Krishnamurti on Loneliness
‘If you see the absurdity of escaping, the fact that running away from it is part of loneliness, then you have the energy to face loneliness.’
This week’s podcast has five sections. The first extract (2:10) is from Krishnamurti’s fourth talk in Saanen 1971, titled ‘We isolate ourselves’.
The second extract (11:30) is from the fourth talk in Saanen 1982, titled ‘What is the cause of loneliness?’
The third extract (31:52) is from Krishnamurti’s sixth talk in Saanen 1976, titled ‘Loneliness and death’.
The fourth extract (40:16) is from the second talk in Ojai 1973, titled ‘Observing loneliness’.
The final extract this week (47:02) is from Krishnamurti’s thirteenth talk in Ojai 1949, titled ‘We are lonely but never alone’.
We Isolate Ourselves
We were talking about loneliness, and I think it is important to understand the whole business of it. I think most of us realise that we are – when we dare face it – terribly lonely, isolated human beings. And if we are consciously, or unconsciously, aware of it, we want to escape from it because we don’t know what is behind it, what lies through it and beyond it. And being frightened, we run away from it through attachment, through activity, through every form of religious or worldly entertainment. I think this is fairly obvious when one observes this in oneself. We, by our very everyday activity, by our attitudes and way of thinking, isolate ourselves. Though we may have intimate relationships we are always working, thinking about ourselves. The result of it is – if you can examine it, as we shall presently – much more isolation, loneliness, greater dependency on outward things, greater attachment, and the subsequent suffering from it. I do not know if you are aware of all this at all. Perhaps this morning, as we are sitting here for an hour or more, we could become aware, if you will, of this thing called loneliness, isolation in our relationships, attachment, dependency and suffering. This is what is going on all the time, if one is observant, in ourselves.
Our activity is self-centred. We are thinking about ourselves endlessly: how healthy we are, or unhealthy, that we must meditate, sit rightly, that we must make progress, we must change, we must have a better job, more money, better relationships – ‘me’ and ‘my’ – the eternal circle, a vicious circle that is going on all the time. Me sitting next to God – on the right-hand side, of course! – and me attaining enlightenment. I must achieve in this life something or other – we are always concerned and devoted to ourselves. Again that is an obvious, daily fact, and from that concern, our activities, whether we go to the office, the factory, whatever activity we do, social, concerned with the welfare of the world, it is always me and the world. This self-concern does produce, through its daily occupation, daily travail, daily relationship, an isolating process. I think this again is fairly obvious. And this isolation ends up, if one goes into it pretty deeply and thoroughly, into an awareness of loneliness, being completely alone, isolated, not having any relationship with anything, though you may be in a crowd or sitting next to your friend. Suddenly it comes upon you, this sense of isolation, this sense of completely being cut off from all relationship. I do not know if you have not noticed it. Haven’t you? Or is this something of which you have no knowledge?
If you are aware of it, and becoming aware of it, knowing it – it is there – we try to escape from it: occupation, nagging, thinking about meditation as an escape. And all this, doesn’t it indicate that the mind, whatever it is, shallow or deep or superficial or merely caught in technological knowledge, the mind being occupied with itself all the time, must cut itself off from every form of relationship. And relationship is the most important thing in life because if you have not right relationship with one, you cannot possibly have right relationship with any other human being. You can imagine you’ll have better relationship with another, but it is just a verbal, imaginative relationship. But if you understand what relationship is, relationship between two human beings and therefore with the rest of the world, then isolation, loneliness with all its suffering, has quite a different meaning.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1971, Talk 4
What Is the Cause of Loneliness?
I am lonely, which is a terrible fear and anxiety and ache. The effect of that is isolation, more and more isolation. The cause of loneliness, if one can discover it, the very ending of the cause is the ending of loneliness. Because I have discovered the cause. I have discovered that I have tuberculosis and it can be cured; they have modern medicines that can cure it. So one must discover the cause of this sense of separateness which brings about such deep isolation, which is called loneliness.
What is it to be lonely? In that feeling of loneliness, which is deep isolation from all outward and inward relationship, what is the cause of that, the sense of being utterly without any relation to anything? You all know this, perhaps. You may be married, you may have children, you may have lots of friends, position and all the rest of it, but there is this deep element in man that is so desperately alone. Please, what is the cause of it?
