Krishnamurti on Enlightenment

Episode Notes

‘Enlightenment is not of time. It is not a process. It is not something that you gradually come to.’

This week’s episode on Enlightenment has five sections. The first extract (2:22) is from the second question and answer meeting in Ojai 1982, titled ‘What is enlightenment?’

The second extract (12:51) is from the first question and answer meeting at Brockwood Park in 1980, titled ‘The one who says, “I know,” does not know’.

The third extract (20:51) is from the fourth question and answer meeting in Saanen 1980, titled ‘Is enlightenment a matter of time?’

The fourth extract (34:43) is from the third question and answer meeting in Saanen 1981, titled ‘Is enlightenment an experience?’

The final extract (44:30) is from Krishnamurti’s sixth talk in Saanen 1979, titled ‘A light to oneself’.

Part 1

What Is Enlightenment?

I wonder if most of us realise that the word is never the thing. My ‘wife’ is never the woman. There is this problem of the word – do you want to go into all that? If we realise the word is not the actual thing, the description is not the actuality, the symbol is never the fact, the ideal is never ‘what is’, and if you observe, if you are aware, our brain is caught in words, a network of words. I am a Catholic, I am a Protestant, I am an American – they are all symbols, they are all words, pictures, and the brain is caught in that. That is, thinking is words; without words, is there thinking?

It is very interesting for you to find out all these things because then your mind naturally becomes extraordinarily alert – to be free of the word but yet use the word accurately. So the word is not the thing, and the symbol is never the actual. Fear, the word ‘fear’, is not the reaction, but the word ‘fear’ shapes our action. Not the feeling of fear, but either the word creates the fear, or the word shapes the fear. And is it possible to look at that reaction without the word?

‘Can we truly be enlightened through words?’ Good God! I wonder why we use the word ‘enlightenment’. We’ll go into the word ‘enlightenment’ – it’s very interesting to go into what we mean by enlightenment, which all the gurus talk about. It is a word that to some people is a sacred word: to be enlightened. Not through books, not through knowledge, not through time. It isn’t a thing that you gradually work up to by practise, by meditation, by doing all kinds of tricks.

So obviously the word ‘love’ is not love. And similarly, what is enlightenment? Who is enlightened? Enlightened of what? Enlightened about what? Enlightened – don’t go funny about it. Surely a mind that is enlightened is free from all conditioning. A Hindu, with his superstitions, with all the business of his religious conditioning, as well as psychological and environmental conditioning, has made him call himself a Hindu. How can such a mind, which has been so conditioned ever be free?

Is enlightenment complete freedom from conditioning? Can a Catholic – I hope there’s nobody here, I am not treading on anybody’s toes – can a Catholic, with all his superstition, with his saviours, with his rituals and the hierarchical authority, and so on, can he ever be enlightened? With his conditioning and baptism – you know the whole intellectual, cunning business that holds the people to a pattern. You answer it yourself. Can a mind, can a human being be enlightened when he is frightened, when he is seeking power, position, accumulating money in the name of enlightenment – which is what some of the gurus are doing, vast sums of money; and they talk about enlightenment.

So the word is not the thing. And the questioner asks: have the symbols done damage to the human psyche? Obviously. If I am a Hindu – personally I am not; I was born in India but that has no meaning – if I am a Hindu, they have got innumerable symbols, like the Christian world: their goddesses, their gods, tribal gods and smaller gods and higher gods. If I have been conditioned in that, how can I… Those conditionings, those symbols, have damaged the clarity of mind, of the psyche. That is obvious. Symbols obviously have done damage because that prevents a human being going directly to truth, to the fact, not worshiping the symbols.

The questioner also asks: are we being seduced by the illusion of enlightenment? Obviously. That sounds lovely. But enlightenment is not of time. It’s not a process. It’s not something that you gradually come to. To be free from all conditioning, which also implies to be a light to oneself completely, and not depending on any person, any idea, any teacher – a light to oneself, so wholly – from that light there is action.

Krishnamurti in Ojai 1982, Question and Answer Meeting 2

Part 2

The One Who Says, ‘I Know,’ Does Not Know

Question: Is it always wrong or misguided to work with an enlightened man and be a sannyasi?

Krishnamurti: ‘Sannyasi’ is a Sanskrit word. It is a very old tradition in India where the monks who take this vow really renounce the world outwardly. They only stay one night in each place, they beg, they are celibate, they have nothing except one or two cloths. The modern sannyasi is none of this. He has been called a sannyasi by somebody and they think it is marvellous. Put on a robe – yellow robe or pink robe or whatever the robe you put on – and beads, and they think they are sannyasis. They are not. It is misguided and not ethical to call them sannyasis.

