Krishnamurti on Truth

Episode Notes

‘Truth is not something that is mysterious; truth is where you are. From there we can begin.’

This week’s podcast has five sections. The first extract (2:06) is a rare recording of Krishnamurti reading ‘Truth is a Pathless Land’, in Ojai 1930.

The second extract (7:10) is from the second question and answer meeting in Ojai 1980, titled ‘Is truth absolute or relative?’

The third extract (34:02) is from Krishnamurti’s third question and answer meeting at Brockwood Park in 1983, titled ‘Facts show what the truth is’.

The fourth extract (53:04) is from the fourth talk at Brockwood Park in 1972, titled ‘Truth is to see the false’.

The final extract this week (58:34) is from Krishnamurti’s first question and answer meeting in Ojai 1984, titled ‘Truth acts as a poison if one doesn’t act’.

Part 1

Truth Is a Pathless Land

I maintain that truth is a pathless land and cannot be approached by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. Truth being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organised. Nor should any organisation be formed to lead or coerce people along any particular path. First, understanding that, you will see how impossible it is to organise a belief. A belief being purely an individual matter, you cannot, and therefore must not, organise it. If you do, it becomes crystallised, dead. It becomes a creed, a sect, a religion to be imposed on others. This is what everyone throughout the world is attempting to do. Truth is narrowed down and made a plaything for those who are weak, for those who are only momentarily discontented.

Truth cannot be brought down. Rather, the individual must make the effort to ascend to it. You cannot bring the mountain top to the valley. If you would attain to the mountain top, you must pass through the valley, climb the steeps, unafraid of the dangerous precipices. Organisations cannot make you free nor develop the inner man. No man from outside can make you free, nor can organised worship nor the emulation of yourself for a cause make you free.

Therefore, I am not concerning myself with the founding of religions or new sects or the establishment of new theories and new philosophies. On the contrary, I am concerning myself with only one essential thing, the true freedom of man. I would help him to break away from all limitations, to free himself from all fears – from the fear of religion, from the fear of salvation, from the fear of spirituality, from the fear of love, from the fear of death, and from the fear of life itself. My desire then is that man should be unconditionally free, for I maintain that the only true spirituality is the incorruptibility of that self which is eternal. It is the harmony between reason and love. This is the highest reality. This is life itself.

True perfection, therefore, the harmony of the self, has no law. This must not be translated to mean chaos. It is above all law and above all chaos because it is the seed of everything, that from which all transformation arises and on which all things depend. If you desire the harmony of the self, which is truth and the poise of the self, in which is true creation, you must care for that self which abides in each and be concerned with that self.

In creating that eternal poise lies the unfoldment of truth. Without understanding, the struggle between mind and emotion creates fear. If you would establish that harmony, then worship, prayers, mediators, and the seeking of comfort are unnecessary. You must come to it naturally, as the flower blooms of a clear morning. The mind and the heart are of the same substance, and you must look to the purification of that substance and make that substance, which is thought, which is love, incorruptible. The moment there is enforced separation created by the mind, there is limitation and hence sorrow. The moment there is in love, the creation of personal likes and dislikes, there is limitation and hence sorrow. To make the mind and the heart free of limitation, free of corruption, is happiness, liberation and truth.

Krishnamurti in Ojai 1930

Part 2

Is Truth Absolute or Relative?

Question: There is a prevalent assumption these days that everything is relative and a matter of personal opinion; that there is no such thing as truth or fact independent of personal perception. What is an intelligent response to this belief?

Krishnamurti:: Is it that we are all so terribly personal? What I see, what you see, is the only truth? My opinion and your opinion are the only facts we have? That is what the question implies, that everything is relative; goodness is relative, evil is relative, love is relative. And so as everything is relative, that is, not whole, complete truth, then our actions, our affections of personal relationship are relative, and can be ended whenever we like, whenever it doesn’t please us, and so on. That is the implication of this question.

Now is there – we are both of us investigating, please, I am not telling you – is there such thing as truth, apart from belief, apart from personal opinion, personal belief, perception? Is there such thing as truth? This question has been asked by the ancient Greeks, by the Hindus in the ancient days, and by the Buddhists.

It is one of the strange facts in the Eastern religions that doubt was encouraged. To doubt, to question. And in the West it is rather put down; it is called heresy if you doubt.

