Krishnamurti on Individuality

Episode Notes

‘Each of us has been brought up to be a separate individual with our own soul. Is this a fact, or merely a concept?’

This week’s episode on individuality has four sections.

The first extract (2:18) is from Krishnamurti’s first talk in Ojai 1981, titled ‘We think we are individuals’.
The second extract (25:34) is from the first talk at Brockwood Park in 1981, titled ‘The concept of individuality is the root of division’.

The third extract (41:11) is from the first question and answer meeting in Ojai 1984, titled ‘You are not unique’.

The final extract (1:06:15) is from Krishnamurti’s third talk in Madras 1972, titled ‘Is there a permanent you?’

Part 1

We Think We Are Individuals

Perhaps this crisis has always existed in our human existence. The crisis is in our consciousness. Consciousness is what you think, what you are. Not the momentary responses only, but the consciousness of your particular desire, particular longing, particular fulfilment, identification, fears, pleasures, and the sorrow, the pain, the grief, the lack of love and compassion – all the things that thought has put together in the content of consciousness. All that is what we are – our beliefs, our experiences, our depressions, our immense sense of loneliness and despair, our longing to be loved, to be encouraged, to be held together – all that is our consciousness. Our nationality, our peculiar religion of two thousand years, which is vast propaganda, or five thousand years in the Asiatic world, or three thousand – all that is our consciousness. Whatever thought has put together, both outwardly in the technological world and what thought has put together psychologically in the inward world, is part of our consciousness. And the crisis is there, not in the development of technology, which is overpowering, which is almost destroying the world. The crisis is not in belief, in faith, in some sectarian group; the crisis is not somewhere out there but it is where you are. The crisis is in your consciousness. Apparently we don’t seem to be able to meet it.

Many of us do recognise, if you are aware of what is happening globally, if you are sensitive, alert, knowing no scientist, politician, economist or biologist, with the extraordinary experiments they are making, that the crisis is in our mind, in our heart, which is our consciousness. And recognising, because it is the crisis of everybody, not just yours or mine; it is a global crisis, that it is the crisis of humanity. Now we have reached a point where we can totally obliterate each other completely – the atom bomb, the new technology of war, and so on. One wonders if one is aware of all this, not being only concerned with your particular little problems, which is part of our crisis too, your particular loneliness, depression, sorrow, pain, pleasure, which is part of this, our consciousness, but also the global consciousness of man, of a human being. That consciousness is not your consciousness; it is a global consciousness because everywhere man is suffering, lonely, in despair, terribly uncertain, frightened, an utter lack of love, compassion, intelligence. It is a common ground upon which all human beings stand together.

So this consciousness with its crisis is not your consciousness. I hope that is very clear. Because you suffer, are uncertain, frightened, lonely, and all the things that one goes in relationship are being followed all over the world – whether they live in Russia, China or in the East, or here, they go through all this. So this consciousness is not mine or yours. This consciousness is global; it is part of all human beings.

I know for most of us it is very difficult to see this, recognise it and do something about it. We all think we are so terribly individual because we have identified ourselves with our body, with our reactions, with our nationalities, with our country, so we think we are individuals. Are we? Have you ever asked that question, not superficially but basically, demanding that question, whether you are actually an individual? The meaning of that word is indivisible, not broken-up, not fragmented – and that is an individual. Are we? Or are we the result of a million and more years of collective experience, collective knowledge, collective belief and so on?

The speaker is not a communist; he is totally a religious person. When he uses the word ‘religion’ he means by it: not belonging to any religion whatsoever – Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, all the sectarian business. But religion implies and means investigation sceptically, investigating, exploring with doubt, questioning sceptically into what is truth. That is religion. Not all that nonsense that is going on throughout the world – well-established, respectable, profitable. When we say that, you are asking this question, whether we are individuals at all.

