Krishnamurti on Knowledge

Episode Notes

‘Knowledge is absolutely necessary to earn a livelihood, but why should I accumulate psychological knowledge?’

This week’s episode has four sections. The first extract (2:22) is from Krishnamurti’s first talk in San Francisco 1973, titled ‘The function of knowledge’.

The second extract (16:38) is from the first talk in Saanen 1973, titled ‘What place has knowledge in transformation?’

The third extract (40:14) is from Krishnamurti’s first talk at Brockwood Park in 1980, titled ‘Ignorance and knowledge go together’.

The final extract (52:10) this week is from the sixth talk in Bombay 1981, titled ‘Meditation is the understanding of knowledge’.

Part 1

The Function of Knowledge

We have a great many images and conclusions, and so the mind is never free to observe. We have accumulated these conclusions through education, through relationship, through propaganda, a thousand different ways. The mind that functions with conclusions, functions mechanically. Relationship is not mechanical, though we have reduced relationship to a routine, to a mechanical process. We have to understand very deeply the meaning of the word ‘knowledge’ and the freedom from knowledge in relationship.

Knowledge is necessary, otherwise you and I could not possibly communicate verbally. You know English and the speaker knows English. To do anything functionally, knowledge is necessary – how to ride a bicycle and all the rest of it, and technologically – to function efficiently, objectively, rationally, knowledge is necessary. But we use function to achieve status, and when there is the pursuit of status in function there is division and hence conflict between function and status, which is part of our relationship with each other. When you are seeking status in function, then to you status is far more important than function, and hence in that there is conflict inwardly as well as outwardly. Observe this. Observe how the mind works in relationship. Through function it is seeking status and therefore in relationship there is conflict. There is also conflict where there is division between you and another, between you who have knowledge about your husband, about your boyfriend or girlfriend, all the rest of it. Then that knowledge acts as division.

Can the mind be free, or rather, aware of the function of knowledge and the necessity of knowledge, and see the danger, the poison of knowledge in relationship? Look, if I am married to you – I am not, thank God! – if I am married to you and I have lived with you, I have accumulated a great deal of knowledge about you in that relationship. That knowledge has become the image of you: you have given me pleasure, sex, insulted me, nagged me, bullied me, dominated me, saying, ‘Women are more important than men’ – you know all that is going on in the world. How childish all this is, how utterly immature.

I have built an image about you. It may be of one day or ten years. That image divides me from you, and you have an image about me. So our relationship is between these two images, and therefore there is no relationship at all. And realising this, is it possible to live in a world, in this world, with knowledge which is absolutely necessary, and the freedom from that knowledge in relationship? Because when there is freedom from that knowledge in relationship, division ceases and therefore conflict in relationship comes to an end.

As one observes in the world more and more, conflict is increasing; misery, confusion and sorrow are everywhere. Then the mind is in anxiety in relationship – when the mind is only concerned with knowledge and not with wisdom. And wisdom comes into being only when there is an understanding of knowledge and freedom from the known.

So our question is: can the mind, which functions with conclusions, with images, can that mind be free? Not tomorrow, not within a given period of time, but be out of this conflict altogether? And that is only possible – please listen to this – that is only possible when you learn how to observe, how to observe yourself and another. It is far more important to observe yourself, not the other, because what you are the other is. You are the world, and the world is you; the two are not separate. The society you have created is you. This society, the ugliness, the brutality, the extravagance, the pollution, all the things that are going on are the result of your daily activity. So you are the society, you are the world, and the world is you. This is not a mere verbal statement but an actual fact. And to observe, the mind must be free to look, to observe so that there is no distortion – distortion exists because you have opinions and conclusions – so that the mind is always fresh to look, to learn.

