Krishnamurti on Awareness
This week’s episode on Awareness has six sections.
The first extract (2:08) is from Krishnamurti’s second question and answer meeting at Brockwood Park in 1982, titled ‘What is it to be aware?’
The second extract (8:14) is from the first talk at Brockwood Park in 1970, titled ‘Awareness of your conditioning’.
The third extract (27:21) is from Krishnamurti’s eighth talk in Saanen 1963, titled ‘Choiceless awareness’.
The fourth extract (40:58) is from the sixth talk in Madras 1978, titled ‘Can thought be aware of itself?’
The fifth extract (46:28) is from Krishnamurti’s seventh talk in Saanen 1971, titled ‘Awareness of unawareness’.
The final extract this week (56:06) is from the fourth talk in Berkeley 1969, titled ‘Awareness in meditation’.
What is it to be aware?
What is it to be aware? To be aware, to be conscious, to be cognisant, to be sensitive to everything, to nature, to people round you, sensitive in your own reactions, what does it mean, to be aware? Is one aware of this marquee? Or you take it for granted. Have you counted the number of poles in this marquee? Have you looked at the tree, not given it a name, but to be aware of it, to be sensitive to it? Are you aware of the person sitting next to you? Are you aware of his physical movement, how he looks at people, aware of his clothes? Or we are so self-centred, we haven’t time, have no regard for another. We are so entangled with our own problems, with our own misery, that we don’t look at anything else. So to be aware, does it not mean to see, feel, look without any choice of what is happening? To be aware of what is happening in the world, not necessarily from newspapers and magazines but to be aware that there are wars going on. People are killing each other; thousands of years of shedding tears, and we don’t seem to have learnt anything. To be aware of all this without any choice.
One is aware as British – what is happening here, one knows very well. But one isn’t aware globally as a human being. So are we aware in such a sense: a global feeling of mankind? Not the Arab and the Israelis and the British and the French and the Americans and so on – it becomes rather silly all that kind of stuff. To be so aware of this human suffering, human sorrow, human pleasure. And if one is so aware, it is not concentration at all. Aware.
Then the questioner asks: is there an awareness of something very deep, from which you act? That is what the questioner asks. Then there is attention. Awareness and attention, not concentration. Concentration is merely focussing all your energy on a particular point. That we can do fairly easily. When you are interested in certain subjects, certain ideas, a certain story, you are completely concentrated. Or you may force yourself to concentrate, which is to resist the intrusions of other thoughts. But awareness is different: to be aware, to be sensitive, to have this feeling of a movement which is total, which is human. And attention is this quality in which there is no centre from which you are attending, which means no frontiers to attention, no borders. When there is that quality of attention, which is part of love and compassion and intelligence, then from there one acts – or non-acts.
Krishnamurti at Brockwood Park in 1982, Question and Answer Meeting 2
Awareness of Your Conditioning
One has to be aware of one’s conditioning. Then the problem arises: who is to be aware of the conditioning? There is only conditioning, not to be aware of the conditioning. I don’t know if you see this. The moment I am aware of my conditioning, there is a duality, isn’t there? I who am aware of my particular conditioning, and hence the one who is aware wants to change his conditioning, break it down, be free from it. Therefore that creates conflict. All division is bound to create conflict. Look at the Catholic and the Protestant – there you have got a very good example. Any division is bound to bring about contradiction, conflict and strife. If I say I will be aware of my conditioning, there is immediately a contradiction, a separation.
So to be aware of one’s conditioning. ‘I am going to be aware of my conditioning,’ is one thing, and the other is to be aware of it non-verbally, because the word is not the thing – and therefore there is actual perception of it. Can you do this? Not that this is a group therapy or analysis; for God’s sake, none of that stuff. But actually, is one aware of this conditioning? To be aware that I am a Hindu. Awareness implies looking without any choice. The moment you have choice, it is a fragmentation.
So can you observe yourself without any image of yourself? The image of yourself is the conditioning. And to observe without any image means I don’t know what I am – I am going to find out. In that there is no assumption or conclusion, therefore the mind is free to observe, to learn. But in learning, the moment there is an accumulation you have stopped learning.