So one must find out for oneself apart from personal opinions, perceptions, experiences, which are always relative, whether there is a perception, a seeing, which is absolute truth, not relative. Now how are you going to find out? If we say that personal opinion and perception are relative, and therefore there is no such thing as truth, absolute, it then is relative. And according to that, our behaviour, our conduct, our way of life is relative, casual, not complete, not whole, therefore fragmentary. I hope we are following each other – we are trying to find out if there is such thing as truth which is not relative, personal opinion, perception. So how do you set about it?

How would you, if this question is put to you, find out if there is such thing as truth which is absolute, which is not relative, which is complete, which is never changing under climate, personal opinions, and so on. How will you find out? How does your mind, the intellect find out or thought find out? May we go on with this? Does it interest you, all this? I wonder why. When you are inquiring into something that demands a great deal of investigation and action in daily life, a sense of putting aside that which is false. That is the only way to proceed. That is, if we have an illusion, a fantasy, an image, a romantic concept of truth or love and all the rest of it, those are the very barriers that prevent moving further.

Can one honestly investigate what is an illusion? Does the mind live in illusion? Or do we have illusions about people, about nations, about God, about religion, about everything? You follow? How do illusions come into being? How does one have an illusion, what is the root of it? What do we mean by the word ‘illusion’? It comes from the Latin and so on, from ludere, which means to play. The root meaning of that word is to play, ludere, which means playing with something which is not actual. The actual is what is happening, whether it is what may be called good, bad, indifferent, and so on – what is actually taking place. And when one is incapable of facing what is actually taking place in oneself, then to escape from that is to create illusion.

Please don’t agree, I am just exploring this. We are exploring together. The word ‘illusion’ implies to play with something that is not actual: ludere. I won’t go into the Greek and Latin meaning of it. And also in Sanskrit, the same words are used.

So if one is unwilling or afraid, or wants to avoid what is actually going on, that very avoidance creates the illusion, a fantasy, a romantic movement away from ‘what is’. We accept that as the meaning of that word ‘illusion’: moving away from ‘what is’ – right? Can we go on from there? No, please don’t agree with me; see this as a fact. Then can we avoid this movement, this escape from actuality?

So then we ask, what is the actual? The actual is that which is happening, which is the responses, the ideas – actually, the actual belief you have, the actual opinion you have, and to face them is not to create illusion. Can we go on? In our investigation, have we gone that far? Because otherwise you can’t go further.

So as long as there are illusions, opinions, perceptions based on the avoidance of ‘what is’, that must be relative. Shall we go on? Relativeness – I won’t go into the word ‘relative’. This can only take place when there is a movement away from the fact, from what is happening, ‘what is’. In understanding ‘what is’, it is not your personal opinion that judges ‘what is’, it is not your personal perception but actual observation of ‘what is’. One cannot observe what is actually going on if your belief dictates the observation. My conditioning dictates the observation, then it is avoidance of the understanding of ‘what is’. Are we doing this, actually doing it: see, perceive what is actual, your actual belief, your actual sense of dependency, your actual competitiveness, and not move away from it, observe it? That observation is not personal. But if you make it personal, that is, I must, I must not; I must be better than that, then it becomes personal, and therefore it becomes relative. Whereas if we could look at what is actually taking place, then there is complete avoidance of any form of illusion. Can we do this?

You may agree to this verbally, but can we actually perceive our dependency? Either dependency on a person, on a belief, on an ideal, or on some experience which has given you a great deal of excitement and all the rest of it and therefore depend on those. That dependence will inevitably create illusion. So can we observe the fact that we are dependent and observe it?

So in the same way, we are going to find out if there is such a thing as absolute truth. If you are interested in this, because this has been asked not only by a casual questioner, but by monks who have given their life to this – you understand? – by philosophers, by every religious person who is not institutionalised, who is deeply concerned with life, with reality and truth – if you are really concerned about what is the truth, one has to go into it very, very deeply.

First of all, one has to understand what is reality. What is reality? That which you perceive, that which you touch, that which you taste – right? – when you have pain, and so on. So reality is the sensation and the reaction to that sensation, the response to the sensation as an idea, and that idea created by thought. So thought has created reality: the marvellous architecture, the great cathedrals of the world, the temples, the mosques, and the idols that are put in them, the images, all created by thought. And we say that is reality because you can touch it, you can taste it, you can smell it.

