Krishnamurti on Conditioning
‘Can the mind be aware of the content of its conditioning only, and not try to go beyond it?’
This week’s episode on Conditioning has two sections.
The first extract (2:24) is from Krishnamurti’s second talk in Saanen 1973, titled ‘Freeing the mind from the web of conditioning’.
The second and final extract (51:25) is from the seventh talk in Saanen 1981, titled ‘Can one specialise yet function wholly?’
Freeing the Mind From the Web of Conditioning
Our minds are conditioned from the moment we are born, or previously, until we die. Transformation is total freedom from this conditioning. This conditioning exists through the various movements of culture – artistic, religious, technological, political, economic, scientific, and all that. Can the mind be aware of this conditioning? Can you be aware of it? Aware in the sense, I mean by that word, to observe, to observe without any distortion, to observe your conditioning, that is, your culture, your civilisation, all the movements of social reforms – you know all that is going on in the world, of which you are a part – to observe that, to become aware of that. We mean by that word ‘aware’ to observe without any distortion of opinion or conclusion, and without the interference of your tendency, or your particular experience – to be aware of this conditioning without any choice – just to watch. And in the observation of it, you will then deny, if you go deeply enough, totally all this culture. And yet you have to live in this world. That is the problem. I am burning with it.
How can I, how can this mind live in this world, which is so appalling, so destructive, so meaningless, and turn my back on it completely? I mean by turning my back, actually put away all the rubbish it has put in my mind – their religions, their attitudes, their opinions, their immorality, their sense of monetary importance – you know, the whole of that – the killing. Can I turn my back on it and yet live here, not withdraw, run away into some monastery? That has no meaning. I do not know if you have ever played the game of withdrawing from the world, withdrawing into a monastery or into your room, cutting everything out of it so that you are completely isolated. If you have ever done it, even for a day or a week, you will soon find out that is not the way out. That is again the movement of thought, which in its reaction to this mad, confused, insane world says, ‘I can only solve it by withdrawing from it.’
So my question is, first: can this mind, which is the result of this civilisation and this culture, and therefore has very little meaning, can the mind become aware of it, choicelessly observe? And yet I have to live here; I have to do things every day. How is this possible?
First of all, we must be very clear that the description is not the described. What we have described, put into words, is not the thing itself. And second, are you very certain, clear that there must be radical transformation? Not have your finger in this social order or in this church or in this sect or in this book, but total transformation? And third, this mind, which is the result of this culture, this civilisation, is the result of that. To be free of that conditioning, you must totally deny the culture and yet live in this world. Now how is this to be done? I hope you are following all this. I hope I am making myself clear. I have to live in this world with all the madness around me, this madness which has tried to give a meaning to life, and in the observation of it, I see it has no meaning. I have to live with this structure and yet not belong to it in any way. Now is this possible?
I cannot escape into some fanciful world. I cannot escape into any commune. I cannot escape from it by joining another religion, becoming a Hindu instead of a Christian, or a Buddhist, or a worshipper of some ugly little guru – and there are plenty of them! So I am stuck with this because I have pushed away all that. I don’t look to anybody. Not that I am full of confidence in myself; I have no confidence in myself. If I have confidence in myself, I am deceiving myself. What can I have confidence in when the whole of me is the result of this structure, this civilisation, this culture? So I have no confidence in myself. I have no belief. Please follow all this. I don’t look to anybody, to any god, to any image, to any priest, to any structure that thought has put together as religion, whether the Christian religion, the Hindu – nothing – because they are the culture which has shaped me, in which I live, which has brought about this mad world – the world of insanity, war, brutality, chicanery, deception, hypocrisy. So I am left with my conditioning. I am nothing else. I have no meaning to life because any meaning I invent will be out of my conditioning. Any god I project will be out of my conditioning as a reaction to what I have been conditioned in. I have been conditioned as a Christian; I reject and react to that and join or create another. So I have only this left with me.
