1933, The Art of Listening
4th Public Talk. Frognerseteren, Norway; 12th September, 1933
Friends, today I am going to make a resume of what I have been saying here.
We have the idea that wisdom is a process of acquisition through constant multiplication of experience. We think that by multiplying experiences we shall learn, and that learning will give us wisdom, and through that wisdom in action we hope to find richness, self-sufficiency, happiness, truth. That is, to us experience is but a constant change of sensation, because we look to time to give us wisdom. When we think in this manner, that through time we shall acquire wisdom, we have the idea of getting somewhere. That is, we say that time will gradually reveal wisdom. But time does not reveal wisdom, because we use time only as a means of getting somewhere. When we have the idea of acquiring wisdom through the constant change of experience, we are looking for acquisition, and so there is no immediate perception which is wisdom.
Let us take an example; perhaps it will clarify what I mean. This change of desire, this change of sensation, this multiplication of experiences which that change of sensation brings about, we call progress. Suppose we see a hat in a shop, and we desire to possess it; having obtained that hat, we want something else - a car, and so on. Then we turn to emotional wants, and we think that in thus changing our desire from a hat to an emotional sensation we have grown. From emotional sensation we turn to intellectual sensations, to ideas, to God, to truth. That is, we think that we have progressed through constant change of experiences, from the state of wanting a hat to the state of wanting and searching for God. So we believe that through experiences, through choice, we have made progress.
Now to me that is not progress; it is merely change in sensation, sensation more and more subtle, more and more refined, but still sensation, and therefore superficial. We have merely changed the object of our desire; at first it was a hat, now it has become God, and therein we think we have made tremendous progress. That is, we think that through this gradual process of refining sensation we shall find out what truth, God, eternity is. I say you will never find truth through the gradual change of the object of desire. But if you understand that only through immediate perception, immediate discernment, lies the whole of wisdom, then this idea of the gradual change of desire will disappear.
Now what are we doing? We think: "I was different yesterday, I am different today, and I shall be different tomorrow; so we look to difference, to change - not to discernment. Take, for instance, the idea of detachment. We say to ourselves, "Two years ago I was very much attached, today I am less attached, and in a few years I shall be still less, eventually coming to a state in which I shall be quite detached." So we think that we have grown from attachment to detachment through the constant shock of experience, which we call progress, development of character.
To me this is not progress. If you perceive with your entire being the whole significance of attachment, then you do not progress towards detachment. The mere pursuit of detachment does not reveal the shallowness of attachment, which can be understood only when the mind and heart are not escaping through the idea of detachment. This understanding is not brought about through time, but only in the realization that in attachment itself there is pain as well as transient joy. Then you ask me, "Won't time help me to perceive that?" Time will not. What will make you perceive is either the transiency of joy or the intensity of pain in attachment. If you are fully aware of this, then you are no longer held by the idea of being different now from what you were a few years ago, and later on being different again. The idea of progressive time becomes illusory.
To put it differently, we think that through choice we shall advance, we shall learn, through choice we shall change. We choose mostly what we want. There is no satisfaction in comparative choice. That which does not satisfy us we call the unessential, and that which does, the essential. Thus we are constantly being caught in this conflict of choice from which we hope to learn. Choice, then, is merely opposites in action; it is calculation between the opposites, and not enduring discernment. Hence, we grow from what we call the unessential to what we call the essential, and that, in turn, becomes the unessential. That is, we grow from the desire for the hat, which we thought was the essential and which has now become the unessential, to what we think is the essential, only to discover that also to be the unessen- tial. So through choice we think that we shall come to the fullness of action, to the completeness of life.
As I have said, to me perception or discernment is timeless. Time does not give you discernment of experiences; it makes you only more clever, more cunning, in meeting experiences. But if you perceive and live completely in the very thing that you are experiencing, then this idea of change from the unessential to the essential disappears, and so mind frees itself from the idea of progressive time.
