Krishnamurti on Negation
‘When your mind is in that state of complete negation, you can approach anew all your problems, and then you will find that they can be resolved totally and completely.’
This week’s podcast has five sections. The first extract (2:18) is from Krishnamurti’s fifth talk in Saanen 1965, titled ‘The negative approach’.
The second extract (9:18) is from the sixth talk in Paris 1961, titled ‘To see what is true there must be negation of the false’.
The third extract (15:52) is from Krishnamurti’s sixth talk in Bombay 1966, titled ‘Negation is positive action’.
The fourth extract (39:56) is from the fourth talk in Ojai 1982, titled ‘Negating all that is not love’.
The final extract this week (52:54) is from Krishnamurti’s fifth talk in Bombay 1982, titled ‘Negation, death and ending’.
The Negative Approach
There is the problem of old age, disease and death, the problem of suffering, of loneliness; there are the travails, the tortures, the sense of despair. How will you deal with it all? If you don’t know how to deal with it immediately, you depend on time to bring about a change, and then you are tortured until you die.
So you are now faced with a question to which no one can give you the answer; no book, no philosopher, no teacher, no Church can tell you what to do. If another tells you and you follow, then you are lost; you are back again in the turmoil and the conflict. Since there is nobody to tell you, what will you do?
In a situation of this kind, don’t you stop all activity of the mind? You have looked in every direction, tried to solve this one fundamental problem in ten different ways, and you are still faced with it. What will you do? Surely, there is now possible only one state of mind. As you don’t know the answer, as you don’t know what to do, the mind completely stops all its activities. You don’t know what to do, yet you must find a way out. Books and all that rubbish have been thrown away. You are faced with this problem. What are you to do with it? You know you can’t go back the old way. You are confronted with a positive question, and any positive approach to it is a matter of time; therefore your mind must become completely negative.
Do you know what I mean by the negative and the positive approach? The positive approach is the process of analysis, examination, asking, tearing to pieces, following, destroying; and you have done all that. You have gone to this or that Church, followed this or that guru, priest or philosopher, read certain books, practised a particular system, and you have now discarded that whole positive activity. Therefore your mind, when confronted with this fundamental issue, is in a state of negation, is it not? Negation in the sense that it is not expecting an answer, not looking for a way out.
Do follow this. If you can understand it, you will be able to resolve all your problems with one breath.
Having inquired, analysed, having wandered around, tried all the positive ways, followed the various paths, and not having found any answer, your mind is now completely in a state of negation. It is not waiting for an answer, not hoping, not expecting that someone will tell you. Isn’t that right? Please don’t agree – for God’s sake, don’t agree. Now, when your mind is in that state of complete negation, you can approach anew all your problems, and then you will find that they can be resolved totally and completely. It is the mind itself that has been creating the problem. The mind has been treating each problem as a separate, fragmentary issue, hoping thereby to resolve it. But when the mind is completely quiet, negatively aware, it has no problems at all.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1965, Talk 5
To See What Is True There Must Be Negation of the False
Not knowing what the right approach is, if one can nevertheless deny the wrong approach, then the mind is in a state of negation, is it not? I wonder if you have ever tried negative thinking?
Most of our thinking is positive thinking, which also includes a certain form of negation. Our thinking at present is based on fear, on profit, on reward, on authority; we think according to a formula – and that is positive thinking with its own negations. But we are talking about the negation of the false without knowing what is the true. Can one say to oneself, ‘I know analysis is false; it will not break down the limitations of consciousness or bring about a mutation, so I will not indulge in it.’ Or ‘I know nationalism is poison, whether it is the nationalism of France, Russia or India, so I deny it. Not knowing what else there may be, I can see that nationalism is wrong.’ And to see that the gods, the saviours, the ceremonies man has invented, whether they are of ten thousand years, two thousand years, or the latest of forty years, to see that they have no validity, and deny them completely, that demands a mind and a brain that is very clear, that has no fear in its denial. Then, by denying what is false you are already beginning to see what is true, are you not? To see what is true there must first be the denial, the negation of what is false.
