’t be puzzled. You are not used to all this, are you?
So this is what we mean by psychological knowledge. That is, I have built up psychologically a great deal of information about my wife – if I have a wife or girlfriend. I have built up this knowledge about her, correctly or incorrectly, depending on my sensitivity, depending on my ambition, greed, envy and all that, depending on my self-centred activity. So that knowledge is preventing actual observation of the person, who is a living thing. So I never want to meet that living thing because I am afraid. It is much safer to have an image about that person rather than to see the living thing.
My psychological knowledge is going to prevent pure observation, so can one be free of that? Can the machinery that builds these images come to an end? Then you will say, ‘How am I to end it? I have got an image about my friend,’ or whatever it is, ‘and it is there, like a tremendous fact, like a stone round my neck, how am I to throw it away?’ Is the stone, the image round one’s neck different from the observer? I am going slowly into this. Is that image, that weight round your neck, is that different from the observer who says, ‘I have an image’?
I wonder if you catch this. You understand my question? Meet me, let’s talk together, move.
Is the observer who says, ‘I have the image,’ and says, ‘how am I to get rid of it?’ is that observer different from the thing he has observed? Obviously not. So the observer is the image-maker. I wonder if you see that. Right? Do you meet this?
So what is the observer? Who is this observer that is making the image and then separating himself from the image and then saying, ‘What am I to do about it?’ That is the way we live, that’s the pattern of our action, and that’s our conditioning to which we are so accustomed, so naturally accept. So we are saying something entirely different, which is, the observer is the observed. Let me go into it a little more.
I observe the tree but I am not the tree. Thank God – it would be too stupid to say, ‘I am the tree,’ or I have identified myself with the tree, and so on, so on. All this process of identification is still the observer trying to be something or become something. So we have to inquire into what the observer is. Who is the observer? The observer is the result of all the past knowledge. His experience, his knowledge, his memories, his fears, his anxieties – the past. So the observer is always living in the past. If you have noticed, you can watch it in yourself. And he is modifying himself all the time, meeting the present but still rooted in the past. So there is this movement of time, which is the past, modifying itself in the present, going on to the future. This is the momentum or the movement of time. I won’t go into that now, for the moment.
So when we observe we are observing through the image which we have created about that thing, or that person. Can we observe that thing without the word, and can we observe the person without the image? That means, can the observer be absent in observation? When you look at a person – of course, if it is a stranger you have no picture, or you say, ‘Oh, he is a foreigner, throw him out’ (laughter) – when you look at somebody whom you know fairly intimately, the more intimately you know them the more the image, can you look at that person without the image? Which means, can you look at that person without the observer? You get it? I wonder if you do. That is pure observation.
Krishnamurti in Ojai 1980, Question and Answer Meeting 1
To Observe Clearly, the Mind Must Be Quiet
The mind, this mind that chatters, that projects ideas, that has contradiction, that lives in constant conflict and comparison, this mind must obviously be very quiet, mustn’t it? To observe, that mind must be extraordinarily quiet. If I am to listen to what you are saying, I must give attention to what you are saying. I can’t be chattering, I can’t be thinking about something else. I mustn’t compare what you are saying with what I already know, I must actually, completely listen to you. That means the mind must be attentive, must be silent, must be quiet, mustn’t it? Therefore, see the necessity that to observe clearly, the mind must be quiet. To see clearly the mind must be quiet. And because it is imperative to see the whole structure of violence clearly, and therefore to look at it, the mind must be completely still. Therefore you have a still mind.
You don’t have to cultivate a still mind because to cultivate a still mind implies one who cultivates in the field of time, which he hopes to achieve. See all this, what I have just now said. See the difficulty. Because all the people who try to teach meditation say control your mind, your mind must be absolutely quiet. And you try to control it, and so everlastingly battle with it and spend forty years controlling it, which is completely silly because any schoolboy can concentrate, control. We are not saying that at all. We are saying on the contrary, the mind that observes doesn’t analyse, is not seeking experience but merely observes, must be free from all noise. And therefore the mind becomes completely quiet.
If I am to listen to you, I must listen to you, not translate what you are saying or interpret what you are saying to suit myself, or condemn you or judge you. I must listen. So that very act of listening is attention, which means, not to practise at all. If you practise it, you have already become inattentive.
So when you are attentive and your mind wanders off, which indicates it is inattentive, let it wander off and know that it is inattentive. And the very awareness of that inattention is attention. Don’t battle with inattention, don’t try and say, ‘I must be attentive’ – it’s childish. Know that you are inattentive, be aware choicelessly that you are inattentive. What of it? But the moment in that inattention there is action, be aware of that action.
Silence of the mind is the beauty in itself. To listen to the bird, to the voice of a human being, to the politician, to the priest, to all the noise of propaganda that goes on, to listen completely silently, and then you will hear much more, you will see much more.