The explanation by the speaker is not the fact. Explanations are never the fact. Descriptions are never the real. The word is not the thing. So please do not be carried away by words, by the description or the explanation. It is like looking at the movement of the river in a picture, in a painting, which is entirely different from the actual beauty of a river that is in full flow. So we are asking the cause of it.
How does one look at this question? How does one inquire into this question? Do you exercise thought to inquire? Please understand: is thought the instrument of inquiry into such a problem? Thought being, as we went into it, limited because it is the outcome of knowledge which is limited, and knowledge can never be complete about anything. So thought is always limited. Now, do we inquire into this question by the exercise of thought? If you exercise thought, obviously thought being limited in itself, fragmented in itself, it can only discover the fragmentary causes, not the actual cause. So, if one does not exercise thought, then is there another instrument? We are used to this one single instrument; that is our conditioning, that is our education. And is that the only instrument we have? And we discover that instrument cannot delve into something much more profound. Be sure. Be absolutely clear on this point.
Man, through fear, uncertainty, confusion, isolation, man through thought has created an idea called God, invented it. God certainly has not created us. If he has, we would be extraordinary human beings. We are not. The cause of this invention is one’s fear, one’s hope. That is the cause of this effect. So if one is inquiring into something that demands not the instrument of thought, then what is the instrument? You understand? The question is clear, is it not? You are putting this question, not the speaker only. Therefore it is your question, and you have to answer it. Thought is not the instrument.
Then we are asking: is the other instrument, if it exists, the invention of thought, which may be unconscious? I know thought cannot examine the whole universe, the extraordinary order of the universe, and thought cannot examine it because thought itself is limited. So when I say thought is limited and cannot possibly examine that which is limitless, then I am asking: is there a way of observation which is not the instrument of thought?
Can I observe this problem of deep loneliness, this sense of total isolation, with all its consequences? Where there is isolation there must be conflict. Where there is isolation there must be various forms of antagonism, hatred, inevitably leading to war. So what is the instrument, which is not thought, which is not unconsciously invented by thought? So one must be very clear that it is not the activity of remembrance, which is thought.
So we have to go into the question of observation. That may be the instrument. We are not saying that is the instrument because then it becomes dogmatic, and perhaps you will accept it, and then it has no meaning. But to inquire, which is only possible when one sees for oneself that thought is limited, utterly. And that thought is not your thought or my thought – thought under all circumstances is always limited. Then only can you put the other question: is there another instrument which is not put together by thought? Only when you have seen the reality, the truth that thought is limited, then you can go to something else. But if you are confused, then you will be playing a game. Is this clear? If we are clear on this point then what is observation?
Is there an observation without the word, without association, which is remembrance, which is the chain of incidence, remembrances and activity – the chain of it – is there an observation without the past? Is that possible? Is it possible to observe the whole world as it is, not from any bias, not from the point of view of an American, British, Russian, an idealist, a terrorist, which are all a bias? Whether it is historical bias or bias brought about through reason, it is still a bias. Can one observe this world, this society around us and therefore myself, which is my loneliness – is there an observation without the past? The past being the word, the past being the accumulated memory of experience, which is knowledge. Is that possible? To look as though you are looking at the world around us, the society, for the first time, afresh. Surely it is possible, isn’t it?
To look at the speaker – I am taking that as an example – without all the reputation, all that nonsense, to look, not at the figure, not at the form, but what he is saying. Which means you have to listen, to listen not only with the sensual ear but the inward ear, to see whether it is false or true. So this listening requires attention, not translating what you hear to please yourself or to accommodate it to the past memories, but to listen without any single movement of thought. To listen.
When you listen to sound, like music, it is a sound. Can you listen to that sound without naming who wrote it, who composed it? Just to listen. There is great beauty in that listening, without any form of association. That means you are listening to it for the first time. Or when you go to Greece and see the Parthenon for the first time, it has an extraordinary significance. You want to kneel to it, the beauty, the colour against the sky, the whole immense effort of the Grecian civilization. So in the same way, can we look at this problem without the word, without the association, without any form of a relationship? Can I look at myself, which is lonely? Not that there is loneliness and I feel it – loneliness is me. I have brought about this loneliness by self-centred activity, by pursuing my own desires, ambitions, greed and all the rest of it.