To find out what beauty is, you must deny all the beauty which man has created. To experience the essence of beauty, there must first be the destruction of everything that has been created so far; because the expression, however marvellous it is, is not beauty. To find out what virtue is, which is an extraordinary thing, there must be a complete tearing down of the social morality of respectability with all its silly taboos of what you must do and must not do. When you see and deny what is false, without knowing in advance what is true, then there is the real state of negation. It is only the mind and brain which is empty of what is false that can discover what is true.
Krishnamurti in Paris 1961, Talk 6
Negation Is Positive Action
So is there another totally different way of living and acting? That means you have listened very carefully, attentively to the way you have lived and you know all the implications of it, not just patches of it. To listen totally implies that you hear the whole problem, not just one or two sketches of that problem. When you listen to those crows, listen in the sense that your mind is quiet, attentive, not interpreting, not condemning, not resisting; you are listening totally, you are listening to the total sound, not of a crow but to the total sound. And in the same way, if you can listen to this total problem of action, with which you are very familiar, if you can listen totally to that problem, to the problem, to the issue, to the way you live, idea, action – totally listen, then you have the energy to listen to something else. But if you have not listened totally to the present way of action then you have not the energy to follow what is going to come.
After all, to find out anything you must have energy, and you need a great deal of energy to inquire into something totally new. And to have that energy you must have listened to the old pattern of life, neither condemning nor approving – listen to it totally, which means you have understood it. You have understood the futility of living that way. When you have listened to the futility of it, you are already out of it. When you have not intellectually but deeply felt the uselessness of living that way, and have listened to it completely, totally, then you have the energy to inquire. If you have not the energy, you cannot inquire. That is, by denying that which has brought about misery, this conflict – which we have gone into a little bit – by denying it, the very negation of it is the positive action. I am going to go into that a little bit.
Is there any other action in which there is no conflict, which is not a repetitive activity, a repetitive form of pleasure? To find that out, we must go into this question of what love is. Don’t get sentimental, emotional or devotional, but we are going to inquire.
Love is always negative; it must be. Love is not thought. Love is never contradictory – thought is. Thought, which is a response of memory, the animal instincts and so on, so on, so on – the machinery of thinking – is always contradictory. When there is an action born of thought, that action which is contradictory brings conflict and misery. And in inquiring, in examining if there is any other activity which is not wrought with pain, with anxiety, with conflict, you must find out, or rather you must be in a state of negation.
To inquire, to examine you must be in a state of negation, otherwise you can’t examine. You must be in a state of not knowing, otherwise how can you examine? The way of life to which we are accustomed is what is called a positive way, because there you see results – you can do it day after day, repetitively, based on imitation, habit, following, obeying, being drilled by society or by yourself. That is all a positive activity in which there is conflict and misery. Please listen to all this. And when you deny that, the very process of denial, the very process of your turning back on it is a state of negation, because you don’t know what comes next.
This is not complicated. Intellectually it will sound complicated, but it is not. When you turn your back on something you are finished with it.
Now, we said love is total negation. We don’t know what it means. We don’t know what love means. We know what pleasure is; we mistake it for love. Where there is love there is no pleasure. Pleasure is the result of thought. Obviously. I look at something beautiful. Thought comes in and begins to think about it, creates images – watch it in yourself – and that image gives you a great deal of pleasure – or that scene, or that feeling. And thought gives to that pleasure sustenance, continuity. In family life, that is what you call love – which has nothing whatever to do with love; you are only concerned with pleasure. And therefore where there is a pursuit of pleasure, there is imitative continuity in time. Whereas love has no continuity because love is not pleasure.
To understand what love is, to be in that state, there must be negation of the positive. When you say you love somebody – your wife or your husband, your children – what is involved in it? Strip it of all words, of all sentiment, emotionally, and look at it factually. What is involved in it when you say, ‘I love my wife,’ or my husband? Essentially it is pleasure and security. We are not being cynical, these are facts. And if you really loved your wife and your children – loved, not the pleasure it gives you, belonging to a family, a narrow little group, sexually and furthering your own particular egotism – if you really loved your family you would have a different kind of education. You are only concerned with technological studies, helping your son to pass some stupid little exam and getting a job. You would educate him to understand the whole process of living, not just one part, a segment, a fragment of this vast life. If you really loved your son, there would be no war. You would see to it. That means you would have no nationality, no separative religions. All that nonsense would go.