Suppose I have observed myself and I see I am this, as a fact. From that observation, I have learnt something about myself. Having learnt about myself, it is the past. With that past knowledge, I am going to observe. Therefore I cease to observe. It is only the past that is observing. So can I, can the mind observe without accumulating? You understand the problem? Just look at the problem first, not what to do. When you understand the problem very clearly, action follows naturally.
I observe myself, and through that observation I have learnt something. Having learnt, I further observe. Having learnt more, I go on to observe. Therefore the observer becomes the analyser. Please do see this; let’s go along. The observer, the analyser, is the result of many things he has learnt about himself, and with the eyes of the past, as the analyser, as the person who has accumulated knowledge, he examines, he looks, he learns. So the past is always trying to learn what is going on in the present.
So can there be a learning that is watching, observing, without any sense of accumulation, so that the mind is always fresh to learn? Only such a mind is a free mind. So can the mind be free of thought in observing and learning? Because one wants to learn, naturally. Seeing the transient nature of our life, the exhaustion of pleasure revived by thought, continuity given to pleasure by thought, seeing how everything comes to an end, one wants to find out if there is anything which is beyond, which is transcendental, which is something other than this daily routine, daily boredom, daily occupation, daily worry. After all, that is what religions promise: seek God, love God. Now, to learn if there is anything that is beyond thought, beyond the intellect, beyond the routine, one must be free of all belief. Which doesn’t mean you become an atheist. The atheist and the believer are both the same.
I seriously want to find out if there is something beyond ‘what is’, which means the mind must be totally free of any fear, otherwise fear will project something that will give it a comfort. So I must learn all about fear. The mind must be inquiring into this whole terrible problem of fear. If the mind wants to find out anything that is beyond the imagination, the myth, the symbol, what man has projected as God, the mind must be free of all that to find out. And it cannot possibly find out if there is any form of fear; and we are frightened human beings. So can the mind learn the whole nature of fear, not only the conscious fears but the deep-rooted fears of which most of us are unaware?
So from that arises the question: how are the unconscious fears to be revealed, to be exposed? Are they to be exposed through analysis, which means the analyser, which means a fragment who is going to analyse? Or through dreams discover all the fears? That is a perilous road, to find out through dreams what we are, because dreams are merely the continuation of what we are during the daily life, the waking hours.
So how is the mind, which has divided in itself as the conscious and the unconscious, which again is a division and therefore contradiction, how is the mind to be aware of this whole structure and nature of consciousness, without division? And there are hidden parts in the mind, deep down in the darkest corners of our mind; all kinds of things going on. Nothing extraordinary: it is as silly as the conscious mind, as the things of the conscious mind. So how is all that to be exposed? Not through analysis, obviously. If you really see that, the impossibility, the danger, the falseness of analysis – I hope there aren’t any analysts here; bad luck if there are! – if you really see that, your mind then is free to observe without analysis. I don’t know if you see that.
Look, let’s be very simple about this. Analysis implies time. Analysis implies the analyser who is different from the thing analysed. And is the analyser different from the thing he wants to analyse? Surely they are both the same, only he, a fragment, has assumed the power, the knowledge, the assumption that he is different, and he is going to analyse. And each analysis must be complete, otherwise you carry over the misunderstanding of your analysis to the next analysis. Time, division as the analyser – each analysis must be complete, finished each time – which is impossible. If you see the truth of that, the actual fact of it, then you are free of it. Are you? If you are free of it, then you have quite a different mind that is going to observe. You see the difference? If there is the freedom from the false – and analysis is the false – then my mind is free from the burden of that which has been false, therefore it is free to look.
Now can the mind look at the totality of consciousness without any division as the observer watching the whole structure of consciousness? I don’t know if you are following all this. Is this all becoming rather complex? If it is complex, life is complex. To learn about yourself, you have to face this extraordinary complex entity called the ‘me’. You have to learn about it, and that is what we are doing. We are getting educated about ourselves.
So, can the mind observe the totality of itself?
Krishnamurti at Brockwood Park in 1970, Talk 1
We must be totally aware of our whole consciousness, not just of certain parts of it. To be aware implies observation through space – that is, having space in your mind so that you are able to observe without opinion, without evaluation, without conclusion. Most of us have no space in our minds because we come to everything we observe with a conclusion, with an idea, with an opinion, with a judgment or evaluation; we condemn, approve or justify what we see, or we identify ourselves with it, so there is no space at all in which to observe.