You look to time to change you. You say to yourself, "Through the multiplication of experiences, as in changing from the desire for the hat to the desire for God, I shall learn wisdom, I shall learn understanding." In action born of choice there is no discernment, choice being calculation, a remembrance of incomplete action. That is, you now meet an experience partially, with a religious bias, with the prejudices of social or class distinctions, and this perverted mind, when it meets life, creates choice; it does not give you the fullness of understanding. But if you meet life with freedom, with openness, with simplicity, then choice disappears, for you live completely, without creating the conflict of opposites.
Question: What do you mean by living fully, openly, freely? Please give a practical example. Please also explain, with a practical example, how in the attempt to live fully, openly, and freely one becomes conscious of one's hindrances which prevent freedom, and how by becoming fully conscious of them one can be liberated from them.
Krishnamurti: Suppose I am a snob and am unconscious that I am a snob; that is, I have class prejudice, and I meet life, unconscious of this prejudice. Naturally, having my mind distorted by this idea of class distinction, I cannot understand, I cannot meet life openly, freely, simply. Or again, if I have been brought up with strong religious doctrines or with some particular training, my thoughts and emotions are perverted; with this background of prejudice I go forth to meet life, and this prejudice naturally prevents my complete understanding of life. In such a background of tradition and false values, of class distinction and religious bias, of fear and prejudice, we are caught. With that background, with those established standards, either inner or outer, we go forth trying to meet life and trying to understand. From these prejudices there arises conflict, transient joys and suffering. But we are unconscious of this, unconscious that we are slaves to certain forms of tradition, to social and political environment, to false values.
Now to free yourself from this slavery, I say, do not try to analyze the past, the background of tradition to which you are a slave and of which you are unconscious. If you are a snob, do not try to find out after your action is over whether you are a snob. Be fully aware, and through what you say and through what you do, the snobbery that you are unconscious of will come into activity; then you can be free of it, for this flame of awareness creates an intense conflict, which dissolves snobbery.
As I said the other day, self-analysis is destructive, because the more you analyze yourself the less there is of action. Self-analysis takes place only when the incident is over, when it has passed away; then you return to that incident intellectually and try intellectually to dissect it, to understand it. There is no understanding in a dead thing. Rather if you are fully conscious in your action, not as a watcher who only observes, but as an actor who is wholly consumed in that action - if you are fully aware of it and not apart from it, then the process of self-analysis does not exist. It does not exist because you are then meeting life wholly, you are then not separate from experience, and in that flame of awareness you bring into activity all your prejudices, all the false standards that have crippled your mind; and by bringing them into your full consciousness you free yourself from them, because they create trouble and conflict, and through that very conflict you are liberated.
We hold to the idea that time will give us understanding. To me this is but a prejudice, a hindrance. Now suppose you think about this idea for a moment - not accept it, but think it over and desire to find out if it is true. You will find then that you can test it only in action, not by theorizing about it. Then you will not ask if what I say is true - you will test it action. I say that time does not bring you understanding; when you look to time as a gradual process of unfoldment you are creating a hindrance. You can test this only through action; only in experience can you perceive whether this idea has any value in itself. But you will miss its deep significance if you try to use it as a means to something else. The idea of time as a process of unfoldment is a cultivated method of postponement. You do not meet the thing that confronts you because you are afraid; you do not want to meet experience wholly, either because of your prejudices or because of the desire to postpone.
When you have a twisted ankle, you cannot gradually untwist it. This idea that we learn through many and increasing experiences, through the multiplication of joy and suffering, is one of our prejudices, one of our hindrances. To find out if this is true, you have to act; you will never find out merely by sitting down and discussing about it. You can find out only in the movement of action, by seeing how your mind and heart react, not by shaping them, pushing them towards a particular end; then you will see that they are reacting according to the prejudice of accumulation. You say, "Ten years ago I was different; today I am different, and ten years hence I shall be still more different", but the meeting of experiences with the idea that you will be different, that you will gradually learn, prevents you from understanding them, from discerning instantaneously, fully.
Question: Would you also give a practical example of how self-analysis is destructive. Does your teaching at this point spring from your own experience?