Our brains have evolved through time, accumulating a great deal of experience, knowledge, and that brain, is it yours? Please ask this question of yourself. Don’t, please, if one may request, identify yourself with it. Then you cannot possibly ask the question. If you say, ‘My brain is mine,’ then it is finished; all inquiry comes to an end. But if you are inquiring, if you are sensitively aware of the growth, the evolution, from the microbe to the present condition of the human brain, it has evolved through time, millions and millions of years. Genetically, heredity and all the rest of it, this brain is not ours; it is the brain of human beings. That brain is so extraordinarily capable – look what it has done in the field of technology, look what it has done in the field of nationalities, how it has invented gods, theories, saviours, and so on. I wonder if you are aware of all this. That brain operates with the instrument of thought.

Thought is its instrument, and thought has created the technological world. Thought has created nationalities, thought has divided human beings – black, white, purple and all the rest of it. Thought has divided the religions – the Christian, the Hindu, the Buddhist, Islam, and so on, so on, so on, so on. Thought has made this world in which we live, the technological world as well as the psychological world. And one asks again if one is aware of this fact. Thought has created the marvellous cathedrals, the churches, and also thought has created what is put in them – the rituals, the candles, the prayers, the symbol, the saviour, in India and elsewhere, all over the world. Thought is responsible for war, for Hiroshima, for the present condition of man’s confusion, anxiety, uncertainty.

So thought is part of this consciousness. Thought has put together the content of that consciousness. This is irrefutable. As we said, please we are not doing any propagation of any particular idea, but we are together, please, together, now, becoming aware sensitively, without any choice and identification, looking very closely into the content of our own consciousness, of our own being. From there, we act. From there, we function. From there is the self-created ‘me’. That is our consciousness. And thought has put it there. When you say you are a Christian, believe in this or that, in the saviour and so on, thought has been responsible for it. When you do any form of rituals, as in all religions, these nonsensical rituals which have no meaning, it is the result of thought. You may not like to hear all this but these are all facts. Thought is responsible. Thought has not created nature, the tree, the tiger, the heavens with their stars. But the astrophysicists can explore space, which is again the movement of thought.

So to understand the crisis in consciousness, in our very being, one must inquire very closely into the nature of thought because that is the only instrument we have. We may invent intuition, a hunch, and so on, but it is still the basis of thought. Thought is the basis of all this. One wonders if one recognises this and sees what thought has done. Thought has created the world in which we live, the society in which we live. The society is an abstraction. Society is an abstraction; what is real is relationship between man and man. And the socialists, the communists, the democrats and so on are trying to change society, the social structure, all over the world. But they are never concerned with the relationship between man and man – man, woman and so on. That relationship makes society. Which is again a fact. If your relationship with another is correct, true, has integrity, your society will then be totally different. But that society, which is an abstraction, is being changed not by revolutions but by machines, by computers, by the atom bomb, by all the technological inventions that thought has brought about, that is changing society, the structure. But human beings remain as they are, selfish, self-centred, completely concerned with their own dignity, with their own vanity, with their own ambition, with their own fulfilment, with their own desires.

So in order to understand and bring about a radical change in the crisis, or to respond to that crisis correctly, which means accurately, completely, one must inquire very deeply into the nature of thought – why thought has become so extraordinarily important in life.

Krishnamurti in Ojai 1981, Talk 1

Part 2

The Concept of Individuality Is the Root of Division

The fact of relationship is division: me and you. That is a fact. Why does this division exist? What is the truth or falseness of this division between man and woman and so on? Why is there this division between people? Not the problems it creates and the pursuit of solving the problems it creates, but rather, why the division exists at all. Why is there division between me and another who happens to be my wife or husband. Why? What creates this division? This is a problem for all of us – the division between nations, the division between religions, the divisions between various gurus. The absurdity of it all! All of them saying, ‘We are seeking truth.’ Why is there this division? What has created this division? Is it one’s particular demands – sexual, ambition, desire, each one of us seeking fulfilment in his own way, each one of us pursuing a path different from another?