Now, that silence is not possible if your body, the organism, is not also completely still. If your body, the organ, with all its nervous responses, all the fidgeting, the ceaseless movement of fingers, the eyes, you know, the restlessness of the body – that must be completely still.
Have you ever tried sitting completely still, without a single movement of the body, including the eyes? Do it sometime and you’ll see. You may do it for five minutes or two minutes, that’s good enough. Don’t say, ‘How am I to keep it for ten minutes, for an hour?’ – don’t, that’s greed. For two minutes is enough. In that two minutes, the whole of this thing is revealed, if you know how to look.
Krishnamurti in San Diego 1970, Talk 4
When the Observer Is the Observed
I think the first thing to realise is the division between the observer and the observed. Is there a division between the observer and the observed? The observer is always controlling, shaping, trying to change ‘what is’. The observer sees what he is and says, ‘I must change that.’ He sees the social structure outside him – the establishment, political, religious, all the rest of it – and the observer says, ‘I must change this system, I must bring about a different system.’ Is the observer different from the thing he observes? Please, this requires a great deal of inquiry, a great deal of attention, to find out why this division exists and if that division is false. If it is false then to see, actually feel, come upon this reality that the observer is the observed. When you realise the observer is the observed then the wastage of energy comes to an end, the energy that we dissipate when there is division between the observer and the observed.
Are we meeting together in this? I am going to go into it much more because this is one of the most important things to understand. Not because the speaker says so, but when you observe yourself your relationship to the world, the world that is outside you, the culture, is that culture different from you? And the religious, economic structure, is that structure different from the thing that you are? So we are going to go into that.
When you observe a mountain, a tree, the flowing of waters, surely the observer is not the observed. When one observes a tree or a mountain, and you say, ‘Yes, the observer is the observed’ – that becomes too absurd; you are not the tree or the mountain – I hope not! So there is a division, which is natural, which is inevitable, it is obvious. But the division as the observer and the observed, which is essentially psychological, inward, that division brings about great conflict between the observer and the observed. You understand? All right? Have we understood each other?
Look, I watch you, I observe you. Obviously you are different from me – taller, shorter, or bigger, better brains, or whatever it is, better position, more money. I observe. There the observer is different from the observed who is outwardly different. I am not you. I have got short hair, long hair or whatever it is. I am different from you. But psychologically, is the observer different from the thing he observes in you or in himself? Psychologically, that is inwardly, go to India and the problems there are the same kind of problems as here – anger, jealousy, fear, pursuit of pleasure, wanting to find out more. The human problems all over the world are essentially the same. So my problem is your problem. My problem is not different from your problem. And to observe that problem without the observer becomes the most important thing.
When I observe a mountain, I am not the mountain; the observer is not the observed. But when I observe myself, the observer is the observed. The observer is not different from the observed because the observer has created the observed. That is, the observer perceives, observes, is aware, that he is jealous – I am taking that one thing to look at it completely. He is aware that he is jealous, so there is a division between the observer and the observed. When he says, ‘I am jealous,’ the observer thinks he is different from the thing he observes. But is the observer different from the thing he has observed? If that division can be totally eliminated then there is no conflict. But there will be conflict as long as there is the division between the observer and the observed. So we must investigate what the observer is.
Who is the observer? Or who is the thinker, the experiencer from the experience, from the thought, from that which he has observed – who is the observer? Is not the observer the past? The observer who has accumulated experience and knowledge and has great memory, which is the past – right? The past as the observer is memory, experience, knowledge. So all knowledge is the past, and with that he observes.
I hope somebody is coming along with the speaker.
So he observes, observes that which is. That which is, is the present. That which is, is what he has created. Look, I’ll go into it. The observer says, ‘I am jealous,’ and then he says, ‘I must conquer it, I must overcome it,’ or justify it, or get bitter, angry, furious. So there is a conflict between the observer and the observed, which is jealousy. Now, is there a division at all? Or the observer is the observed? Now just a minute. The observer, the thinker, says, ‘I am jealous.’ The moment he uses that word ‘jealousy’ he has put it into a framework of words which are the result of past experience. When I say, ‘I am jealous,’ I recognise that feeling. I recognise it because I have had that experience, that sensation, that feeling before. So I have used the word ‘jealousy’ in the past, and I apply that word to the present. And the application of that word to the present feeling brings about a division between the observer and the observed.
So as long as there is a division between the observer and the observed, there must be conflict, and that is a wastage of energy, the overcoming, the indulging in hatred, the justification of jealousy, all that is a wastage of energy because it is the outcome of conflict. Whereas when there is a realisation that the observer is the observed, then you have all that energy, which is not being wasted. Then what takes place? When the observer realises he is jealous, not jealousy as something apart from him, then what takes place? I, the thinker, the observer, is jealousy. Then what has transformed, what has taken place? Is there jealousy at all? Or to put it differently: when there is no division, what takes place? There is only then ‘what is’ – isn’t there? There is no trying to overcome it, trying to destroy it, trying to change it; there is only ‘what is’. Can the mind – please follow this a little bit – remain with ‘what is’ without any movement of changing it or undermining it or overcoming it, just be with it?