You know, there is a difference between learning and acquiring knowledge. Most of us through college, university and so on, are very good at acquiring knowledge. To us, that is learning. That is, to accumulate facts, correlate with other facts and data, our minds, our brains, are full of knowledge. Knowledge is the past, and we are all the time adding to that knowledge. And it is necessary when you function as an engineer or a scientist, when you drive a car or speak a language. But learning, it seems to me, is something entirely different. Learning is a constant movement, a constant movement in learning so that there is never an accumulation. For the accumulation is the ‘me’, the ‘me’ that separates from you, and hence conflict. Wherever there is ‘me’, there must be conflict because it is the very core of division.

Love cannot be learnt; knowledge cannot acquire wisdom or love. Therefore it is very important to understand this whole structure of relationship because that is the basis of our life. From that, all action takes place. If action is merely the continuation of knowledge then it becomes mechanical. And our relationship becomes mechanical when it is based on routine and knowledge. Therefore when there is freedom from the known, relationship changes totally.

Krishnamurti in San Francisco 1973, Talk 1

Part 2

What Place Has Knowledge in Transformation?

How is the human mind to change? The mind that has been cultivated through millennia, a mind that has been educated, conditioned, a mind shaped by the environment in which it lives, by the culture in which it has flowered, this mind has taken time to arrive at what we are now – ten thousand years or more. That mind is full of experiences, knowledge, images, symbols. So we are asking a question: what place has knowledge in the transformation of the human mind?

We have acquired a great deal of knowledge, technologically and in oh so many ways – in so many departments: science, biology, anthropology, medically, and so on, so on, so on. Also we have acquired a great deal of knowledge in the area of the psyche. So we are asking: what place has knowledge? Knowledge being the past, what is its relationship to the transformation of the human mind? Is the question clear?

I have a great deal of knowledge about myself, why I think certain things, what are the associations of that particular thought, why I react, what are my experiences, my hurts, my anxieties, my fears, my insistent pursuit of pleasure, and the fears of living and dying. I have accumulated tremendous knowledge about myself, I have watched it for fifty years, very carefully observed all the subtleties, the cunning, the deceptions, the cruelties. When I am talking about myself, I am talking about you, don’t put that cap on to me, and look at me and forget yourself. We are talking about you. I have watched, I have listened to dozens of philosophers, teachers, gurus; they give their knowledge, their experience. So during these years, whether it is ten years or fifty years or a hundred years, or ten thousand years, there is a great deal of knowledge that has been accumulated. And yet I am just a mediocre, shoddy, second-hand, cunning, stupid human being. I react so quickly to violence, to flattery; my vanities and pride are immense. I conform or I battle against conformity. I talk about art, teach a little bit of art here and there, play an instrument, write a little book, become famous, notorious, wanting publicity – you know, I am all that. I have gathered tremendous information, knowledge, and that knowledge is the past.

All knowledge is the past. There is no future knowledge, there is no present knowledge, there is only knowledge as the past. And knowledge is time. Now I say to myself, ‘I know this,’ and also by careful objective, non-personal observation of the world, I see that there must be a total change in me as a human being. Not only in my relationship with another, however intimate – in my relationship with a man ten thousand miles away, my relationship with my neighbour, with human beings, I see there is a battle, conflict, misery, always asserting myself, the selfish activity, the self-centred movement. And that is all knowledge.

Now what place has it in the human transformation that the mind sees is absolutely necessary? So that is the question. Will future experience, gathering more knowledge, not only going to the moon, and various other fields of knowledge, but also the knowledge of myself, gathering more and more and more, taking time, will that bring about change? That is, will time and knowledge – and knowledge is time – will that bring transformation in me, in you? Or quite a different kind of energy is demanded. This is the problem we are going to discuss. Are we meeting each other? Because as we said, we are sharing the thing together, and to share something together we both need a relationship of affection, consideration, inquiry. Otherwise you can’t share. We must both be interested in the thing we are sharing together, which means sharing together at the same time, at the same level, with the same intensity – otherwise you can’t share it.

So I have this problem, you have this problem: we know a great deal what others have said about us, and also what we know about ourselves. Will that bring about change? That means, will thought change the human mind? Thought being the response of knowledge.