Please don’t make this into a theory, into something which you have to practise, which would be a terrible thing because what you practise becomes a habit. Unfortunately, most of us live in a series of habits, whether pleasant or unpleasant – which is utterly destructive of intelligence. You can see the truth or the falseness of this by observing yourself.
Do you know what learning is? Learning, in the true sense of the word, is not additive. You don’t pile up knowledge and then, through looking and experiencing, add to what you have previously learnt. When you merely gather information and add it to what you already know, there is never freedom to observe; therefore you are not learning.
Do you understand? If not, we will discuss it.
By awareness, I mean a state of watchfulness in which there is no choice. You are simply observing what is. But you cannot observe what is if you have an idea or an opinion about what you see, saying it is good or bad, or otherwise evaluating it. You have to be totally aware of the movements of your own thought, of your own feeling; you have to observe your own activities, both conscious and unconscious, without evaluation. This demands an extraordinarily alert, active mind. But with most of us, the mind is dull, half asleep; only parts of it are active, the specialised parts, from which we function automatically through association, through memory, like an electronic brain. To be alert, active, sensitive, the mind must have space in which to look at things without the background of what it already knows. And it is one of the functions of meditation to bring tremendous alertness, activity and sensitivity to the mind.
To be aware is to watch your bodily activity, the way you walk, the way you sit, the movements of your hands; it is to hear the words you use, to observe all your thoughts, all your emotions, all your reactions. It includes awareness of the unconscious, with its traditions, its instinctual knowledge, and the immense sorrow it has accumulated – not only personal sorrow but the sorrow of man. You have to be aware of all that; and you cannot be aware of it if you are merely judging, evaluating, saying, ‘This is good and that is bad; this I will keep and that I will reject’ – all of which only makes the mind dull, insensitive.
From awareness comes attention. Attention flows from awareness, when in that awareness there is no choice, no personal choosing, no experiencing – which I will go into presently – but merely observing. And to observe, you must have in the mind a great deal of space. A mind that is caught in ambition, greed, envy, that is in the pursuit of pleasure and self-fulfilment, with its inevitable sorrow, pain, despair, anguish – such a mind has no space in which to observe, to attend. It is crowded with its own desires, going round and round in its own backwaters of reaction. You cannot attend if your mind is not highly sensitive, sharp, reasonable, logical, sane, healthy, without the slightest shadow of neuroticism. The mind has to explore every corner of itself, leaving no spot uncovered. If there is a single dark corner of one’s mind which one is afraid to explore, from that springs illusion.
When the Christian sees Christ in his meditation, in his contemplation, he thinks he has achieved something extraordinary, but his visions are merely the projections of his own conditioning. It is the same with the Hindu who sits on the bank of a river and goes into a state of ecstasy. He too has visions born of his own conditioning, and what he sees is therefore not a religious experience at all. But through awareness, through choiceless observation – which is possible only when in the mind there is space to observe – every form of conditioning is dissolved, and then the mind is no longer Hindu, Buddhist or Christian because all ideas, beliefs, hopes and fears have completely gone. From this comes attention – not attention given to something, but a state of attention in which there is no experiencer and therefore no experience. This is tremendously important to understand for one who is really seeking to find out what is truth, what is religion, what is God, what is beyond the things put together by the mind.
In the state of attention there is no reaction: one is merely attending. The mind has explored and understood all the recesses of itself, all the unconscious motives, demands, fulfilments, urges, sorrows; therefore, in the state of attention, there is space, emptiness. There is no experiencer who is experiencing something. Being empty, the mind is not projecting, seeking, wanting, hoping. It has understood all its own reactions and responses, its depth, its shallowness, and there is nothing left. There is no division between the observer and the thing observed. The moment there is a division between the observer and the observed, there is conflict – the very gap between them is the conflict. We have gone into that, and we have seen how important it is to be completely free of conflict.
Perhaps this is a little more complicated than that to which you are accustomed. I am talking about meditation, which is something beyond all words.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1963, Talk 8
Can Thought Be Aware of Itself?
