Krishnamurti on Habits
This week’s episode on Habits has four sections.
The first extract (2:06) is from Krishnamurti’s fifth talk in Saanen 1962, titled ‘Awareness of habits’.
The second extract (24:24) is from the first question and answer meeting at Brockwood Park in 1983, titled ‘Ending the habit of chattering’.
The third extract (39:28) is from Krishnamurti’s first talk in Saanen 1970, titled ‘Listening ends habit’.
The final extract this week (48:08) is from the third discussion in Madras 1979, titled ‘The habit of tradition’.
Awareness of Habits
We have innumerable habits: physical habits of taste, of sight, of personal idiosyncrasies. We have habits of thought as believing in this and not believing in that, being patriotic, nationalistic, belonging to a certain group of thought and holding on to that particular pattern of thought. All these become habits. And our mind likes to live in habit because habits give us certainty and security, a sense of having no fear. When there is habit, the mind seems to function a little more easily, which is really thoughtlessly, unaware. And we know of all these innumerable habits, the habit of words. Please do listen, not to my words, but observe, as it were, in a mirror your own mind, how it is caught in habits.
And habit, which gives a sense of security, only dulls the mind. However subtle, however unconscious or conscious that habit be, it invariably darkens the clarity of the mind. This is a psychological fact – whether you accept it or deny it, it is so. And being caught in habits, which is part of our education at the school as well as the education which society psychologically imposes on us, our mind functions in habits. And we are always struggling to break it down, if we are conscious of that habit. If we are at all aware, if we are at all sensitive, we try to break down the many, many habits that we form. We break down one habit and form another habit. There seems to be no moment when the mind is free from habit. If you observe yourself, you will see how difficult it is to be free from habit.
Take a very simple habit that many people have, of smoking, or a particular habit of taste – how difficult it is to break down. Now, when you smoke and when you want to give it up, if you do, there is a resistance to smoking. The idea creates a resistance against smoking, therefore there is a conflict between the habit and the desire to break that habit. And conflict and resistance does not free the mind from the whole process of forming habits. You may break down one habit, but the process, the mechanism of creating habits hasn’t come to an end. And what we are talking about is the explosion of all habits, the cessation of creating habits; not only getting rid of habits, being free of habits, but also never creating habits.
Now, if you observe, if you are aware of the habit of smoking – by that word, I mean aware of every movement, how your hand goes to the pocket, takes out the cigarette, taps it on the nail or whatever it does, then puts it in its mouth, takes out a match, lights it, puts it in the mouth and takes a few puffs and throws away the match – to be aware of all that process without resistance, without denying it, without wanting to be free of that habit, just to be totally aware of every movement. Similarly, to be aware of the habit of envy, the habit of acquisitiveness, the habit of fear, just to be aware of it. And then you will see, as you observe that particular habit of envy, what is implied in it. You begin to observe, see the whole implication of envy instantly. But you cannot see the whole implication of envy if there is a time element. We’ll explain what we mean by that time element.
You know, we think we can get rid of envy gradually; we will try, we make an effort to gradually put away envy. That is, introducing the breaking down of that particular habit of envy to the idea of time: ‘I will get rid of it tomorrow, a little later.’ In the meantime I’m envious, but later on I will try to get rid of it. The word try and the words in the meantime is the essence of time because you cannot get rid of any habit… there is no freedom from habit if you introduce time. Either you break it immediately or not, or it goes on gradually destroying, dulling the mind and creating new habits.
Please observe your own habits, your own attitudes towards your habits, whether it is the habit of thought, sexual habits – oh, innumerable habits of which one is conscious or unconscious. Especially it is more difficult to be aware of the unconscious habits. And socially and at college and school we are trained in this element of time. Our whole psychology is based on time, that we will eventually come to it, that there will eventually be brotherhood, eventually peace, but in the meantime we must go through all the horrors of war.
Now, is it possible to be free instantly, immediately, of this idea of gradually arriving somewhere, gradually getting rid of something, gradually being free? To me there is no time. There is no tomorrow to get rid of something or to acquire something. And if there is no tomorrow, there is no fear. If there is only a complete living now, all time has ceased and therefore there is no habit formation. I mean by that word now, in the immediate. That state of now and the immediacy is not the reaction of the past, is not an avoidance of the future. There is only the moment when there is totality of awareness, when all attention is there in the now. All existence is in the now. Whether you have immense pleasure or great sorrow, it is only in the immediate. But the mind projects it, the mind pushes it forward as though it had gathered it from the past and projects it into the future.