Is it always wrong and misguided to work with an enlightened man? How do you know he is enlightened? How do you know? Would you kindly answer? How do you know? By his looks? Because people call him enlightened? Or he himself calls himself enlightened? If he calls himself enlightened, you may be assured that he is not enlightened! There are a great many gurus who are doing this, playing this game, calling themselves lords, giving themselves titles; a new lot of mischief. And before you find out who is enlightened why don’t you find out what enlightenment is?

I may consider you as enlightened. What is my criterion which makes me judge that you are enlightened? Is it because of some tricks, a great many people come round you, put garlands round you? Or is enlightenment something that cannot possibly be talked about? The man who says, ‘I know,’ does not know. Please be serious about this because lots of people are doing this in India, mostly Americans and Europeans, who gather there and, you know, do all the circus. So shouldn’t we doubt, question these people? And if you question them, will they answer you? Or they have put themselves up on a platform, you know, on a level which forbids you to question them.

So to work with an enlightened human being is totally unimportant. What is important is to work on oneself, not with somebody. Please, I am not advising, counselling, etc., etc., but together we are finding out what the truth is about all these matters. Truth is something that has no path. There is no way to it. Nobody can point it out to you; it is not something fixed you can go towards by a system, by meditation, by a method and so on. A living thing has no path to it, and if one is seriously inclined to find out what truth is, one has to lay the foundation first, to have a great sensitivity, to be without fear completely, to have great integrity, to be free from all knowledge, psychological knowledge, and therefore the ending of suffering. From that arises love and compassion.

If that is not there, as the well-laid deep foundation, one is merely caught in illusions – illusions that man has fabricated, thought has invented, visions that are the projection of one’s own conditioning. So all that has to be put aside to find that which is beyond time.

Krishnamurti at Brockwood Park in 1980, Question and Answer Meeting 1

Part 3

Is Enlightenment a Matter of Time?

Question: What is enlightenment?

Krishnamurti: Again, this is one of those words that have come from India – to be enlightened. To be enlightened about what? Please let’s be rational, not irrational. When we say enlightened – enlightened about what? Say for instance I am enlightened about my relationship with another. That is, I have understood that my relationship with another is based on my image about the other, however intimate. That image has been put together through many years by constant reaction, indifference, comfort, the nagging, all that’s between man and woman – all that. So the image is built, and she has built an image about you, so the relationship is between the two images – which is obvious. And that is what we call relationship.

Now I perceive the truth of it, and I say I am enlightened about it. I am enlightened about violence. I see clearly without any distortion, with clear eyes, the whole movement of violence. I see how sorrow arises, and the ending of sorrow is. I am enlightened about it. But we don’t mean that, we mean something else: ‘I am enlightened. I will tell you about it. Come to me.’ And you, rather gullible, say, ‘Yes, tell me all about it.’

You see, we must understand, if we really go into enlightenment, illumination, the voice of truth – not my voice, the voice of truth – we must go very carefully into the question of time. The so-called enlightened people have come to it through time, gradually, life after life if you believe in reincarnation – come to the point when they are enlightened about everything. Which is, it is a gradual process of experience, knowledge, a constant movement from the past to the present to the future – the cycle. So if you are interested in enlightenment, the ultimate thing, is it a matter of time? Is it a gradual process, which means the process of time, the process of evolution, the gradually becoming that?

So one must understand the nature of time. Not chronological time but the psychological structure which has accepted time. That is, I have hope to ultimately get there. The desire, which is part of hope, says, ‘I will get there.’ And the so-called enlightened people, and they are not, because the moment they say, ‘I am enlightened,’ they are not. That is their vanity. It is like a man saying, ‘I am really humble.’ When a man says that, you know what it is. Humility is not the opposite of vanity. When the vanity ends, the other is. Those people who have said they are enlightened, they say you must go step by step, practise this, do that, don’t do this, become my pupil, I’ll tell you what to do, I’ll give you an Indian name, or a new Christian name, and so on, so on, so on. And you, a kind of irrational human being, accept this nonsense.