Now, how is the mind to free itself from this web, which is very deep, conscious as well as deeply unconscious? How is the mind to disentangle itself and make itself completely free, original, pristine, clear? You have understood my question? Now if this is your problem, not imposed by me, but you have come to it, you have come to it because you have looked around the world and you have looked at yourself, you have looked at your struggles, your pains, your anxieties, your fears, and you have observed a new structure socially doesn’t solve this problem – it may solve some superficial problems, like having a better prison – so if you have come to the same thing, that is, you have observed in your life, not only the way of your life, the conflict, the struggle, the deceptions which you practise on others and about yourself, the sorrow, the irresponsible life that one leads, the meaninglessness of it all, and you have also observed the outward world, the world of the Far East, the world of the Middle East, the world of the European, the American and all the rest – it is all there to be looked at – and if you have really deeply rejected all that and have only this left, that your mind is conditioned and that any projection from that conditioned mind creates further confusion, further misery, further conflict – then the question then is: can the mind free itself from its conditioning? Now is this possible?
Man has inquired, gone into this as far as this and said, ‘It is not possible, I can’t do it’ – therefore what he has done is looked to an outside agency. That outside agency is God, some superhuman energy or superhuman consciousness. That superhuman consciousness, superhuman energy, superhuman God is the projection of his conditioning. So man, being aware of his conditioning, not being able to solve it, moves away from it, creates an illusion and that illusion becomes his reality. But it is his projection, whether in the field of ideology, religion and so on. So there is no outside agency.
I hope you are following all this. What we are doing is, discarding everything that man has tried, or tried in his search, in his inquiry, discarding everything that thought has put together outwardly, so you are left with this, your conditioning. Whether you are aware of it or not is up to you. How deeply or how superficially, it is still up to you, but if you are really, desperately serious, wholly committed to this one thing, then we can take the journey together.
So has the mind the energy to explore without any distortion the whole content of the mind which is conditioned? I need energy – to investigate anything I need energy. To go up that mountain, I need energy. And here I need tremendous energy, and I will have it in abundance if that energy is not dissipated. I dissipate energy when I seek an outside agency. I dissipate energy when I say, ‘It cannot be done.’ I dissipate energy when I say, ‘Oh, yes, it is quite easy, let us work at it.’ I dissipate energy when I want to go beyond it. I dissipate energy when I look to another, to an authority, to a book. So that energy becomes canalised, vital, immense when there is no escape from the central issue, which is, can the mind be aware of the content of this conditioning only and not try to go beyond it?
You know, this is the most arduous thing, to be so completely concerned and committed to the solution of this problem. It is like a scientist, not the scientist who is committed to a government, who is not a scientist at all, but like a scientist who is really concerned, objectively, without any hypothesis, without any desire to produce a result, observing everything in himself, which is his conditioning. Then you have the energy. Not the energy to do more good, not the energy to do more yoga, or to convert others, or to write books – we are talking of a totally different kind of energy, the energy that has been wasted, dissipated, now it is all there, held together.
Now, what is the content of this mind, and is the content different from the mind? I want to find out what the content of my mind is, and is the content different from the mind itself? And is there a mind, consciousness, without the content? Is not the content the mind? The content is not different from the mind. I mean by the mind the totality, the brain with all its memories, the feelings, the heart with its affection, with its care, with its tenderness, the physical organism – all that I call the mind. It isn’t just the intellectual mind, the intellect, the capacity to reason sanely, logically, all the feeling that one has, affection, the hurts, the sense of beauty, the sensitivity, the fear – all that. When I use ‘the mind’, I include all that.
Now I am asking myself: my mind is conditioned, obviously, and that conditioning is knowledge. That knowledge is based on experience, whether it is mine or yours or ten thousand people, which is the culture, the civilisation. Now is the content different from the mind, or does the content make up the consciousness, so there is no division between the content and consciousness? Now, this is important. Please bear this in mind. The content is consciousness. Consciousness is the content. Therefore there is no ‘me’ different from the content. It is a difficult thing for you to see this. I am trying to find an example, but I can’t. I can’t think in examples. What I am trying to point out is: there are no divisions in the content as the ‘me’ different from the thing it observes as the content.
The mind is conditioned, and I am asking: can the mind ever be free from this conditioning? And in this conditioning, there is the observer as the ‘me’ and the thing it observes as the conditioning. So there is a division in this conditioning – the observer who says, ‘I am different from the conditioning,’ therefore the observer can change the conditioning, he can shape it, control it, alter it as long as there is the division between the observer and the observed, which is the content. And the observer says to himself, ‘I am different from the content, I am the higher self’ – you know all the tricks that one plays on oneself which you have in this culture and in the Eastern culture in a different way.