So, the outward activity of isolation and the inward activity of separateness has brought about this. That is the cause. Can I observe the cause – not I – is there an observation of the cause without wanting to transform it, change it? Just to observe it as you would observe the flow of that river. You cannot change the depth of that water, the purity of that water, the swiftness of that water. So can you observe the cause? The cause being the whole way of our life. If you can so observe it, that very observation which is the ending of the cause, and therefore the effect which is loneliness is gone. This is not just words. You have to work at it, look at it.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1982, Talk 4
Loneliness and Death
We think the ‘me’ is permanent. The ‘me’, identified with the house – the house is permanent, semi-permanent, so through what it thinks is permanent, it has made itself permanent. So that has become our greatest illusion, that I am permanent. When you look at that ‘I’, it is put together by thought, and thought is a material process. Until you see that deeply, you will always be frightened of death. But if you see that the ‘me’ is totally impermanent, because thought is impermanent, and that which thought puts together is impermanent, then there is no fear of ending, because it is thought that says, ‘I will continue.’ But thought itself knows that it is also an end. So the ending is not only a new beginning, but it is that movement which is not of time, in which there is no beginning and no ending.
But the question arises: how is it that there are manifestations from that stream? That stream, which is our million years of human sorrow and anxiety, fear and despair, hope and all the rest of it, that stream is always manifesting itself, which is you. No? You understand what I am saying? Having manifested itself as you, then you are born in a family, you have a brother, you have a wife. The brother, the son, the wife dies, and you are left alone; you are left lonely. That is, you have separated yourself from the stream, thinking you are different from the stream, and therefore feel completely isolated when death takes place.
I am sure, unfortunately, with each human being, there have been deaths, loss of someone whom you think you love. The love is that attachment, that image, that pleasure. That is that. And when you lose that person in death – the organic death – you are left alone. You are not only crying for that person who is lost, you are also crying for yourself: self-pity, loneliness, isolation, left alone to do all the things which the other one helped you to do. And you are left. And one sheds tears, or one goes to seances, or one believes in meeting them in heaven, or meeting them in the next life, reincarnation and so on. So all that is avoiding the observation of the sense of loneliness, the sense of complete isolation. The more you move away from that isolation, that is, avoid it, run away, escape, the stronger that thing grows. But when there is total observation of that, that loneliness, then you will see that loneliness transforms itself completely.
So there is not only the losing of someone, but also the incapacity to meet what actually one is, and so one goes through depressions, sorrows, misery, moods, bitterness – all that, which is part of the human stream. You are caught again in it. So when you see an attachment in yourself, end it immediately. That is to die instantly to that. It is easy to die to something that is painful, but it is extremely unpleasant to die to something that you like, that you are attached to. But when you see this thing, how extraordinarily important it is that time must have a stop, then death has an extraordinary meaning. It is – not a mystery but it has a most significant meaning, which means the ending every day of everything that human beings have put together. Then you will see for yourself – no, you won’t see for yourself – then there is a totally different thing altogether.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1976, Talk 6
What is loneliness? Most of us know that feeling of being completely isolated. Though you may be with your friends, in a group or with your family, you feel completely cut off, isolated. And that isolation, that loneliness is rather painful. Being aware of that pain, we either escape from it or try to cover it up or rationalise it. But at the end of it, the loneliness remains. Then what is one to do with it? What is this sense of loneliness? Is it the result of our daily life which is so self-centred, so egocentric, so selfish, which is all the time isolating, building a wall around oneself? That brings about this quality or this feeling of utter loneliness, utter despair in that loneliness.
Now, if you do not escape from it – and I mean not escape; you can escape by verbalising about it, you can escape by analysing why it is there, you can escape by going off, taking a drink or going to church or turning on the television, a dozen ways, they are all more or less the same – but if you don’t escape and you see the absurdity of escaping, the fact that running away from it is part of that loneliness, then you have the energy to face that loneliness. We are wasting that energy through escape, verbal escape or actual escape. So when you realise the absurdity, the silliness of it, then you are facing that loneliness.
Now, please follow this a little bit: when you look at that loneliness, are you looking at it as an observer different from that which you call lonely? Are you looking at it as an outsider looking in? Or the observer is the observed. When you say, ‘I am angry,’ is anger different from you? Obviously not. You are anger. So when you look at that loneliness, when there is no escape but are actually in contact with it, then are you looking at it as an observer looking at something outside, or the observer is the observed? Then when the observer is the observed, there is no movement of escape or rationalisation, and therefore a complete going through that loneliness, the ending of it.