So we are asking: is that supreme enlightenment? You understand the meaning of that word? A mind that has no conflict, no sense of striving, going, moving, achieving. So we must understand this question of time, which is the constant becoming or not becoming, which is the same – the becoming and the not becoming. When that becoming is rooted in the mind, that becoming conditions all your thinking, all your activity, then it is a matter of using time as a means of becoming, achieving. But is there such a thing as becoming?

I am violent. I will be non-violent. That is, becoming an idea. I am violent and the non-violence, I project the idea of not being violent, so I create duality – violent and non-violent – and so there is conflict. Then I say, ‘I must control myself, I must suppress, I must analyse, I must go to a psychologist, I must have a psychotherapist,’ and so on, so on, so on. Without creating the opposite, the non-violence, the fact is violence, not non-violence. The fact. The non-violence is non-fact. Get that once, the truth of that. That is, I am violent, and the concept of non-violence brings about this conflict between the opposites. The non-fact has no value, only the fact, which is that I am violent. Now to observe the whole movement of violence: anger, jealousy, hate, competition, imitation, conformity and so on, so on, to observe it without any direction, without any motive. Then if you do that there is the end of violence, which is an immediate perception and action.

So one can see that illumination, this sense of ultimate reality and so on, is not of time. This goes against the whole psychological religious world – the Christians with their souls, with their saviours, with their ultimate… etc., etc.

Perception is action. Not perception, a great interval and then action. In that interval, you create the idea. We are pointing out something, which is, can the mind, the brain, you know, the whole human nervous structure as well as the psychological structure, be free of this burden of a million years of time so that you see something clearly, and action is invariably immediate. That action will be rational, not irrational. That action can be explained logically, sanely. So we are saying that ultimate thing, which is truth, is not to be achieved through time. It can never be achieved. It is there, or it is not there.

Krishnamurti in Saanen 1980, Question and Answer Meeting 4

Part 4

Is Enlightenment an Experience?

Question: Some of us, including myself, have had experiences of seeing lights, a feeling of oneness with the universe, energy, the awakening of kundalini, inward clarity. These last sometimes for moments or for hours. Are these not steps towards illumination?

Krishnamurti: What a lot of silly people we are! Can we be a little bit funny? I wonder if one’s liver is all right when you see lights, flashes and all that.

You know, seriously, some people do have certain experiences, certain perceptions. I wouldn’t call them experiences. Let’s examine what experiences are. What is an experience? Either it is a sensory experience, sensual experience or psychological experience, or purely physical experiences like pain, toothache and so on. We are talking here about psychological experiences. Now what do we mean by experience? An incident, a happening which you must recognise, name it, and therefore the experience is different from you who are experiencing. Therefore it means if the experiencer is experiencing something, he must know what it is. He must be able to recognise it, otherwise it is not an experience. If I can’t recognise the experience, it doesn’t exist. I recognise it because I have already had the symptoms, the knowledge of it. Therefore I say that is an experience. I have seen it by experiencing as a Hindu – if I am a Hindu – some deity because my brain is conditioned to that. If you are a Christian, you have an experience of Jesus or whatever it is. So as long as there is an experiencer separate from the experience, what you call the new experience is really the old experience manifesting itself in a different form, and you recognise it. And you call that experience.

Now a mind that is clear, absolutely without the shadow of self, has no experience because there is nothing to experience. Illumination is not a state of experience – which is so absurd because truth, or that ultimate energy, you can’t experience. You can’t say ‘I have reached that.’ That statement, ‘I have reached that,’ is full of vanity and arrogance. A brain or a mind that is free from arrogance is utterly in its simplicity, humble, in which there is no self whatsoever. Then that eternity might be there. But if you say, ‘I am experiencing that,’ then it is like experiencing anger. It is as good as anger. But don’t let’s call it illumination.

And there is this new, brought again from India – I wish they would keep it to themselves – brought from India – about the kundalini. Probably many of you have heard this. If you haven’t, forget it. But if you have, those people who write about it – forgive me please, I am saying this most respectfully – those who talk about it do not know anything about it. You might say, ‘What right have you to say that? Why do you say that they do not know? Which means you know.’ Naturally, that is the obvious question. Personally, I don’t want to enter into this question because anybody who says, ‘I know what it means,’ does not know. It is much too complex. The whole idea is this: energy, when it is misused, destroys an energy that can comprehend the total source of energy. If I misuse my energy in various forms – arrogance, selfish action, competition, aggression, soaked in sorrow and talking endlessly about it, or constantly being occupied with something or other, I am wasting energy, obviously. It is like a motor running all the time in the garage – it will soon wear itself out. But the idea of all this is that this energy, when it is not wasted in any direction, that very human energy which is not the energy created by conflict or the energy created by thought, that energy is, or apprehends, the total energy of universe. That is the idea about kundalini and all that kind of stuff.