Thought has created this world. Thought has divided people as Christians and non-Christians, as Arab and Jew, as Catholic and non-Catholic, as communist and Hindu, divided people. Thought has done this. Are you aware of it? Thought has divided the world as Switzerland, France, Germany, Russia and all the rest. Thought has brought about conflict between us, not only religiously, socially, economically, but also in our relationships. And we are looking to thought to change us. That is what we are doing, aren’t we? We may not be conscious of it, but actually that is what we are trying to do. Is the picture clear – not my picture but the picture? That thought, knowledge, time – which are all the same – time, knowledge, thought has brought about this world with all its confusion, misery, corruption, sorrow, pain, out there and also in here. And we say it all must change. Serious people say that, but they employ thought to bring about a change. So I question the whole thing.

I see very clearly that knowledge cannot change. Knowledge cannot change my activity, my self-centred movement of you and me, as two separate entities fighting each other. So what am I to do? Do put this question to yourself in all seriousness. What is your answer?

You see the world and see yourself as the world, and you see what knowledge is, knowing knowledge is necessary for certain fields of activity, and also asking yourself, can that knowledge, which human beings have gathered for thousands of years about oneself as time, can that knowledge, time and thought bring about a radical psychological revolution? Now take that thought, look at it. How do you listen to that statement? How do you listen to the statement: what place has knowledge in human transformation? How do you listen to it? When you listen to those words, do you translate it into an abstraction? You understand what I mean by an abstraction: draw from listening to that statement a conclusion, which is an abstraction, and therefore you are not listening to the statement but listening to the abstraction.

I have made a statement: what place has time, which is knowledge and thought, in the transformation of the human mind, human beings? Because there must be transformation. Now how do you listen to it? Do you listen merely to the meaning of words, or do you listen and, in the very act of listening, draw a conclusion, and therefore listening with a conclusion and not actually listening to the statement? You see the difference? When you listen to this statement and draw a conclusion, an abstraction, then thought is in action. I am not being clever, this is not an intellectual thing, but you can observe it in yourself.

Words. Let me put it this way: can you think without a word, without an image, without a symbol? Now I am asking you that question, please listen to it: can you think without a word, without a symbol, without an image? If there is no image, no symbol, no word, is there thinking? Now you listen to that. What do you do with the act of listening? What have you done after listening to it? Go on, please. You are trying to find out, aren’t you, if there is thinking without a word. And you say, ‘I can’t think without a word, I must have an image or symbol, otherwise there is no thinking.’ So the thinking, the word, the symbol, the image is knowledge, and that is time. So can that time change the human mind?

All philosophies, all religious structure is based on thinking, which is knowledge, and we are looking to that knowledge to bring about a change. And I say that is not possible. It is impossible. But I must see that very clearly, see it in the sense be sensitive to the truth of that statement. The truth being that knowledge, though necessary in the world of action – how to drive a car, language, the field of science and so on, knowledge is necessary – but knowledge as a means of transforming the human being has no place whatsoever. Do you see the truth of it?

Krishnamurti in Saanen 1973, Talk 1

Part 3

Ignorance and Knowledge Go Together

So one of the problems, perhaps the major problem, is that our thought has created this society, our thoughts have brought about this religious structure that has no meaning, our thoughts have built this world about us – apart from nature, apart from the animals, apart from the earth, otherwise thought has built all this – our churches, our gods, our religions, our political system, right, left, centre, extreme this or that, it is thought. And thought must be always limited because thought is the outcome of knowledge, and knowledge can never be complete about anything.

Knowledge is the process of time, the accumulation of experience, not only yours, but all the past generations and generations – it is knowledge that we have stored in the brain and that knowledge is always incomplete; it always goes with ignorance. Ignorance and knowledge go together. And out of that knowledge and memory, thought. And so thought, under all circumstances, is limited, narrow, must be fragmentary. It may create the most beautiful bridges, these marvellous cameras, the battleships, the submarines, the latest guns and so on. And also thought has created all the things of this world like beautiful architecture – but not the streams, the rivers, the birds, the wonderful earth on which we live. And thought has created the images which we have put in the churches, in the temples and so on. So thought by its very nature is fragmentary, and we, the whole of our being, our struggle, is the movement of thought.