Question: What about hallucinations? This can be because there is a disturbance in the physiological brain.

Krishnamurti: Yes. The brain may be diseased or affected or wounded or bruised, and out of that you have illusions, hallucinations.

Q: I mean physiologically, if you have say a high fever…

K: Of course. May I request, if you ask questions from the audience you interrupt the flow of the inquiry – so may I request, most politely, that unless you write it down, please don’t. I hope you don’t mind my asking this.

Hallucinations, illusions, delusions take place when the brain is damaged, when there is an avoidance or an escape from ‘what is’. All these words – ‘illusion’, ‘hallucination’, ‘delusions’, are all of that category.

So we are saying all the things that thought has created, the knowledge, the acquisition of knowledge through science, through mathematics, and so on, so on, is reality. But nature is not created by thought. That tree, the mountains, the rivers, the waters, the deer, the snake, are not created by thought; it is there. But out of the tree we make a chair – that is created by thought. So thought has created the actual world in which we live, and nature, including the environment, that is not created by thought. Obviously.

Then we ask, is truth reality? One perceives that thought has created the world in which we live, but thought has not created the universe. But thought can inquire into the universe. The cosmology, astrophysics – that is they are proceeding the inquiry with thought, and they will come to certain conclusions, certain hypotheses, and try to prove those hypotheses, always in the path of thought. So thought is relative and therefore whatever it creates, in whatever direction it moves, it must be relative, it must be limited.

Please, this is not a lecture. I am not a professor, thank God! We are just inquiring as two human beings wanting to find out what actual truth is, if there is such a thing as that. So the mind is no longer in illusion. That is the first thing: it has no hypothesis, has no hallucinations, delusions; it doesn’t want to grasp something or create an experience which it calls truth – which most people do.

So the mind has now brought order into it. It has order: there is no confusion about illusions, about delusions, hallucinations, about experience. So the mind, the brain has lost its capacity to create illusions. Then what is truth? That is, what is the relationship between reality – you understand reality, what we explained, what is reality – and that which is not created by thought? Is there such a thing which is not the product of thought?

That is, is your mind, our minds now, sitting here in a rather depressed climate, under trees, rather cool, are our minds free from every form of illusion? Otherwise you cannot possibly find out the other. Which means, is your mind completely free of any confusion? Therefore it is absolute order. You follow? Is it? You understand my question? How can a confused mind, a disorderly mind, a mind that is in a turmoil, ever find what truth is? It can invent, it can say there is truth, or there is no truth, but for a mind that has a sense of absolute order, a mind that is completely free from every form of illusion, then it can proceed to find out. Otherwise you cannot, obviously.

That is, look, there is something rather interesting, if you are interested in it. Astrophysics scientists are using thought to find out – going outwards. They are doing this. They are investigating the world around them, matter, and going beyond, the astrophysics, beyond, but always moving outward. But if you start inward, the ‘me’ is also matter; thought is matter. So if you go inwards, you are moving from fact to fact. I wonder if you see all this. Therefore that which is beyond matter, you begin to discover. That is up to you.

This is a very serious affair, it is not just a Thursday morning, an hour to discuss this. One has to give one’s life. You must give your life to this, not away from life. Life is my struggle: my anxiety, my fears, my boredom, my loneliness, my sorrow, my misfortunes, all the regrets – all that is my life. That I must understand and go through – not away from it. Then there is such thing as absolute truth, if you have gone through it.

Krishnamurti in Ojai 1980, Question and Answer Meeting 2

Part 3

Facts Show What the Truth Is

Question: How do you know what you are saying is true?

Krishnamurti: Why do you ask me that question? Isn’t it true that as long as there is national division, economic division, racial division, religious division, there must be conflict? That is a fact. Would you accept that? So it is not what I say to be true, but the fact itself. Facts themselves show what the truth is. As we talked the other day about relationship: as long as there is this separation between two human beings, psychologically, there must be conflict. That is a fact. It is not what I say. It is not, ‘How do I know what I say is true,’ but it is a fact that as long as I am ambitious and pursuing my particular form of pleasure, particular fulfilment, and my wife or husband or girlfriend does the same, we must inevitably end up in conflict. That is a fact. So it is not, ‘How do I know what truth is?’ First of all, let us look at facts.