Krishnamurti: First of all, I have not studied philosophies or the sacred books. I am giving you of my own experiences. I am often asked if I have studied the sacred books, philosophies, and other such writings. I have not. I am telling you what to me is truth, wisdom, and it is for you to find out, you who are learned. I think that in that very process of accumulation which we call learning lies our misfortune. When it is burdened with knowledge, with learning, mind is crippled - not that we must not read. But wisdom is not to be bought; it must be experienced in action. I think that answers the second part of the question.
I shall answer the question differently, and I hope that I shall explain it more clearly. Why do you think that you must analyze yourself? Because you have not lived fully in experiences, and that experience has created a disturbance in you. Therefore you say to yourself, "The next time I meet it I must be prepared, so let me look at that incident which is past, and I shall learn from it; then I shall meet the next experience fully, and it will not then trouble me." So you begin to analyze, which is an intellectual process, and therefore not wholly true; as you have not understood it completely, you say: "I have learned something from that past experience; now, with that little knowledge, let me meet the next experience from which I shall learn a little more." Thus you never live completely in the experience itself; this intellectual process of learning, accumulating, is always going on.
This is what you do every day, only unconsciously. You have not the desire to meet life harmoniously, completely; rather you think that you will learn to meet it harmoniously through analysis; that is, by adding little by little to the granary in the mind, you hope to become full, and to be able to meet life fully, wholly. But your mind will never become free through this process; full it may become - but never free, open, simple. And what prevents your being simple, open, is this constant process of analyzing an incident of the past, which must of necessity be incomplete. There can be complete understanding only in the very movement of experience itself. When you are in a great crisis, when there must be action, then you do not analyze, you do not calculate: you put all that aside, for in that moment your mind and heart are in creative harmony and there is true action.
Question: What is your view concerning religious, ceremonial, and occult practices - to mention only some activities that help mankind? Is your attitude to them merely one of complete indifference, or is it one of antagonism?
Krishnamurti: To take up such practices seems to me a waste of effort. When you say "practice", you mean following a method, a discipline, which you hope will give you the understanding of truth. I have said a great deal about this, and I have not the time to go into it fully again. The whole idea of following a discipline makes the mind and heart rigid and consistent. Having already laid down a plan of conduct and desiring to be consistent, you say to yourself, "I must do this and I must not do that", and your memory of that discipline is guiding you through life. That is, because of the fear of religious dogmas and the economic situation, you meet experiences partially, through the veil of these methods and disciplines. You meet life with fear, which creates prejudices; so there is incomplete understanding, and from this arise conflicts. And in order to overcome these conflicts you find a method, a discipline, according to which you judge, "I must" and "I must not." So, having established a consistency, a standard, you discipline yourself according to it through constant memory, and this you call self-discipline, occult practices. I say that such self-discipline, practice, this continual adjustment to a pattern or not adjusting to a standard, does not free the mind. What liberates the mind is meeting life fully, being fully aware, which does not demand practice. You cannot say to yourself, "I must be aware, I must be aware." Awareness comes in complete intensity of action. When you suffer greatly, when you enjoy greatly, at that moment you meet life with full awareness, and not with a divided consciousness; then you meet all things completely, and in this there is freedom.
With regard to religious ceremonies, the matter is very simple from my point of view. A ceremony is merely a glorified sensation. Some of you probably do not agree with this opinion. You know, it is with religious ceremonial as it is with worldly pomp: when a king holds court, the spectators are tremendously impressed and greatly exploited. The reason the majority of people go to church is to find comfort, to escape, to exploit and to be exploited; and if some of you have listened to what I have been saying during the last five or six days, you will have understood my attitude and action towards ceremonies.
"Is your attitude to them merely one of complete indifference, or is it one of antagonism?" My attitude is neither indifferent nor antagonistic. I say that they must ever hold the seed of exploitation, and therefore they are unintelligent and unrighteous.
Question: Since you do not seek followers, why then do you ask people to leave their religions and follow your advice? Are you prepared to take the consequences of such advice? Or do you mean that people need guidance? If not, why do you preach at all?