Please watch, be aware of your own mind, see in the mirror of these words how your own mind operates, and then we can go very far together.
Is it possible to break completely from the past, which is really the essence of habit, to step out completely from the past – the past being all the experiences, the knowledge, the suffering, the insults, the innumerable experiences that we have had individually, racially and collectively? Otherwise there is no freedom. And you cannot psychologically, actually, step out of the past if the idea of continuity exists.
For most of us, continuity is extraordinarily important. After all, continuity in relationship is habit. Continuity in thought is what sustains the limitations of the mind. And is it possible to explode from the past? Because otherwise there is no freedom and there is no new mind, a fresh mind, an innocent mind. It is the fresh mind, the innocent mind that is free. It has nothing to do with age; it has nothing to do with experience. And it seems to me that this question of seeing, consciously as well as unconsciously, the whole mechanism of habit is the very essence of freedom. Not the ending of habit, but seeing totally the structure of habit, how habits are formed, how by denying one habit another set of habits are created. By resisting one habit or a series of habits, you fall into other habits. But to be totally conscious of habit.
If you are so totally conscious, you will see there is no longer the formation of habit. What gives continuity to habit is to resist it, to fight it, to deny it. You know how easily we slip into a habit. If you have already a habit and you fight that habit, by the very fighting that habit you give life to that habit; and in the very fighting of that habit you have created a habit of fighting, resisting. But if one is aware, if one is attentive, then you will see there is freedom from habit, and in that freedom a new thing takes place.
It is only the sleepy, dull mind that creates and holds to habit. And a mind that is attentive – attentive to what it is saying, attentive to the movements of its hands, of its face, attentive of its thoughts, attentive of its feelings – just to be attentive, then in that state of attention you will see that the formation of further habits has come to an end. And this is very important to understand because a mind that is breaking down one habit and creating another habit can never be free. And obviously only a mind that is free can perceive; it is only the free mind that can perceive something beyond itself. And such a mind is the religious mind, not the mind that repeats prayers, goes to church, that has dogmas, belongs to a certain sect or no sect. Such a mind is a stupid mind; it is not a religious mind. And the religious mind is the free mind. And it is the free mind that is in a state of constant explosion. And therefore in that state of explosion there is seeing the truth which is not to be caught by words, by thought, by experience.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1962, Talk 5
Ending the habit of chattering
I have a habit: smoking, scratching my head, keeping my mouth open, the habit of thinking the same thing over and over and over again, or the habit of chattering.
Let’s take chattering. I am not only chattering with myself but I am always endlessly talking with others. The other day somebody came to see me, it was an interview. I don’t give interviews anymore but she insisted and she came. The moment she entered – please, it is none of you here – she began to talk, talk, talk, and when she left she said, ‘I am glad to have met you.’ We all chatter endlessly; some not only go back and forth but also chatter inwardly. That has become an extraordinary habit for most people; they can never be quiet, never be silent. Silence in the sense the brain completely still, but that is a different matter we can go into later. So this habit of chattering. How do I stop it? First of all, who is to stop it? Another chatterer who says, ‘I must stop this chattering but I will have my own chattering’? So who is to stop chattering? Fear? Seeing that it is a wastage of energy, chattering, chattering, then will you stop that?
So we have to ask a question which is more serious: is there an entity outside of you, or inside of you, that will act as a brake upon chattering, that will say, ‘No I will not chatter’? Is it will, the decision not to chatter? And if it is will, what is will? The quintessence of desire. So, how do you stop a habit of chattering? First of all, if you stop it through will, through desire, that creates another conflict, doesn’t it? And to stop chattering without conflict, is that possible?
I chatter. First of all I am not aware I am chattering. You point it out to me and say, ‘Old chap, do stop chattering so much.’ And I get rather hurt by it. But if I go beyond that and I say, ‘Now, in what manner am I to stop it?’ then I have got the orthodox means of will, or taking a drug that will quieten me down, and having been quietened I take another drug to keep me awake – and I keep on that routine. So I want to find out how to stop a habit, like chattering, keeping my mouth open, scratching myself, all kinds of things, without any kind of effort. You understand my question? This is an important question. To do something without effort. Does it amuse you? It’s fun. Will you do this? Find out your particular habit, be aware of it, and say, now, can it be ended without any action of will, decision, compulsion, reward? Reward and punishment are the two elements we live on. So can I break that habit without any side effects. Can we go into this? I will go into it.