Awareness implies to observe the world as it is, to know the world, the trees, nature, the beauty and the ugliness, and also to be aware of your neighbour, their sari, dress – to be aware – and also to be aware inwardly of what you are actually, not what you think you are – to be actually aware of what you are. And if you are so aware, you will see that there are a great many reactions – like and dislike, punishment and reward – in that awareness. So can you be aware without any choice? A choiceless awareness. Just to be aware without choosing, without recording, without prejudice.
So to become totally aware of consciousness, that means – please it will become a little more difficult – can consciousness become aware of itself? Not being asked to be aware – then it becomes a pressure – but to naturally become aware choicelessly of your consciousness. Can consciousness become aware of itself? Which means also, can thought, your thinking become aware of itself? That is, the brain is like a computer. It is registering – registering your experiences, your hopes, your desires, your ambitions – it is registering every impression. From that impression, from that registration, thought arises. That is, original man, the anthropoid ape, for example, the nearest to man, registered, remembered, therefore began to think. From registration thought arises. Now we are asking: can there be an awareness of thought arising, as you can be aware of your anger arising? You can be aware of it, can’t you? No?
As one can be aware of anger arising, can you be aware of thought beginning? Which means to be aware of the thing flowering, growing. In the same way, is there an awareness of your consciousness, the totality of it? This is part of meditation. This is the essence of meditation, to be aware without any choice of the world outside you and the immense complex world inside you. When you come to that point, you will see that the world is not separate from you – the world is you. So consciousness, becoming aware of itself, then the parts that make consciousness disappear. Consciousness then becomes quite a different thing: it is a consciousness of the whole, not of the part.
Krishnamurti in Madras 1978, Talk 6
Awareness of Unawareness
Am I, are you, aware during the day of every movement of thought? You are not, are you? Be honest, be simple. We are not. We are aware in patches. I am aware for two minutes, and then a great blank, and then again a few minutes later, or half an hour later, I say, ‘By Jove, I have forgotten myself,’ and pick up again. There are gaps in our awareness. We are never aware continuously, and we think we ought to be aware continuously, all the time.
There are great spaces between awareness, aren’t there? Awareness, then unawareness, then awareness, and so on during the day. Which is important, the awareness for a few minutes and then non-awareness and then awareness, or the continuity of awareness? Which is important, to be continuously aware or to be aware for short periods? And what to do with the long periods when you are not aware? What is important? What do you think is important? I know for me what is important. I am not bothered about being aware for a short period, or wanting to have awareness continuously. I am only concerned when I am not aware.
Do you understand? That is my question.
When I am inattentive, I say: now I am very interested. Not when I am aware, but why am I inattentive and what am I to do about that inattention, unawareness? That is my problem, not to have constant awareness – you know, you’ll go cuckoo unless you have really gone into this very, very, very deeply. So my concern is: why am I inattentive and what happens in that period of inattention? That is my question.
I know what happens when I am aware. When I am aware, nothing happens because I am alive, moving, living, vital. In that, nothing can happen because there is no choice for something to happen. When I am inattentive, not aware, then things happen. Then I say things which are not true, then I am nervous, you know, anxious, caught – I fall back into my despair. So why does this happen? You are getting my point? Is that what you are doing, or are you concerned with being totally aware all the time, and trying, practising to be aware all the time? I don’t know, it’s up to you.
Now I see I am not aware, and I am going to watch what happens in that state when I am not aware. To be aware that I am not aware is awareness.
No, don’t laugh, please, do listen to this. It is not a matter of laughter.
I know when I am aware. When there is an awareness, it is something entirely different. And I know when I am not aware: I get nervous, I twitch my hands, scratch my brow – you know, do all kinds of stupid things. When there is an attention in that unawareness, the whole thing is over. At that moment of unawareness I am aware that I am not aware; then it is finished. I don’t then have to struggle, saying: I must be aware all the time, please tell me a method to be aware, a practice – you know, tighten, tighten, become more and more stupid. But when there is no awareness, and I know I am not aware, then the whole movement changes.