So thought cannot, under any circumstances, bring about a state of love. And thought can only understand what is positive, not what is negative. That is, how can you through thought find out what love is? You can’t, can you? You can’t calculate love. You can’t say, ‘I’ll practise day after day being generous, kind, tender, gentle, thinking about others’ – that will not create love. That is still a positive action by thought. So it is only when there is the absence of thinking that you can understand what it is to be negative, not through thought. Thought can only create the pattern, and according to that pattern, formula, act – and hence conflict. And if you would find out a way of living in which there is no conflict at all, at any time, you must understand this love which is total negation.
That is, how can you love, how can there be love when there is self-centred activity – either of righteousness or smug respectability, or of ambition, greed, envy, competition – which are all positive processes of thought – how can you love? You can’t; it is impossible. You can pretend, you can use the word ‘love’, be very emotional, sentimental, very loyal, but that is nothing whatsoever to do with love. And to understand what it is, you have to understand this positive thing called thinking.
So out of this negation, which is called love, there is action, which is the most positive because it does not create conflict. Because after all, that is what we want in this world, to live in a world where there is no conflict, where there is actually peace, both outward and inward. You must have peace, otherwise you are destroyed. It is only in peace that any goodness can flower. It is only in peace that you see beauty. If your mind is tortured, anxious, envious, a battlefield, how can you see what is beautiful? Surely beauty is not thought. The thing that creates it is created by thought; it is not beauty.
So to find out an action which is not based on ideas, concepts and formulas, you must listen to the whole of that structure, see, understand that whole structure completely, and in the very understanding of it, you have turned away from it. And therefore your mind then is in a state of negation, not bitterness, not cynicism, but because it sees the futility of living that way, actually sees it, it therefore ends it. When you end something, there is a beginning of the new. But we are afraid to end the old because the new we want to translate in terms of the old. You will say, ‘If I realise that I don’t really love my family, which means I am not responsible for it, then I am at liberty to chase another woman,’ or another man – which is again the process of thinking.
So thought is not the way out. You can be very clever, erudite, but if you want to find a way of action that is totally different, that will give a bliss to life, you must understand the whole machinery of thinking. And in the very understanding of what is positive, which is thought, you enter into a different dimension of action, which is essentially love.
That means to inquire you must be free; otherwise you can’t enquire, you can’t examine, and this chaos and mess in the world demands reexamination totally – not according to your terms, not according to your fancies, pleasures, idiosyncrasies, or the activities to which you have been committed. You have to think of the whole thing anew, and the new can only be born in negation, not out of the positive assertion of what has been. And the new can only come into being when there is that total emptiness which is real love. Then you will find out for yourself what action is in which there is no conflict at any time. And that is the rejuvenation that the mind needs because it is only when the mind has been made young, through love, not through sentiment, not through devotion, not through following, it is only through love, which is total negation of life of the positive, thought – then only such a mind can build a new world, a new relationship. And it is only such a mind that can go beyond the limitations and enter into a totally different dimension. And that dimension is something which no word, no thought, no experience can ever discover. It is only when you totally deny the past, which is thought, totally deny every day of your life, there is never a moment of accumulation. It is only then you will find out for yourself a dimension which is bliss, which is not of time, which is something that lies beyond human thought.
Krishnamurti in Bombay 1966, Talk 6
Negating All That Is Not Love
What is love? You understand, this is very serious, all these questions, human questions which affect our daily life. Is love pleasure? Man has reduced it to that. Is love pleasure? Is love desire? Love of country, love of a person, love of a poem, love of a painting, love of the country, love of acquiring a great deal of knowledge – what is love? Love of God. It is so easy to love God. We don’t know what that is, but we have invented it, and so we love it. What we invent, we love. So what is love?
Negation is the most positive action. To negate that which is false, totally negate that which is false is the most positive action. To negate, for instance, the whole concept of nationalism, or a saviour or some external agency to reform us, to change us, to bring about a different society – to negate the outward agency of any kind is the most positive action. So to negate totally that which is not love. That is, to negate jealousy, to negate totally every form of antagonism, to put aside competition, to deny the solitude, the sense of separate entity – and you are not a separate entity, you are related, you are mankind.