So consciousness is made up of the content, and the content is consciousness – they are one. So there is no division as the observer and the observed. Please see this. Either you see it intellectually, verbally, and therefore it has very little meaning, or you realise the truth of it. Therefore you eliminate altogether conflict. That is, when there is a division between the observer and the observed, the observer is something different from the observed. Where there is division in this conditioning, there must be conflict, and that is part of our culture. I am different; I am the will exercising over the content to change it.
So where there is division, there must be conflict – division between Europe and America, between the communist, the socialist and the Capitalist, between nationalities, between the Hindu and the Muslim, the Arab and the Jew. Where there is division, that is a truth, an atavism, that where there is division there must be conflict. If I am divided from you as my wife, husband, neighbour, brother, whatever it is, in that division there must be conflict. Part of my culture, my conditioning is that I am different from that which I observe. ‘I am an Englishman. I am a Jew, or a Muslim or a Hindu’ – all that stupid nonsense.
So the content of consciousness is the whole. There is no division. See how the problem becomes much more difficult. Before I solved it – or I thought I solved it by inventing the observer different from the thing he observes, and therefore the whole concept of control, which is part of our civilisation, part of discipline, control, imitation, conformity on which you have been brought up from childhood, which is part of our culture, which is the conditioning. My conditioning says, ‘I am different from the thing I observe.’ Of course I am different from the thing which I observe as the tree, as the mountain – we are not talking of that. We are talking of the total content of consciousness in which the ‘I’ is different from the thing it observes. Therefore there is a division as the observer and the observed. So I have eliminated the cause of conflict.
Do you understand this? For God’s sake do because then you will be free of conflict. Conflict exists in duality: me and you, we and they. I am jealous, I must not be jealous; I am violent, I must not be violent. The ‘I’ is different from violence. That is the culture in which you have been brought up. And we are saying that culture has conditioned the mind to divide itself, to fragment itself, and so the battle goes on endlessly. But when you see the content makes up consciousness, then there is no fragmentation, not one area fighting another area. So we find that any fragmentation is the process of thought.
Questioner: Sir you think consciousness is everything, but it is different for everyone. That is the problem. Consciousness is different from everything, it is different from your feelings, from your physical body, from your thoughts.
Krishnamurti: You are saying we are different from our body, from our feelings, from our thoughts, and that is part of our conditioning. On the contrary, I am saying there is no ‘you’ different from the conditioning.
Q: How can we turn our back on this conditioning if we are not different from it?
K: I am going to show it. You see, that is exactly it. You are proving actually how you are conditioned. Just let me answer that question. It is an important question, please. He asked a question, which is: how can I turn my back if I am not different from that which is conditioned? So he assumes that he is different from the conditioning, and therefore being different he can turn his back on it. But is he different, or is he part of that conditioning, thinking he is different?
Please bear with me a little if I labour the point. We have come to this point, which is that we know we are conditioned. And not being able to resolve that conditioning, thought says there must be a different force, a different energy, a different spirit in me that can say, ‘I will turn away from it.’ This they have done in India in a different way, and as India exploded over the whole of Asia, they have caught the Indian spirit, that is, that there is a higher self different from the lower self, and therefore the higher self can control the lower self. They have given it a name, and they are pursuing that philosophy endlessly because they haven’t been able to solve the central issue, which is: can the mind free itself from its conditioning? And as they have not been able to answer it, they invent an entity, an outside agency, a super consciousness which will solve it, which will dissolve the conditioning. And you do it in the same way here, differently. It is the same issue. Which is: the human mind is conditioned, after centuries and centuries of knowledge, experience, so-called culture, civilisation. It is caught in a trap. The trap is not different from the mind itself. The mind is the trap. The content is consciousness. Not being able to solve it, we say, ‘Please, how can I turn my back if there is not a different entity in me which says “I will turn”?’ The invention of a different me is part of my conditioning, which is the result of a thought confronted with a problem that is insoluble by thought.
Q: Sir, then the mind says, ‘I won’t look, I can’t look,’ and then I go out and not look anymore.