We are greatly prejudiced people. We have a great many prejudices. We have cultivated them, we have strengthened them by public opinion and so on. Our prejudices prevent understanding other people. That is a fact. So can one be free of prejudices, free of certain opinions, which become so very strong in our lives? And the question then arises: how is it possible for human beings to be free of prejudices? That we can discuss. That we can have a conversation about, a dialogue and say, look I have prejudices – suppose I have them – and you have them, and so these prejudices, whether they are idealistic prejudices, capitalist prejudices, totalitarian prejudices, religious prejudices, they divide people. This is a simple fact. And where there is division, there must be conflict – the Arab and the Jew, the Islamic world and the rest of the world, those who are terribly bigoted and those who are not, must be in conflict. It is a fact. I have nothing to do with it. It isn’t how do I know what I am saying is true – we are just facing facts.

Now what is a fact? What do you think is a fact? That which has happened before, an incident, a car accident, is a fact. Or what is happening now, sitting here, is a fact. But what will happen in the future may not be a fact. So a fact implies that which has happened before. Yesterday, walking along the lane, I met a viper. I saw it; it didn’t bite me. That is a fact. And what is happening now, what I am thinking, what I am doing now, is a fact. And what I will do may not be a fact – it might happen or might not happen.

So if we are clear on what is a fact, what then is an idea? Is an idea a fact? The word ‘idea’, the Greek and so on, Latin, means to observe. The root meaning of the word ‘idea’ is to observe, to perceive, to see. What we do is see a fact and make an abstraction of it, and then pursue the idea. Which means there is always the fact and a conclusion from the fact, and pursue the conclusion, not the understanding of the fact.

So please, it is not how do you know what you are saying is true – the speaker is merely pointing out facts. Those facts are not personal. If I say I am a Hindu and I stick to it, that is a fact. Whether it is an illusion, whether it is some kind of superstitious sentimental nonsense, it also is fact. A fact can be an illusion or actual. But most of us live with illusions. I am an Indian – that is an illusion. And you are, if I may most gently point out, British – that is also an illusion. This tribal, insular worship is destroying the world. That is a fact. As long as I am an Arab and you are something else, I am going to destroy you because I believe by destroying you I will go to heaven. That is an illusion which they have accepted as a fact, and for that illusion they are willing to fight and kill and destroy.

So can we always deal with facts? I am asking: can we always be with facts? Not translate the facts according to prejudice, according to belief, according to neurotic illusions, however noble they are. Can I look at these facts and understand what those facts are saying?

Suppose I had an accident in a car. Can I look at the fact that I was rather careless, driving too fast, not paying complete attention to what I was doing because I was talking to my friend next to me – that is a fact. But I then say, ‘No, it is your fault’ – you know, ‘The other fellow is a fool!’

Now, it is a fact that we have ideals. Don’t you all have ideals? No? I wish we could have a dialogue, friendly, talk to each other. Don’t you have ideals? I am afraid you do. Ideals. What are those ideals? Are they facts? The ideal that we must live peacefully, the ideal that we must be – whatever it is – non-violent, or the ideals of a communist, which are drawn from historical study, but those studies are prejudiced by my conditioning. So why do we have ideals at all? I know this is a dangerous thing to say because most of us live with these extraordinary ideals. We are questioning, please I am not saying you should or should not have ideals. I am saying: why do we have ideals, faiths, beliefs, as a Christian, as a Buddhist, as a Hindu? I am an American, you are British – you know, all the rest of it – why?

Is it that our brain is incapable of living without any illusion? What do you say to that? Is my brain capable, strong, vital, to understand things as they are and not create a future ideal? The ideal is non-existent. All Christians and all religious people believe that you must not kill. And probably the Christians have killed more than anybody else. And the British. And the Islamic world have killed – not so many as the Christians. And probably the Buddhists and the Hindus come on a lower scale because they are barbarians, they are uncivilised people. And so it goes on. And we know that ideals of every kind, faith, belief, divide people. That is a fact.