I am married – I am not, but suppose I am married. I am ambitious to climb the ladder, the ladder of a certain career. My wife is also concerned to succeed in some other direction. So is ambition the factor of this division? I believe in God and she doesn’t. I never inquire why I believe; I just believe. And she doesn’t – she also hasn’t inquired why she doesn’t. We both are prejudiced and we hold on to our prejudices – is that the cause of division? Or is the cause of division much deeper than that? These are all superficial reasons. Is there a deeper cause which brings about this terrible division between human beings? Because of that division, we are willing to kill each other. Is there a deeper cause? Think it out, go into it. Is it our training, our education, religious and otherwise, that we are separate individuals – only sexually we meet but otherwise we are totally separate? I pursue my path, worldly or otherwise, and she does the same. So is the division caused by this idea – idea – that we are separate?

Psychologically, inwardly, she suffers. I suffer. She is unhappy, depressed, moody, and I am also on my own occasionally, and so on. So is the root of all this division the concept of an individual? I know it goes against all tradition, against all social, moral religious structure. We have to tear down all that because we have to understand that we, as we are now living, are going to destroy ourselves. It is happening. It is happening in Beirut. It may not be happening in England, but it is happening in Asia. So we have to understand very deeply and so eradicate that which is false, not the problems the falseness creates.

So is this the root of it, that each one of us has been brought up to be a separate individual, with his own soul, with his own – the whole of it? Is that a fact, or merely a concept? What is the difference between a fact and a concept? A concept being that which has been put together by thought, by experience, by knowledge. That is a concept, something conceived, something that we have accepted through a million years of tradition. So that tradition may be utterly false. So the fact is something and the conclusion, concept is another. The fact is I am separate from my wife. That is a fact. And my concept says, ‘We are separate.’ Is my concept stronger than the realisation that I am separate from her? The realisation – you understand what I am talking about? The fact and idea are two different things. The idea is that I am separate. That is the idea. I want to find out if the idea is different from the actuality. Am I actually an individual? Am I? I suffer like you suffer. I am anxious, as you are. I am frightened, as you are. I am lost, confused, as you are. So psychologically, inwardly, we are the same, with variations, but we stand on the same ground. The ground may be unequal, but it is the ground on which we all stand. So the concept must be wrong.

So can I be free from the concept, not from the problems, and face the actuality of what is? The actually of what is, is that I am like you, that I go through hell as you do, tortured, disturbed. So the realisation, that I am like you, altogether removes the image of you.

I have created an image of you, as I have created an image of the kings and ministers and all that business. I have created an image about you, about my wife or husband. That image has been put together through many years or through many days. Creating the image is to be secure. I have an image of my guru – thank God I haven’t got any, but suppose I have! – I have an image of my guru, which I have built up through reputation, not knowing at all what the implications of it are, Because I am too gullible, I will accept anything anybody says about that, which I want to achieve also, so I accept, I build an image. The image is not the actual. I have an image about my wife. My wife is not the image. And that is one of the factors that divides. So the image-making ends when I realise we two are standing on the same ground. I stop building images because we are all… You understand all this?

So we are not concerned – neither she nor me – with the resolution of problems, which is, if I am merely concerned with the resolution of problems then I am operating with a brain that is trained to solve problems, and therefore I am beginning to be caught in it. The solution of problems can never end because in solving one, I create another, which is happening politically. We are a crazy crowd all right!

So one has realised that it is not important to solve problems but to face actually what is going on. What is going on, what is happening is I have separated myself from you. That separation is the creation of the image about you, and that separation is the education in which I have been brought up, the culture, the tradition, that I am totally separate from you. Which is so idiotic – it has no basis, and yet I accept such a concept.

So I now have moved altogether into a different dimension, which is that we are all standing on the same ground – man, woman, whether black, white, purple, whatever colour. Inwardly we are tortured – all that. That is important to understand, not the problems that it creates.