So the questioner asks: is this a process of illumination? You cannot, if one may point out again most respectfully, prepare for illumination. It isn’t like cooking a nice dish –taking time, peeling the potatoes, collecting the… all rest of it – illumination is not something that you come gradually, process. It is there if you are utterly, totally unselfish and have a brain that is utterly without a shadow of conflict.

Krishnamurti in Saanen 1981, Question and Answer Meeting 3

Part 5

A Light to Oneself

The various forms of physical torture in order to find enlightenment, the various forms of rituals, robes, repetitions, have not in any way changed human beings and their relationships so that there is a new, good society. We mean by that word ‘good’ not the nursery meaning, ‘Be a good boy’ – it is not a respectable word, it is not a word that you can say, ‘That is old fashioned, throw it out,’ but that word ‘good’ has an excellent meaning and significance. Man through all these endeavours has never brought about a good society where people live happily, without conflict, without violence, with a great sense of responsibility, with care and affection. That is what we mean by the word ‘good’. Man has not been able to achieve it.

One of the main reasons for the ugliness in the world is that all of us, most human beings, probably 99%, are fragmented, broken-up. When one realises this, that one is in a state of fragmentation, one is cognisant of it, aware without any choice. It is so. It is not that the speaker is imposing this on you, but it is a fact. And can that mind which is fragmented, can that heart which is also caught up in various romantic, emotional, sentimental, illusory nonsense, can that mind ever come to this, to find a solution that is everlasting?

How shall we find it? Is it dependent on another? Can another, however much he may think he is lord, this, that and the other, can another lead you or help you to that? Right? Please ask this question. Can a group, can a community, can a series of ideas, conclusions, help you to that, or one must be a light to oneself, not the light which has been kindled at the other’s lamp or candle or fire? Please, give your heart to understand all this! Which means not only your heart but your mind, your brain.

Freedom is not acting according to whatever you like. That is too childish, which is what is happening in the world because everybody is doing what they want. Any prevention, any restraint on that is considered lack of fulfilment. Therefore permissiveness in every direction, religiously, socially, morally, is encouraged, and this permissiveness, that is, doing exactly what one likes or saying, ‘It appeals to me, I feel good in that,’ denies freedom. We are talking psychologically, not freedom from law, from the policeman, from taxes but freedom from the dependence on another psychologically because the other, when he instructs you from his knowledge, from his position, from his status, that knowledge is still part of ignorance.

Knowledge can never be complete; therefore it is always part of ignorance. I wonder if you see that. Of course. Knowledge can never be whole, can never be complete, total, and therefore in it there is ignorance. When you realise that, when you see that, that in matters of the spirit, in matters of the psyche, in matters of deep religious inquiry, there is no dependence completely on anybody. That is freedom, with its responsibility to be a light to oneself. Are we like that? We are going together to find out, please, find out for ourselves, not at the behest of another, not stimulated by another, not encouraged by another, but find out for oneself totally, completely – which is not egotistic – so that one can be a light to oneself.

Are we together in this? Not agreeing, not being cornered in a tent and therefore forced to agree, or stimulated by the speaker with his intensity. If you are, then it is just a flame that can be blown out by the next wind.

So having said all this, is your mind – your mind being your brain, your senses, the quality of thinking, knowing its limitation, being prepared – not prepared, I won’t use that word ‘prepared’ as preparation implies time – that is one of our pet theories, that we need time to be a light to oneself – are our minds after listening to all this, even though you are listening for the first time – and you are only actually listening for the first time if you are really paying attention. You know, it is like looking at the sunset or the sunrise, the beauty and extraordinary light is never the same. You can see it day after day, day after day, month after month, you never say, ‘Well, I have seen it once, it is enough.’ If we have paid attention to what has been said, and what is being said is not a repetition – beauty is never that which is constantly happening, it is always new. A marvellous classical painting, or if you listen to music, it is new all the time, but our minds get so dulled by words and by the repetition of words you say: ‘I am bored with it. You have said all that before’. But if you listen, there is always something new, like the sunset, like the evening star, like the waters of a river. We still have time!