So, can we be free of ideals, of faith, of being identified with one group and against another group which identifies with another group? Be free of all this. Could we? Or is that impossible? If we could have a dialogue about this, we would exchange: yes, it is possible, no it is not possible, why is it not possible – you understand? Could we do that now? To have a free mind, a free brain that is not cluttered up with a lot of rubbish, a lot of illusions. Is that possible? And some of you may say, no, it is not possible because I can’t live without my beliefs. I must have my ideals, my faith, otherwise I am lost. With your faiths, with your beliefs and ideals you are already lost. That is a fact. You are very lost people. But whereas if we could have a dialogue, a conversation, and say: why do I cling to my particular prejudice, particular ideal, and so on, why have I identified myself with them? Why do I identify myself with anything? Push it. Push it deeply to find out why we do all these things. Why we have allowed ourselves to be programmed. Why are we afraid of public opinion, and so on and so on.

So the question was: how do you know what you are saying is true? I am afraid it has very little meaning. Truth is not something that is mysterious; truth is where you are. From there we can begin. Truth is I am angry, I am jealous, I am aggressive, I quarrel. That is a fact. So one must begin, if one may most respectfully point out, where one is. That is why it is important to know oneself, to have complete knowledge of oneself, not from others, not from psychologists, the brain specialists and so on, but to know what you are. Because you are the story of mankind. If you know how to read that book which is yourself, then you know all the activities and the brutalities and the stupidities of mankind because you are the rest of the world.

Krishnamurti at Brockwood Park in 1983, Question and Answer Meeting 1

Part 4

Truth Is To See the False

The mind can never say it knows, therefore it is always moving, living, acting, therefore it has no anchorage. It is only when it is anchored it gathers opinions, conclusions, and separation. This is meditation. Which is, meditation is to perceive the truth each second – not the truth ultimately. To perceive the truth and the false each second. To perceive the truth that the content is consciousness, that is the truth. To see the truth that I do not know how to deal with this thing, that is the truth – not knowing. Therefore not knowing is the state in which there is no content. It is so terribly simple – that is what you are objecting to. You want something clever, complicated, put together, and you object to see something extraordinarily simple, and therefore extraordinarily beautiful.

So can the mind, which is the brain, see its own limitation – the limitation of time, which is the bondage of time and the limitation of space? As long as one lives within that limited space and time-binding movement, there must be suffering, there must be psychological despair, hope and all the anxiety – everything takes place. So when the mind has perceived the truth of this, then what is time? Then is there a different dimension which thought cannot touch, therefore cannot describe?

We said thought is measure and therefore time. We live by measurement. All our structure of thinking is based on measurement, which is comparison and all that which we have gone into the last few days. And thought as measurement tries to go beyond itself and discover for itself if there is something immeasurable, which is not measurable. And to see the falseness of it is the truth. The truth is to see the false, and the false is when thought seeks that which is not measurable, which is not of time, which is not of the space with its content of consciousness.

Krishnamurti at Brockwood Park in 1972, Talk 4

Part 5

Truth Acts as a Poison if One Doesn’t Act

Question: Please explain what you mean by saying that if one perceives truth and doesn’t act, it acts as poison.

Krishnamurti: Do you need an explanation for that? All right.

I have heard the truth that thought is limited. That is the truth; that is not an invention, that is not an exotic idea, something conceived by some idiot or other – it’s a fact. And I listen to the fact, the truth of it, and I carry on my daily life. What takes place? I have realised something to be true and I am acting quite the opposite to that. What happens? Conflict increases more and more and more. It is much better not to hear the truth, then you can carry on in your old way. But the moment you hear something to be extraordinarily beautiful – and that beauty is not just a mere description but the actuality of that beauty – when you do something ugly and keep on repeating, doing the ugly thing, obviously it is a poison. It not only affects you physically, inwardly, it also affects a great deal the brain that has heard something to be true and does the contrary. Therefore it is much better not to hear if you want to carry on in your old way.

There is a very good story of two robbers. They have been robbing, and their father has been praising God for his kindness, for their benefit – you understand, thieves have also gods, not only the rich people. So one day they have been robbing somebody or other, and they are coming back. In the square, there is a man giving a sermon and he is saying you must never steal, you must never hurt another, you must be kind. The other brother closes his ears; he doesn’t want to hear. But the other brother hears it, and for the rest of his life he is in pain.

I think this is a fact, really a great fact, and we don’t seem to realise it; that when something enormously beautiful you see, and you are sensitive enough to see that beauty, and you do something ugly, it really tortures you, if you are sensitive. And that is why truth is such a dangerous thing.

Krishnamurti in Ojai 1984, Question and Answer Meeting 1

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