Krishnamurti at Brockwood Park in 1981, Talk 1

Part 3

You Are Not Unique

Question: I understand that all people have a similar consciousness, but it seems a vast jump to say that all people share the same consciousness. Could we walk together slowly between these two points?

Krishnamurti: This is a question that has been put. What is the significance of that question? The questioner says, ‘I understand that all people have a similar consciousness.’ What do we mean by ‘understand’? I am not being facetious, hair-splitting, but I would like to know what you mean by ‘understand’.

I understand the nuclear bomb will kill ten million people in one blow. I understand it. I have seen the experiment, not the ten million people blown up but I have seen the mushroom cloud and all the rest of it. Is the understanding merely intellectual, verbal, or the understanding has tremendous significance, depth, and not merely a verbal understanding?

I have asked that question; then you reply to that question. You say, ‘No, when I use the word ‘understand’, I don’t mean logically or merely verbally, but I understand it, the meaning, the significance of people having similar consciousness. But it seems a vast jump to say that all people share the same consciousness. Could we walk together slowly between these two points?’

What do we mean by consciousness? You reply to me – there are too many people therefore I will reply for you. We mean by consciousness to be conscious of things, conscious of the trees around here, people around here, in their various clothes and hair and so on. I am aware of it. What do we mean by being conscious? Being aware? In that awareness, see what is happening around us, and the happening, or mere things as they are, in that awareness there is a certain choice – I like, I don’t like. I like oak trees, I don’t like palm trees, or I wish it was something else. So in this awareness, there is a sense of choice.

Now, is there an awareness, which is part of consciousness, in which there is no choice at all? So the speaker puts that question and the speaker, representing you, answers that question, which is, in our awareness there is always choice – choice being I like, I don’t like, I wish it were different and so on. So where there is choice, there is a conflict. Right? Do we see this? Where there is a choice between this and that, this division breeds conflict. Now is there an awareness without choice?

As you cannot reply, I am taking your part. It seems it is very difficult to be aware without choice. And the reply to that is: why? Why is it difficult? Is the word ‘difficult’ preventing, throwing a barrier? The word ‘difficult’ – you understand? When I use the word ‘impossible’, ‘difficult’, ‘I am a failure’ – those words act as a barrier. So in using the word ‘difficult’ you are already making it difficult.

So is it possible to be aware, conscious, without any choice – just to observe? And the reply to that: ‘I will try.’ And to that reply, the speaker says, ‘Don’t try.’ The moment you try, you are making an effort. And when you make an effort, you don’t understand anything. Whereas if you don’t make an effort you just see, perceive the actual. And then you may say, ‘Sorry, I don’t understand it.’ So I say, ‘Let’s go into it further.’

I am having fun with this! I haven’t read these questions before. I like to look at them first when I am speaking.

‘But it is a vast jump to say that all people share the same consciousness.’ Is that so, or not? All people throughout the world share the same consciousness. Is that so? And you say it is not the same, each one of us different, each one of us has his own peculiarities, his own idiosyncrasies, his different environment, different religious upbringing, or non-religious upbringing, educated in different ways, so we do not say it is all the same consciousness. And the speaker says it is not like that; let’s look into it, don’t assert, don’t take a position because then it becomes battle. But if you are pliable, move, inquire, then we are together in this.

So I say, now let’s examine this very closely, without any bias, taking up any position, that I believe in this – then you can’t discuss, you can’t explore. So let’s examine this. You say, ‘What do you mean examine, explore?’ Who is exploring? Your own attention. I am not using the word ‘interest’. Now we must go into the question of interest and attention. I hope you are coming into this game.

Most educators are concerned with interest, to awaken the interest of children, students – be interested in mathematics; if you are not interested in mathematics, be interested in history – the teacher is concerned with awakening the interest in the student. Isn’t that a fact? I want to play the violin. ‘Don’t play the violin; it’s not worthwhile because you can’t earn a good livelihood, but get interested in something else’ – and so on. Now where there is interest, there is always a contradictory process going on within yourself.