Are you getting tired? You can be, I don’t care. It is a very serious thing we are talking about. We rely on thought to alter the course of our life. And when thought alters the way of our life, that way of life will be fragmentary, it will not be whole, complete.

One comes to the point, one realises all this if one has gone into it at all, and one comes to a certain wall against which you can’t go further because we are still operating with the only instrument we think we have: that instrument is thought. Thought, desire, pleasure and fear are all the movement of thought. We will go into that a little later. So through thought, we think we can break through this pattern of the brain that has evolved through millennia. I wonder if we see that. Thought cannot possibly break through. It can only create further fragments because in its very nature it is limited.

Knowledge is necessary. Technological, surgical, engineering and scientific knowledge, and so on, is necessary, but the knowledge that one has psychologically accumulated through millennia as human beings, is that necessary at all? I must have knowledge to go to the room in which I happen to live. I must have knowledge of how to drive a car, how to write in English, French, Spanish or Sanskrit and so on. I must have knowledge to earn a livelihood, skilfully or otherwise. That is absolutely necessary. But why should I have this accumulation of psychological knowledge? Which is the centre of me – my egotistic pursuits, my egotistic demands, activities, the whole of that is based on knowledge. That knowledge may be transmitted into the future, modified by the present, but it is still knowledge. And psychologically, why should I have any knowledge at all? Knowledge being when one has a relationship with another, intimate or otherwise, one creates through time, through various forms of conflict, pleasure and so on and so on, the image that you have about you and the other has about you. That image is our knowledge. That knowledge is fragmented, obviously. I can’t know all about you. I may know all about you at a totally different level – I am not talking of that. We are talking of the physical daily existence in which there is so much conflict between two human beings.

Conflict comes about through this constant building of images between you and the other. And can that image-making come to an end in our relationship with each other, as a man and a woman, a mother and child, and so on, so on? Can that image-making come to an end? I say it is possible, it can be done. We have potential to create the image; we have also the potential to break down that image. That is, why does the mind, thought, and also the brain, create the image? Please, this is very important to understand because in the wholeness of life, if one comes to that, that sense of a total integrated whole, all conflict ends. And as long as there is this movement of thought creating images between oneself and another, that sense of destructive individual narrowness will also destroy the wholeness.

Krishnamurti at Brockwood Park in 1980, Talk 1

Part 4

Meditation Is the Understanding of Knowledge

Meditation is the understanding of knowledge. Not sitting repeating a phrase, following a system which somebody has laid down, whether it is Buddhist meditation or Tibetan or Zen, or your favourite guru putting out his particular form of meditation – these are not meditation because it is all based on thought. Understand this very deeply, that it is the nature of thought because it is the outcome of knowledge. Please follow this. It is the outcome of knowledge, and knowledge is never – never – complete. So thought is never complete and its action must inevitably be incomplete, and therefore conflict. As we said, we are thinking together. The speaker is not laying down any law. He has no authority. He is not a guru. He has no followers because the follower destroys the guru and the guru destroys the follower.

So we are inquiring into the nature of knowledge. And meditation is the ending of knowledge. Our consciousness is the custodian of knowledge. We are walking along a path, a road – not my road or your road, or the guru’s road – we are human beings and we are walking together, investigating together, thinking together. So please don’t go to sleep. We are together examining what meditation is. Not how to meditate, which then becomes mechanical, which then becomes a repetitive, meaningless illusion, but meditation is the way we live. Meditation is part of our daily life. Not that meditation is something separate, but an actual activity in our daily life, and our daily life is based on knowledge, memory, remembrance. Which is, our lives are based on the past, past experiences, past knowledge, past incidents and all the remembrance of all that. So our life, our daily existence is based on knowledge – knowledge, scientific and psychological, inward knowledge and the vast technological knowledge which has been accumulating with such rapidity within the last fifty years or so.