Therefore it is very important to understand the relationship between the observer and the observed. Is the observer different from the observed? The observed is loneliness. Is the observer different from that thing he is seeing? He, the observer, gives the name to that which he sees as ‘loneliness’. The observer has experienced loneliness previously, and when the thing comes up again, he says, ‘That is loneliness.’ So he, the observer, is responding from the previous experience and therefore separates himself from the new. Whereas if he does not look at it with the eyes of the past, then the observer is the observed. Then he goes beyond it.
Krishnamurti in Ojai 1973, Talk 2
We Are Lonely but Never Alone
Are not most of us trying to isolate ourselves in relationship? We try to possess people, we try to dominate people – which is a form of isolation, is it not? Our beliefs and ideas are a form of isolation. When we withdraw, when we renounce, it is a form of isolation. The inward pressures and outward conflicts force us to protect ourselves, to enclose ourselves. That is a form of isolation, is it not? And through isolation, can there be any understanding? Do I understand you if I resist you, if I enclose myself within my ideas, my prejudices, my criticism of you, and so on, so on? I can understand you only when I am not isolated, when there is no barrier between us, neither a verbal barrier, nor the barrier of psychological states, nor of moods and idiosyncrasies. But to understand, I must be alone, must I not? Alone in the sense of unenclosed, uninfluenced.
Most of us are put together; we are made up of memories, of idiosyncrasies, of prejudices, of innumerable influences, and through all that we try to understand something. How can there be understanding when we are produced, brought together, made up? And when there is a freedom from that, there is an aloneness which is not an escape. On the contrary, it is the understanding of all these things that brings about an aloneness, with which you meet life directly.
If we are a mass of opinions and beliefs, if we are merely put together, we think that we are an integrated being, or we try to seek integration with all these burdens. Surely, there can be integration, not merely at the superficial level but completely, right through, only when there is freedom, through understanding, from all the influences that are constantly impinging upon one – beliefs, memories, idiosyncrasies, and so on. One cannot merely throw them aside. Then, as one begins to understand these, there is an aloneness which is not contradiction, which is not an opposite of the collective or the individual.
When you would understand something, aren’t you alone? Aren’t you completely integrated at that moment? Is not your attention completely given? And through withdrawal, can there be any understanding? Through resistance, can there be any understanding? When you renounce something, does that bring understanding? Surely, understanding comes not through resistance, not through withdrawal, not through renunciation. Only when you understand the full significance of a problem, then the problem disappears. You don’t have to renounce it. You don’t have to renounce wealth, or certain obvious greeds, but when you are capable of looking at them directly, without any criticism, being passively aware of them, they drop away from you. And in that state of passive awareness, is there not complete attention? Not as an opposite or exclusive concentration – it is an awareness in which there is no contradiction, and therefore loneliness disappears.
Most of us are lonely. Most of us are solitary. There is no depth; we come to an end very quickly. And it is this loneliness that creates the withdrawals, the escapes, the covering up. And if we would understand that loneliness, we must discard all these coverings and be with it. It is that being that is alone. Then you are uninfluenced. Then you are not caught in moods.
And it is essential to be alone – which most of us dread. We hardly ever go out by ourselves. We always have the radio, magazines, newspapers, books. Or, if we haven’t those, we are occupied with our own thoughts. The mind is never quiet. It is this quietness that is alone. That aloneness is not induced, is not made up. When there is a lot of noise and you are silent, you are alone. You must be alone. If you are a success, then there is something obviously wrong. Most of us seek success, and that is why we are never alone. We are lonely but we are never alone.
Only when there is aloneness, can you meet that which is true, which has no comparison. And as most of us are afraid to be alone, we build various refuges, various safeties, and give them big-sounding names, and they offer marvellous escapes. But they are all illusions, they have no significance. It is only when we see that they have no significance – actually, not verbally – are we alone. Then, alone, we can really understand. Which means we have to strip ourselves of all past experiences, of memories, of sensations, which we have built so sedulously and guard so carefully.
Surely, only an unconditioned mind can understand that which is unconditioned: reality. And to uncondition the mind, one must not only face loneliness but go beyond; one must not hold on to memories that are crowding in. For memories are mere words, words that have sensations. It is only when the mind is utterly quiet, uninfluenced, that it can realise that which is.
Krishnamurti in Ojai 1949, Talk 13