I am interested in climbing a mountain, and my teacher says, ‘Don’t be interested in that, be interested in something much more serious.’ There is a contradiction immediately. I am interested in wanting to climb the mountain, and the educator says, ‘Don’t climb the mountain, be interested in what I am saying.’ So in me there is already a contradiction taking place: wanting to do something else. I have been forced to do something else. So don’t use the word ‘interest’ at all. ‘Then what word would you use?’ you ask me. I say, ‘Find out what is the nature of attention.’

What is the nature of attention? The student is very interested in watching something very closely and I want him to be interested in history, but he is watching the frog or the lizard or the bird out of the window. He is paying much more attention to that than listening to my demand for history. So I would encourage him or help him to watch much more carefully – much more carefully so that his whole attention is given to his watching. When he does that, then I can see and demand that he pay attention to everything slowly. Learn to pay attention, not interest.

So let’s examine or explore that we all share the same consciousness. Wherever we live, whether in the Far East or the Middle East or here, human beings go through terrible times. There is great poverty in Africa and India and parts of Asia. There is great suffering. People are anxious all over the world. People are afraid all over the world and they all want security, both physical as well as psychological. This is a fact. So the fact is common to all of us. You suffer, the Indian in India suffers, the Russian suffers. So human beings, looking at all the inhabitants of the world, go through this extraordinary phenomenon. All human beings have their own idiosyncrasies, their own way of doing things, their peculiar habits, their fears, their gods, their beliefs. Right through the world, this is a common factor. This is so. The speaker says so, and you say, ‘No, it is not like that. I am different from my neighbour.’ The speaker then says, ‘Are you really?’ You may have a bigger car, a wider garden, beautifully kept, you work at that garden; you may have a bigger house or a smaller house. But the superficial difference, both biologically and physically, is natural. It is there. It is a fact. You are tall, another is short, one is very, very clever, the other is not, and so on. But go beyond that, or go below that, which is in the psychological world; in the psychological world, we all share the same sorrow. Sorrow is common to all of us. You may have pleasure in one way, but it is still pleasure, it is still fear. You may be afraid of the dark; another may be afraid of some other thing. Fear is common to all of us.

So we all share the same consciousness. And you say to that, ‘It sounds very logical but is it true? Is it a fact or are you making something to be a fact because you want to bring about a non-individual existence, which is unreal?’ So I say, ‘Listen to what I am saying: are you an individual at all?’ Factually, are you? Because you have a different complexion, a different upbringing – you are a Catholic, I am a Protestant, you are a Buddhist, I am a Hindu and so on – externally you are different, obviously. That is a fact. But inwardly, are you different? You say, ‘Yes, I am quite different.’ What makes you say that you are different? Is it because you think you are different, or is it a fact that you are different? Thinking is one thing and the fact is another. Thinking about a fact is something totally different from the fact. The fact is, are you different – not that you think you are different – psychologically, inwardly? We cheat, we lie, we want success, we want money – this is a common thing to all human beings.

So we are saying there is no individual consciousness. It is not your consciousness. And you say, ‘I don’t believe it. It’s your invention.’ I say, ‘Look, when you call yourself an individual, what is the meaning of that word ‘individual’, the meaning?’ The root meaning of that word means indivisible. Are you indivisible or fragmented? If you are fragmented, as you are, you are not an individual. Don’t use that word. You are a fragmented human being, like all other fragmented human beings. Individual means unique. You are not. We would like to be unique; we think we are unique because we are clever, we are this, which is a form of vanity.