I am ambitious. I am not, but I am taking that. I am ambitious. I want to be something enormous. That is a fact, if I am. Before, I wanted to fulfil my ambition: I became brutal, ruthless, pursued self-fulfilment, there was bitterness, frustration – all a wastage of energy. Ambition is cultivated in this culture, and I am ambitious, with all its conflicts, frustrations, bitterness, anger. You know that – you all know it very well. I realise I am ambition – there is no division between the observer and the observed. There is only ambition. Can the mind remain with that? That is, can the mind not escape from it, try to transform it, try to deny it or suppress it, but see exactly as it is? Then what takes place?
As long as there is a way out, as long as there is the desire to overcome it, or to rationalise it, or to suppress it, there is conflict, but when all that ceases because the observer is the observed, then is there ambition at all? Or there is a total summation of energy, no longer called ambition? You understand what I am talking about? No longer this pursuit of its fulfilment. Are we sharing this together? Not as an idea, that would be hopeless, but as an actuality.
Take your own ambition, take your own whatever it is, look at it, see all the implications involved in it – always wanting to be powerful. You know what ambition is, it is a self-centred activity. In the name of society, in the name of God, in the name of whatever it is, it is self-centred activity. And when it is frustrated, there is anger and bitterness. And in seeing all that, which is a wastage of energy, the mind then realises the observer is the observed. There is no division, therefore there is no conflict. And then is there ambition, or is there an energy that has come out of this observation? It is no longer ambition. It has tremendous energy, which you are wasting now in conflict.
Then the problem arises: how does that energy express itself? Being ambitious, competitive, seeking power, position, all that is self-centred activity. One may write a marvellous book and you may write it through desire to fulfil your particular talent, or it may be desire to have more money – you know all that business. And you spend a great deal of energy on all that. And when that self-centred activity comes to an end, you have an extraordinary sense of energy. How does that energy act? We know how ambition acts, we know how self-centred activity acts – jealousy, you know, all that. Now, when there is not that self-centred activity and therefore a great, total summation of energy, without the ‘me’, then what is its activity? Will it go and join communism, socialism, become a capitalist, go to church, temple, mosque, follow some guru? What will you do with that energy? This is one of our problems, please. You understand?
You realise how one wastes energy in conflict, in battles. It took tremendous energy to kill people in wars. Now you have no war – actual, physical war – but you have economic war going on and you have religious war. We know how all that energy is being wasted. Now you say, ‘I have this energy.’ There is this tremendous sense of vital energy which is no longer wasted. What is its action? I wonder if you have asked these questions. Have you? I am asking them for you.
Now how does this energy come about? You understand my question? It comes about only when it has observed ‘what is’ and remains with ‘what is’. And it can only do that when there is no division between the observer and the observed. The mind has examined what is implied in jealousy, examined what is implied in ambition, and various problems – one can examine them all – looked at them, observed them, felt them, investigated them, and through that investigation and observation comes a realisation that there is no division between the observer and the observed. And the summation of that is intelligence, isn’t it? The summation of that energy is intelligence. It is not your intelligence or my intelligence or the racial intelligence, it is something entirely different. And that intelligence will operate, not doing something silly, neurotic, selfish. And that is the real transformation of the mind. And all this involves a mind that is capable of observing – observing without any distortion, without any neurotic illusions.
Can you observe without any colouring, observe your life exactly as it is? How silly, absurd, or how beautiful, whatever it is, exactly as it is, narrow, petty, ambitious, greedy, frightened, competitive, wanting position, caught in a network of fears – can you observe all that without the division as the observer and the observed? If you can, really, not as an idea, actually, if you have done it, if you do it, then you will see that out of this observation comes an extraordinary sense of great creative intelligence, and that operates in our relationship. Because all life is relationship.
You can’t live by yourself, though we try to. We enclose ourselves with our ideas of how important we are, or how little we are. We enclose ourselves. It is this part of self-centred activity which destroys relationship. So, as our life is movement in relationship – movement, not just a static state of relationship, it is a movement – and as our relationship in our daily life is so terrible, so ugly, so contradictory, such a battle – probably you know this better than I do, what your relationships are: the fight between man and woman, the attachments, the dominance, the sexual pleasures. You know all this, don’t you, better than I? And if there is no right relationship, which can only be brought about when the observer is the observed, when relationship isn’t based on an image, the image which you have created about another, and what the other has created about you, and in that there is division and therefore there is conflict.
So as life is all a movement in relationship, to understand that relationship is to understand the self-centred activity, which separates you and me and therefore conflict between you and me. And that conflict is essentially between the observer and the observed. The observer is the past and he tries to control the observed, tries to change the thing that is ‘what is’. But when there is only ‘what is’ then there is complete change of ‘what is’, and therefore complete summation of energy, which is intelligence.
Krishnamurti at Brockwood Park 1979, Talk 1