First of all, am I aware of my habit? Not that you point it out to me and then I realise it, but am I aware of my habits without somebody telling me of my habits? See the difference. If you tell me my habit, I either resist it, or say, ‘Yes, I must stop it.’ But if I see it for myself, I am a step ahead, if I can so put it. Now, are we aware of our particular habit of chattering? What does that awareness mean? Awareness means to look at something without any reaction, without any choice. I am aware that I am chattering? That is first. Then to be aware, to watch it without any condemnation, justification or explanation, just to watch it, will you do that? So that the old reactions don’t come in, the old tradition doesn’t come in and say, ‘I must stop it,’ I must do this, I must do that. So to watch the chattering very carefully. To watch it means without any reaction of past memories. This becomes very difficult. If I watch that tree in movement in the wind, it is a beautiful thing. Or I don’t like the wind, therefore I won’t watch it. Similarly in a certain way, I can watch my chattering. The watcher is not different from chattering. So the watcher is not the structure of words, memories, he is just watching. Please, this is rather complex and requires a great deal of inquiry.
We watch things with our prejudices, with our opinions, with our memories, with the whole structure of words. We watch everything that way. Now, can you watch without all that memory and structure? That is where the art comes in, the art of watching. Now there is a watching of my chattering. I am aware, and in that awareness I am not seeking any reward or punishment, I am just watching. Which means what? I am giving complete attention at that moment. At that second, all my energy, all my capacity and attention is there. Which means when there is complete attention – complete, not attention brought about through any form of desire, through any form of reward or punishment, just complete attention, then that habit has no place. Do it please, try it once.
Now you will say, yes, for the moment it is possible, I can see that it can end. If I give complete attention to something, there is an ending to it, but it comes back. It comes back, the chattering comes back. Then what is your reaction? I did it once, gave complete attention, and it seems to subside for the second, and now if I give the same attention, it will subside again. So you have become mechanical. I wonder if you see this. Do you understand this? I gave attention, complete attention, to my chattering. That flame of attention wiped away for a few minutes chattering. I have seen how the thing works. Then the next moment, or next hour, whatever period of time, you begin to chatter and suddenly catch yourself and say, ‘I must pay attention.’ So again you repeat, and again it disappears. So gradually what you are learning is paying attention, which means you are not attending. Have you understood what I am saying? If you are constantly reminding yourself to attend, it is not attention. But attention has no time.
If you give your complete attention, which means there is no wastage of energy, then the thing goes away. So your concern is not attention but wasting energy. We waste energy in a thousand ways; chattering is one of the ways. So I don’t pay attention anymore to chattering, but I am going to see how I waste my energy. I am going to pursue that. I am going to watch, learn, see where I am wasting energy. Oh, there are so many ways! So my mind is now not becoming mechanical by the repetition that I must attend but it is moving, all the time picking up new things. I wonder if you see all this. So that the brain becomes extraordinarily alert, and when it is so alert, habits have no place.
Krishnamurti at Brockwood Park in 1983, Question and Answer Meeting 1
Listening Ends Habit
The difficulty is that our brain functions in the old habits, like a gramophone record playing the same tune over and over and over again. And while that tune is going on, the noise of that music, of that habit, one is not capable of listening to anything new. Because, after all, we have been conditioned, the brain has been conditioned to think in a certain way, to act in a certain way, to respond according to our culture, to our background, to our tradition, to our education, and that very same brain tries to listen to something new, to a new quality of meaning, to a new tone, and it is not capable of it, and that is where our difficulty is going to lie. You know if you talk on a tape, you can wipe it out and begin again, but unfortunately it is very difficult with the tape the brain has, which has been so long cultivated and conditioned, for that tape to be wiped out and begin again. And we repeat that same pattern, the same ideas, the same physical habits over and over again, and so we never catch anything fresh, new.