So when you examine it very closely, unbiased, without any sense of egotism in this, you find we are humanity. We don’t share the same consciousness: we are humanity. I wonder if you understand this. When you hear that statement, either you accept it as an idea, or hearing that statement you make an abstraction of it and say it is a good idea. And I say you are avoiding the fact when you make an ideal of the fact. So please look at the fact that every human being in the world goes through all kinds of problems, misery, unhappiness, and if he is a clever man and wants to earn money, he does all kinds of crooked things – you know the whole game. And we all do the same thing in a different way, but the motive, the urge is the same. And you reply to all that, ‘Yes, I follow it all logically but I can’t feel the depth of your statement that we are humanity, the feeling of it.’ Then the speaker says, ‘Why? Why don’t we feel this tremendous sense of wholeness in humanity?’ Not that we share the earth, the earth is our mother, and we are all born, etc., etc. – I know that’s the latest fashion, another fad in this country. Do you realise we move from fad to fad, the latest box we fall into?

So if one can look at the fact and not make an idea of it, or an abstraction of it as an ideal, but remain with the fact that we are really the whole of humanity, psychologically, then that feeling, when you remain with the fact, gives a sense of tremendous energy, and there is no separation.

Krishnamurti in Ojai 1984, Question and Answer Meeting 1

Part 4

Is There a Permanent You?

Come with me, look at it, watch your life: your job, if you have got a job, the beliefs, the gods, all the things that thought has put together, the books that you have read, the Upanishads, the Gita, whatever the books, sacred – I won’t call them sacred, they are just books – all that you have read is accumulated in the mind. This accumulation, including jealousy, what you think is love and death, is the content, and therefore that is your life. That content is fragmented, broken-up – business, artist, dancer, scientist, and so on and so on. This fragmentation is brought about by thought. Thought is time, and thought says, ‘I don’t want to die.’ All the things that I have accumulated are me. So thought, which is the product of past accumulations and so on, is time. Memory is time. And thought, which is the child of time, maintains time as a means of avoiding death.

You are caught in the social stream of life: the social stream of Brahmin, non-Brahmin, the politician, the economist, the artist, that is the stream, the endless stream. Your mind is caught in that. You are that stream. And we are asking whether the mind can be free of that stream. And if it is not free, there will always be death. It is only the mind that is not caught in the stream, whether it is the technological stream or the social stream, or the stream of this disorder in relationship – that stream is your life; that stream is you. You are the world, and the world is you. That stream is you. Now, when you die, you still belong to that stream, don’t you? Don’t you? No? You are not an individual, are you?

Individuality means indivisible, non-fragmentable, a human being who is not in fragments – fragments, broken-up, contradictory – only such a person is individual. But when the mind is caught in the stream, he is no longer an individual; he is just like a million other people, only he has got his peculiar characteristics, peculiar tendencies, idiosyncrasies, which are the response of his conditioning. So your character, your temperament, your tendency is the reaction of your conditioning, and that conditioning is the result of your culture, your society, your economic position and so on. So your tendency, your idiosyncrasy, your character, is nothing. That is not individuality.

So as long as the mind flows with the stream, the whole idea of a permanent ego, which is the invention of thought, a permanent entity in the human mind, doesn’t exist. You all believe. You all are greedy, you are all envious, therefore you are pursuing, following, caught up in this stream. And in this stream there is death. And a man asks, ‘Will I be born next life?’ (I must tell you a story afterwards, rather an amusing story.) When a man asks, ‘Shall I be born next life?’ what is he asking? Who is he to be born next life? Is there a permanent you?

Is there a permanent you? Look at it clearly. What is the ‘you’? Your furniture, your ambitions, your greed, your envy, your disorder, your sexual life – all that is you. And thought invents a super you, a super self, and thought says, ‘There must be something which is permanent. I like the idea of permanency.’ And you hope that permanent thing will be reborn. There is nothing permanent in you, obviously.

You know, I was going to tell you a story, rather an amusing one. I saw a cartoon the other day of two dogs sitting on a pavement watching human beings go by, with their cigars, cigarettes, drunk, quarrelling, you know, the whole stream of them going by – the businessman with his hat and with his bag, the sannyasi – everybody goes by. One dog says to the other, ‘Reincarnation gives me the creeps because I don’t want to be born to be like one of those!’ Do you see the tragedy of this?

Krishnamurti in Madras 1972, Talk 3

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