Now, what happens during sleep? Is there an awareness when you are asleep, as you are aware during the daytime? If you are aware during the daytime in patches, then that continues while you are asleep – obviously. But when you are aware, and also aware that you are inattentive, a totally different movement takes place. Then when you sleep there is an awareness of complete quietness. The mind is aware of itself. I won’t go into all this because it is not a mystery, it is not something that is extraordinary, go over and put incense.
The mind when it is aware during the day, deeply, that awareness in depth brings about a quality of mind during sleep of absolutely quiet. During the day, you have observed, you have been aware, either in patches or aware of your inattention as you go through the day. When you sleep, the activity of the brain has been established order during the day. And the brain demands order, whether that order is in some neurotic belief or in nationalism, or in this or that. In that, it finds order, which inevitably brings about disorder. But when you are aware during the day, and aware of your unawareness, then at the end of the day there is an order. Then the brain does not have to struggle during the night to bring about order. Therefore the brain becomes rested. It is quiet. And therefore the brain next morning is extraordinarily alive, not a dead, corrupt, drugged thing.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1971, Talk 7
Awareness In Meditation
If you have done all this, that is, understood yourself deeply, learnt about yourself completely through choiceless awareness, and have laid the foundation of righteousness, which is order, and therefore free and not accepting any authority whatsoever – so-called spiritual authority; obviously one must accept certain laws of society – then you can find out what is meditation.
In meditation there is great beauty. It is an extraordinary thing if you know what meditation is. Not how to meditate – the ‘how’ implies the method. Therefore never ask how – there are people too willing to offer a method. But meditation is the awareness of fear, of the implications and the structure and the nature of pleasure; it is the understanding of oneself and therefore laying the foundation of order, which is virtue, in which there is that quality of discipline which is not suppression, control or imitation. Such a mind then is in a state of meditation. Which is, to meditate implies seeing very clearly. It is not possible to see clearly, or be totally involved in that which is seen, when there is space between the observer and the thing observed. That is, when you see a flower or the sunset, or the beauty of a face, or the lovely sky of an evening, or the bird on the wing, when you see it, there is space, not only physically but psychologically between you and that, between you and the flower, between you and the cloud full of light and glory. There is that space psychologically. When there is that space, there is not only conflict but also that space is made by thought, which is the observer.
Have you ever looked at a flower without space? Have you ever observed something very beautiful without that space between the observer and the thing observed, between you and the flower? We look at the flower with the screen of words, with the screen of thought, of like or dislike, wishing that flower was in your particular house, or this or that, saying, ‘What a beautiful thing that is.’ So in that observation, when you look, there is the division created by the word, by your feeling of like or of pleasure. And so this division between you and the flower inwardly, in that division there is no perception, acute perception. But when there is no space, you see the flower as you have never seen before. That is, when there is no thought, when there is no botanical information about that flower, when there is no like or dislike but only complete attention, then you will see that the space disappears. Therefore you are in complete relationship with that flower, with that bird on the wing, with that cloud, with the face of your wife or husband, or the neighbour.
When there is such quality of mind in which the space between the observer and the thing observed disappears, and therefore the thing is seen very clearly, most passionately and intensely, then there is that quality of love, and with that love there is beauty. You know when you love something greatly, not through the eyes of pleasure or pain, when you actually love, space disappears, both physically and psychologically. There is no me and you. And when you come so far in this meditation, then you will find that quality of silence which is not the result of a mind that is thought seeking silence.
There are two different things: thought can make itself quiet – I don’t know if you have ever tried it, but for most of us to silence thought, for thought to become quiet is unknown, therefore we struggle against it because we see very well that unless thought is quiet there is no peace in the world, or peace inwardly, there is no bliss. So we try in various ways, through drugs, through tranquillisers, through repetition of words, through a thousand ways, to quieten the mind. But thought that makes the mind quiet, silent, such silence is entirely different, it is not comparable with the silence freedom brings – freedom from all the things that we have talked about. It is only then, in that silence, which is of quite a different quality than the silence brought about by thought, only in that silence is there quite a different dimension, quite a different state, which you have to find out for yourself. Nobody can open the door for you; nobody and no word, no description can measure that which is immeasurable.
So unless one actually takes this long journey, which is not long at all, which is immediate, unless you do it, life has very little meaning. And when you do it, you find out for yourself what is sacred.
Krishnamurti in Berkeley 1969, Talk 4