We are asking you, together, if our minds and therefore our hearts, our whole being, senses, the quality of the senses which are not divided, which are together, and thought and thinking, knowing that it is limited, fragmented, always of time, and a brain that is the result of millennia, conditioned, full of memories, knowledge, experience, like a computer, but of course much more capable than a computer – the brain has invented the computer but the brain also is active as a computer – so we are saying the whole of this, can we inquire with this quality of mind? Or just be in a state of observation, just to observe without the observer. The observer is the past, the observer is the result of all the experience, senses, responses, reactions, memories. He is that. To observe without the observer, so that there is only pure observation, not distorted, not broken-up, not the result of choice – you know, just to observe.

Then in that state of pure observation, is there one act, one insight, one total perception of something that will resolve all these problems? There is. Now, careful! The speaker says there is. You know nothing about it, naturally. If you are aware of it, you wouldn’t be here. The speaker says – and please listen carefully, it is not authority, it is not the result of experience, it is not the result of accumulated knowledge; it is none of that – the speaker says there is a solution, a way out of all this terrible confusion and misery and fear and torture and terror. So don’t accept it.

Where are you at the end of this? Please I am asking this very seriously. We have talked for twenty minutes, an hour, forty minutes, fifty minutes; at the end of it, what is the quality of your mind that is capable of receiving something? You say, ‘Yes,’ and the ‘yes’ is your own discovery, your own light, your own total attention which you have given to find this out.

Let me go into it carefully. One must have intelligence. Intelligence is different from knowledge. In knowledge, as we pointed out earlier, there is ignorance, whereas intelligence is free from ignorance and therefore free from illusion, and it is not the result of accumulated knowledge. Intelligence – the quality of intelligence comes when there is perception and action. That is, perception and no interval between perception and action. You see, act.

You see danger, like a precipice, and the very perception is action: you move away instantly. That is intelligence. That is part of that intelligence. You see a dangerous snake – and instant action. That is fairly simple because there it is a physical response. And the physical reaction is self-preservation, which is intelligence. It is the unintelligent that sees the danger and pursues it. Intelligence is the perception of that which is psychologically dangerous and acting instantly. That is intelligence. Psychologically it is dangerous to depend on another: for affection, for love, for comfort, for enlightenment. That is dangerous because you are not free. And therefore the very perception of that danger and the acting of it is intelligence.

One must have that quality of intelligence. That intelligence is denied when you are conforming to a pattern laid down by the gurus – it doesn’t matter who – some idiotic person, or conforming, imitating, following. Therefore there is the ideal and the action which is different from the ideal, or conforming or adjusting to the ideal – which is lack of perception, lack of seeing the actual movement of this. And when there is perception, the ideal, the imitation, the conformity, the following, totally ends, and that is intelligence. I am not defining intelligence. It is so. It is only the neurotic that sees the danger and continues. The neurotic, the stupid, the thoughtless, the man who just follows his own particular idiosyncrasy and pleasures, and gives it a rational meaning and so on.

So one must have this quality of intelligence. Then with that intelligence is there a state, a movement or whatever you like to call it, which can solve all these innumerable conflicts and miseries? The mind that is totally intelligent, that mind is inquiring.

Questioner: It sounds quite violent. The quality of the mind should not be violent. I am sorry to interrupt but…

Krishnamurti: Sir, if I may point out most respectfully…

Q: You cannot define intelligence in such a violent manner. The consequences of this, sir, is violence – violence towards yourself, violence towards your fellow human beings. Honestly!

K: Sir, there are going to be five days of dialogue. Please raise these questions then. The speaker is not preventing you from asking questions, from doubting what he says, from questioning everything that he has said, but this is not the occasion. So please have patience and consideration.

With that intelligence we are inquiring to find out if there is – there may not be – if there is an act, a state, a quality that resolves every issue of our life. Surely – I am hesitant because one has to use words that have been spoilt; one has to use a word that has lost all its meaning. A word like ‘love’ has become sexual, sensory, sensuous. With it goes pleasure, fear, anxiety, dependence and all the ugliness that takes place in a so-called relationship. So one uses that word very, very hesitantly. It is in no way related to jealousy, fear or sorrow. It is total responsibility, not only to your immediate person but the total responsibility to the whole of life. Not only your life but the other life. I say that love is the total answer. Without that, do what you will – stand on your head for the rest of your life, sit in a position, lotus, or whatever you do. So with that intelligence goes the other. Without intelligence, you cannot have the other. They are inseparable. And that is why compassion has this quality of great intelligence, and that is the solution which will solve all our problems

Krishnamurti in Saanen 1979, Talk 6

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