So to deny that which is false is the truth. To deny all illusions is to live in reality. So can one deny, put aside, negate that which is not love? Attachment is not love. See the consequences of attachment – attachment to an idea, to a belief, to a conclusion, to a piece of earth as my country, attachment to a person. What is involved in this attachment?
Suppose I am attached to my wife. What are the consequences of attachment? Inquire, please, for yourself. I am attached to my wife, or my wife is attached to me. And the consequences are fear of loss. If I am attached to a belief, the same thing: fear of losing that belief. If I am attached to some experience, I hold on to that and I battle, resist any form of inquiry by you to doubt it. I daren’t doubt it because I feel without it I am nothing. So is it possible to have a relationship with a man, woman, or anything – anything – without any sense of attachment? If I told my wife, ‘Darling, I am not attached to you,’ what would she say? She would throw something at me, probably! (Laughter) You laugh, but you have not applied; you don’t face the fact that attachment totally denies love. You will say, ‘I understand it logically, intellectually, but I have not this feeling that I must be free from it.’ That is one of the factors of conflict. Where there is conflict, there is not only division – there cannot be love. If I love the thing called God, which man has invented, there is conflict because I want his forgiveness, his prayer. So love cannot exist where there is antagonism, competition, attachment, conflict, possession.
Now, can the mind, can a human being negate all that and live with a man or woman in society? You have heard this statement – either it is true or utterly meaningless. If it is meaningless, then it has no value. But if you have heard it and find it has value, in the sense that it can be applied, why is it that human beings, knowing all this, don’t apply? Why is it that human beings never change radically? Nothing outside will make you change – no gods, no gurus, no masters, no saviours, no authority. There is a mutation in that conditioning only when you yourself see the truth of it. That means you yourself have to think clearly, objectively, not personally. That means to have this extraordinary sense of the feeling of being whole, not fragmented. It means to be safe, free from all error. And when the mind is in that state, there is love. It is not whether you love your wife or don’t love somebody else: love is love. Please see all this. It is not: can I love one person and not love another? It is like the perfume of a flower. When the perfume is there, it is not only for the one who is nearest to the flower, but the flower itself is the beauty of life, to be looked at, admired, smelled by anyone who wants to. This is not a romantic statement where you can kind of admire and smile and say, ‘I wish I had it.’ Without that perfume of love, life has no meaning. You may be a marvellous professor, a great scientist, and so on, but without that, life has lost its vitality, its depth, its beauty.
Krishnamurti in Ojai 1982, Talk 4
Negation, Death and Ending
Death is the ending, the ending of everything that you know: every attachment, all the money you have accumulated. You can’t take it with you, therefore you are frightened. Fear is part of our life. We went into that very deeply. And so whatever you are, however rich, however poor, however highly placed, whatever power you have, whatever kind of politician you are, from the highest politician down to the lowest crook in politics, this is the end, which is called death.
And what is it that is dying? The ‘me’. The ‘me’ with all the accumulations that are gathered in this life, all the pain, the loneliness, the despair, the tears, the laughter, the suffering, that is me, the words – they are words. The summation of all this is me. I may pretend that I have in me some higher spirit, the atman, the soul, something everlasting – which is all put together by thought. And thought is not sacred. Whatever thought invents is not sacred, whether in the church, in the temple or in the mosque. So this is our life. This is the ‘me’ that you cling to, are attached to. And the ending of that is death.
There is the fear of the known and the fear of the unknown. The known is our life, and we are afraid of that life, and we are afraid of death. Have you ever seen a man or a woman frightened of death? Have you ever seen them closely? Death is the total denial of the past, present and the future, which is me. And being frightened of death, we think there are other lives to be lived. That is, you believe in reincarnation – some of you, probably most of you do. That is a nice, happy memory of comfort, invented by people who have not understood what living is. They see living is pain, constant conflict, endless misery, with an occasional flare of a smile, laughter and joy, and they say, ‘We will live next life. After death, I will meet my wife, my husband, my son, my God.’ We have not understood what we are.
What are we attached to? Look at it. Please look very closely together at what is it that we are attached to. To what? To money? If you are attached to money, that is you. The money is you. It is like a man attached to old furniture, beautiful 14th-century furniture, highly polished, great value – he is attached to that. That attachment is to furniture, therefore he is furniture. If you are attached to nose and throat specialists, your heaven will be nose and throat.