So knowledge is the basis of our life. That knowledge is acquired through experience, which then is stored up in the brain as memory, thought and action. It is a fact that we are always operating from the past, which is the known meeting the present, which then is modified. The past is modified and then goes on in the future. So our action is based on knowledge: how to speak a language is based on knowledge; how to drive a car; how to put things together – that is outwardly. Inwardly it is based on knowledge which is our relationship with each other, which is the image you have built about your wife or husband, and so on.

So meditation is the understanding of knowledge and the ending of knowledge. As we said, our consciousness is the storehouse of knowledge: knowledge of fear, knowledge of pleasure, knowledge of all the travail, the labour, of anxiety, jealousy, envy, the immense sorrow that mankind carries, the despairing loneliness, and all those entertaining activities through which we escape from the actual facts of life. So all that consciousness is the storehouse of knowledge. You are the self, and the self is the essence of knowledge.

So meditation is the inquiry – free, sceptical inquiry – into the whole field of knowledge which is our consciousness. To inquire freely, you must have doubt. Doubt is an extraordinary factor that cleanses the mind: to doubt your guru, to doubt the tradition, to question your relationship, never accepting any psychological authority. So doubt gives freedom. It is like leading a dog on a leash. If you keep the dog all the time on the leash, the dog is never free to enjoy itself. So one must know the art of the whole movement of doubt, when to let it go and when to hold it back. So we are asking, we are saying, we are inquiring together. Please, together, which means exercising your brains to inquire into what meditation is.

We function in the field of knowledge. We are acting, functioning, living in the field of knowledge and as long as we are doing that, our brains become mechanical. It becomes a routine, like going to the office from 9 in the morning and coming back home at 5 or 6 o’clock, or whatever it is. This repetition, this constant mechanical way of living is essentially knowledge. I hope we are moving together.

So our consciousness is the storehouse of knowledge. We know we are afraid, we know we are lonely, we know we have great sorrow, we know we are depressed, anxious, uncertain, unhappy, trying to fulfil, trying to become, trying to get something all the time. All that is the movement of knowledge. So we are asking whether knowledge can come to an end. Not the scientific knowledge, not the knowledge of driving a car, speaking a language, writing a letter, all the technological, physical knowledge – we are not talking about that. That must go on; that is inevitable. But we are talking about the psychological knowledge which always overcomes, distorts the technological knowledge. That is, technology has invented the most extraordinary instruments of war, and the psychological world is divided into nationalities, into socialists, communists, capitalists, and so on. The inward always overcomes the outer: unless there is order inwardly outwardly there will be disorder, there will be wars, and so on. So it becomes very urgent, imminent that we understand the whole psychological world of which man is, and that psychological world is the world of knowledge.

Knowledge means time. Time, of which we talked about the other day. There are three types of time – biological time, psychological time, time by the watch. That is, chronological time and time psychologically – I will become, I will be, if I am not. If I am angry, I will be less angry tomorrow. All that implies psychological time, and there is the biological time in the genes in which time is involved – the growth from childhood to manhood. So psychological time is knowledge. To know myself requires time. To know myself. Which is, the self is put together by thought. This is obvious, isn’t it? Thought has put together the structure, the psychological structure of the ‘me’, the self, through education, through past knowledge and so on. The nature of ‘me’, you, the self is knowledge, and that knowledge requires time. So to know oneself, we say we need time.

So time is knowledge, and knowledge is thought. So time is thought, and we think the ending of knowledge, the ending of any fear, the ending of acquisitiveness, attachment needs time. We are saying time must have a stop, which is, thought must have a stop, and that is meditation. To inquire, not follow any system, but inquiry, which means freedom, freedom to inquire. And you can only have that freedom if you begin to doubt, question, not accept any spiritual authority. Where there is authority in the world of the spirit, it is not spiritual; it destroys the spirit of man.

Krishnamurti in Bombay 1981, Talk 6

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