So to listen so that the brain puts aside the old tape, the old way of thinking, feeling, reacting, the innumerable habits that one has, to put all that aside. And one can do it, I assure you if you listen, if you give attention, if the thing you are listening to is deadly serious, tremendously important, then you are bound to listen, and the very act of listening will wipe out the old. Do try it. Or rather do it, not try it. You are really deeply interested, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. You are taking life very seriously, otherwise you wouldn’t take all the trouble to come and sit here with the fresh snow on the hills, away from the comfortable things that you are used to. So one assumes that you are serious. You have to be serious confronted with the extraordinary chaos in the world, the uncertainty, war, destruction. Every value has been thrown away; it is a completely permissive society, sexually, economically, in every way. There is no morality, no religion; everything is being thrown away and one has to be utterly, deeply serious. And if you have that seriousness in your heart, you will listen. And in that very act of listening, the old memories, the old habits, the accumulated tradition, all that will be wiped away.
So it depends on you, not on the speaker, whether you are sufficiently serious to listen, to find out for yourself, so completely, a light that can never be put out, a way of living that doesn’t depend on any idea, on any circumstances, a way of life that is always fresh, new, young, vital.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1970, Talk 1
The Habit of Tradition
Krishnamurti: Why does the brain, your brain form habits?
Q: For convenience’s sake
K: That’s right. He says, for convenience, for comfort, for following daily certain routine, both physically as well as mentally, psychologically. Why? Because the mind has found the habit convenient, it hasn’t to work anew again, and so habit is formed, which means routine, a machine. The piston engine has a marvellous habit. Right? You understand, it is a marvellous habit, the piston engine. So our minds have become piston engines – repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat. Because that way you think is the easiest and the most comfortable way of living. So habit is formed: good habit, bad habit. Which is, the brain refuses to think anew, to work afresh. This is so obvious, isn’t it? I am describing; you do it actually, watch your own brains. So habits are formed, which is the tradition. Habit is a tradition. There is nothing holy or unholy about it, it is just tradition. And once caught in that, the brain refuses to let go. If it lets go, it immediately forms another habit and it pursues that. So one has to question why the brain operates this way.
Why does the brain form habits, which is tradition? Whether it is ten days old or ten thousand years old, why does it do it? You have a leader of non-violence in this country, and he established a certain principle, or whatever you like, and then the brain says, all right I’ll accept that, I will follow that. Which is tradition, which is habit. And you don’t like to call it habit, you say you have principles, you are following a principle. So I am asking why the brain does this constantly? You relinquish this habit, pick up that habit, and then throw that away and form a new habit. Why? Just think it over, sir, don’t answer quickly. Inquire, go into yourself, look at your brain. Why does it do it?
Doesn’t it do it because – listen quietly, sir – the brain can only function in security. Because it is secure in habit, it is secure in a tradition, it is secure in a belief, it is secure in an illusion. So the brain demands at all times to be secure, whether it is false, whether it is real, whether it is absurd, whether it is superstitious – it says, please I can only operate where there is complete security. So it forms habits, thinking that it will give it security. You have understood this? No, not the description; the actual fact. Then is there such security? That is, forming a habit, living in it, breaking it up with a new habit, and then following it, breaking it up, another habit. That is, the brain is wanting security but never investigating into the security it thinks it has in habits. Are you following this? No, sir you are not, otherwise you wouldn’t put on this thing, sir. That’s a habit we have, the ‘naamam’, you know. So I am asking – we are saying, there is a security not in habit. I wonder if you understand this. I am going to show it to you.
When the brain sees that this habit-forming is the most dangerous way of living – you understand what it does? You understand, sir? I don’t think you do. It is a habit to call yourself a Hindu. And that habit is most dangerous because on your border there is the Muslim. And on the other border there is the communist. Which is their habit, and there is the other habit, and your habit, so you have got three habits, and there will be constant wars. When the brain realises any formation of habit, or the continuance of habit is the most dangerous way of living, which is, when it comprehends the danger, the sequence of a habit, the very perception of it is intelligence. The brain then has this intelligence, which is total security. It is not habit, it is not tradition, it is not one habit after another, but the perception, the seeing logically, sanely the consequences of habits. And when it sees the consequences it says, ‘Right, finished.’ I wonder if you understand this.
Q: Yes, sir.
K: Will you do it? That is, not to be a Hindu or a Muslim, or anything. You are a human being. This human being has this extraordinary capacity to create an illusion, and in that illusion, like temples, like churches and all the rest of it, create, live in that illusion and say, ‘I find security there.’ Right? And there is the other which says there is security in Islam, and so there is a battle. And it destroys itself. So will you, seeing this, throw away your illusions, throw away your habits because you see the reason, the logical sequence of forming habits?
Krishnamurti in Madras 1979, Discussion 3