K: You are saying the mind says, ‘I mustn’t look, I won’t look, I’ll escape, I’ll go away from it.’ But you haven’t solved the problem! The mind hasn’t unconditioned itself. What I am trying to point out is that any movement of a conditioned mind is a movement away from it, and therefore it cannot solve it. The mind has to live with it. The mind has no escape from it. The mind cannot say, ‘I will leave it alone, something will solve it.’ I have to be with it. The mind has to be with it, look at it, you know, immovable. And because we cannot do it, we invent the ‘me’ different from the thing observed. If you see the truth of this, the logic, the truth, the reason of it, which is that the whole of the mind is the content which is the conditioning, that any movement as the observer wanting to change the conditioning is still part of that conditioning – when you see the truth of that, there is no movement away from that fact. There is no movement away or to transform ‘what is’. Then what takes place? That is the problem.
I realise, the mind realises, after observing the world, the world of Europe, America, Asia, Russia, China, the various systems, the various philosophies, the various teachers, gurus, saviours, the various scientists that are concerned with technology, and the pure scientists, and the medical profession, all that, observing the whole of that, in seeing that, the mind is aware that it is part of it. That is ‘me’, and ‘me’ is that. The world is me, and I am the world; there is no difference. Therefore I am not fighting the world because I am the world. And this culture, which is the world, this culture – you know what this present culture is, the historical process, growth, democratic, or so-called democracy, tyranny, all that, that is the culture in which the mind has lived, grown, assimilated and is – that mind is conditioned by this culture. And this culture says, ‘There is in you something different from the culture.’ And I accept it, as they do in India and elsewhere. And when I look at it, when the mind observes it, it says, ‘There is only one thing, total conditioning, in which all these fragmentary things exist.’ That conditioning is the result of time.
Can the mind observe it, live with it without any movement away from it? You can only live with it totally if you do not want to go beyond it, escape from it, change it. And the mind will find it tremendously difficult to live with ‘what is’. Either it becomes neurotic, as it generally does, psychologically distorted, or it escapes from it, and so it finds devious ways and means of avoiding actually ‘what is’. And to remain with it without any movement, without any distortion, requires great energy. And that energy comes only when you don’t dissipate it.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1973, Talk 2
Can One Specialise Yet Function Wholly?
So meditation is different from contemplation in the sense that meditation demands that the brain is no longer conditioned to act partially, but wholly. That is the requirement for meditation, otherwise meditation has no meaning.
So the question then is: is it possible, living in this world, which demands certain forms of specialisation – a skilful carpenter, skilful mechanic, skilful mathematician, or a very skilful housewife, it doesn’t matter, living in this world which demands these, and yet be free from specialisation.
Suppose I am a physicist, that is, a theoretical physicist, and I have spent my life, most of my life in formulating mathematically, thinking about it, questioning it, asking, cultivating a tremendous knowledge about it, and my brain has become specialised, narrowed down, and yet I begin to inquire into meditation. In my inquiry into meditation, I can only partially understand the significance and depth of that word because I am anchored in something else. I am anchored in my theoretical physics as my profession; anchored there, and I begin to inquire theoretically whether there is the timeless, what meditation is, and so on. So my inquiry becomes partial again. But I have to live in this world. I am a professor at a university; I have got a wife, children; I have the responsibility of all that, and perhaps I am also ill – I have got the responsibility of all that and yet I want to inquire very profoundly into the nature of truth, which is part of meditation. So my approach is partial.
So my question is: is it possible to be specialised as a carpenter and yet leave it at a certain level so that my brain, the brain which is the common brain to all humanity – this is very difficult for people to accept: your brain is not your brain, it has been growing for millions of years, accumulating all kinds of knowledge; it is not yours; your consciousness, as we went into, is not your consciousness – which you readily accept but you would rather resist when we say that your brain is not yours. It has grown through space and time, which is common to all humanity. So my question is: being specialised, can my brain say, yes it has its function, but that function is not going to interfere?
I am a carpenter. I know the quality of wood, the tools, the grain, the beauty of the wood, and so on. I say, yes, that is natural, I must have that, but the brain that has cultivated the speciality cannot possibly understand the wholeness of meditation. If I as a carpenter understand this, the truth of it, that as a carpenter I have a place but that specialisation has no place in the wholeness of comprehension, in the wholeness of understanding meditation, if I see the truth of that, then specialisation becomes a small affair.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1981, Talk 7