So what are you attached to? Your body? If you are really attached to your body, you have to look after that body – you have to eat properly, you have to exercise properly – but you don’t. You are just attached to the idea of the body – the idea but not the actual instrument. If you are attached to your wife because of your memories, if you are attached to her because of your comfort, this and that, all the trivialities of attachment, death comes and says, ‘You are going to be separated.’ So one has to inquire very closely and deeply into what you are attached. Because death says you can’t have anything when you die.
Your body is cremated or buried, and what have you left? Your son, for whom you have accumulated a lot of money, which he will misuse anyhow. He will inherit your property, pay taxes and go through all the terrible anxieties of existence – is that what you are attached to? Or attached to your knowledge? You have been a great writer, a great poet, a painter – attached to fame. Or you are attached to a word because words play a tremendous part in our life. Just words. We never look behind the word, we never see the word is never the thing, the symbol never the reality.
So as we are the masters of time, because we have invented time psychologically, can death, can the brain, the human consciousness, be free of this fear? Freedom, to be free. In the democratic world they are supposed to be free, to say what they want, to think what they like, to do what they like – up to a point. In the totalitarian states, they are not free – you know all the rest of that I don’t have to go into it. Here you can do what you like, which you are doing: doing exactly what you want to do, yielding to pressure, yielding to circumstances, but pursuing your desire, what you want to do – choose. We consider having choice freedom. Is that freedom, to have choice? Choice to move in this one field of knowledge, psychological knowledge, from one corner to the other – and you consider that freedom.
So is there freedom from the fear of death? That is, as you are masters of time, to live with death, not separate death as something to be avoided, postponed, something to put away, but death is part of life. That is, to understand the meaning of ending, to understand the meaning of negation.
When you end something, it may be a small habit, end your smoking, your drinking – ending. Ending your attachment, ending your belief, negating. When you negate, end, there is something totally new. So while living, can you negate attachment completely? That is, living with death. Death means the ending. That way there is incarnation, that is, something new taking place. The ending is extraordinarily important in life – to understand the depth and the beauty of that word, which is to negate something which is not true. To negate for example your doubletalk. To negate, if you are a lawyer and you go to the temple, negate the temple, so that your brain has this quality of integrity.
So death is an ending and has extraordinary importance in life. Not suicide, not euthanasia – the ending of your attachment, your pride, your antagonism for another, your hatred for another, ending your – oh, so many things you have collected – to end. But when you look, as we said, from a holistic view of life, they are all interrelated. The dying, the living, the agony, the despair, the loneliness and the suffering, they are all one movement. When you see it holistically then there is total freedom from death. Not that the physical body is not going to be destroyed, but the sense of ending, and therefore there is no continuity. The fear is of not being able to continue.
Suppose, or when, one human being understands the full significance of death and the depth of that, the vitality, the fullness of that word and what lies behind that word, he is out of that human consciousness. Because human consciousness is what we have described, but the description is not the content. Then what happens to people, to human beings who have not broken away completely from the content of that consciousness? Suppose I, a human being, have not understood or gone into myself and studied the whole content of my consciousness, and I die, with fear, separation from my family, from my bank account, from my daily ugly routine – what happens to me? I, who have thought I was a separate individual, my consciousness being separate, my soul, atman, all that is separate, what happens to me when I die? Will I still continue this separation as an individual next life? And if I believe in a next life, as most of you do, then what matters is how you behave now because next life you are going to pay for it. But you don’t believe in reincarnation really because you are not behaving now. It is just a trick of the brain to give you some kind of solace, some kind of comfort. If you really believed in it, you would have extraordinarily good minds and be a good human being now. But you don’t believe in anything really. You only believe – you only want your power, your money, your status, your position, your technique, skill and money, and perhaps sex. That is all you want. And that is what human beings want, so you will continue in that state. Not you as an individual, but that state of consciousness will continue.
And this is life. This is the agony of pleasure and pain of life. But when you understand that life and death are one, they are one when you begin to end in living: end your attachment, end your beliefs, end your antagonisms, your prejudices, your conclusions, end all your gods. Negate all that, then you are living side by side with death, which is the most extraordinary thing to do. Which is, there is neither the past nor the present nor the future, there is only the ending.
Krishnamurti in Bombay 1982, Talk 5