Krishnamurti: Sorry, I have never created such a thing as a follower. I have said to no one, "Leave your church and follow me." That would be but asking you to come to another church, into another prison. I say that by following another you become but a slave, unintelligent; you become a machine, an imitative automaton. In following another you can never find out what life is, what eternity is. I say that all following of another is destructive, cruel, leading to exploitation. I am concerned with the sowing of the seed. I am not asking you to follow. I say that the very following of another is the destruction of that life, that eternal becoming.
To put it differently, by following another you destroy the possibility of discovering truth, eternity. Why do you follow? Because you want to be guided, you want to be helped. You think that you cannot understand; therefore you go to another and learn his technique, and to his method you become a slave. You become the exploiter and the exploited, and yet you hope that by continually practising that method you will release creative thinking. You can never release creative thinking by following. It is only when you begin to question the very idea of following, of setting up authorities and worshipping them, that you can find out what is true; and truth shall free your mind and heart.
"Do you mean that people need guidance?" I say that people do not need guidance; they need awakening. If you are guided to certain righteous actions, those actions are no longer righteous; they are merely imitative, compelled. But if you yourself, through questioning, through continual awareness, discover true values - and you can only do this for yourself and none other - then the whole question of following, guidance, loses its significance. Wisdom is not a thing that comes through guidance, through following, through the reading of books. You cannot learn wisdom second hand, yet that is what you are trying to do. So you say, "Guide me, help me, liberate me." But I say, beware of the man who helps you, who liberates you.
"Why do you preach at all?" That is very simple: because I cannot help it, and also because there is so much suffering, so much joy that fades. For me there is an eternal becoming which is an ecstasy; and I want to show that this chaotic existence can be changed to orderly and intelligent co-operation in which the individual is not exploited. And this is not through an oriental philosophy, through sitting under a tree, drawing away from life, but quite the contrary; it is through the action which you find when you are fully awake, completely aware in great sorrow or joy. This flame of awareness consumes all the self-created hindrances that destroy and pervert the creative intelligence of man. But most people, when they experience suffering, seek immediate relief or try, through memory, to catch a fleeting joy. Thus their minds are constantly escaping. But I say, become aware, and you yourselves will free your minds from fear; and this freedom is the understanding of truth.
Question: Is your experience of reality something peculiar to this time? If not, why has it not been possible in the past?
Krishnamurti: Surely reality, eternity, cannot be conditioned by time. You mean to ask whether people have not searched and struggled after reality throughout the centuries. To me, that very struggle after truth has prevented them from understanding.
Question: You say that suffering cannot give us understanding, but can only awaken us. If that is so, why does not suffering cease when we have been fully awakened?
Krishnamurti: That is just it. We are not fully awakened through suffering. Suppose that someone dies. What happens? You want an immediate relief from that sorrow; so you accept an idea, a belief, or you seek amusements. Now what has happened? There has been true suffering, an awakened struggle, a shock, and to overcome that shock, that suffering, you have accepted an idea such as reincarnation, or faith in the hereafter, or belief in communication with the dead. These are all ways of escape. That is, when you are awakened there is conflict, struggle. which you call suffering; but immediately you want to put away that struggle, that awakening; you long for forgetfulness through an idea, a theory, or through an explanation, which is but a process of being put to sleep again.
So this is the everyday process of existence: you are awakened through the impact with life, experience, which causes suffering, and you want to be comforted; so you seek out people, ideas, explanations, to give you comfort, satisfaction, and this creates the exploiter and the exploited. But if in that state of acute questioning, which is suffering, if in that state of awakened interest, you meet experiences completely, then you will find out the true value and significance of all the human shelters and illusions which you have created; and the understanding of them alone will free you from suffering. Question: What is the shortest way to get rid of our worries and troubles and our hard feelings and reach happiness and freedom?
Krishnamurti: There is no shortest way; but hard feelings, worries and troubles themselves liberate you if you are not trying to escape from them through the desire for freedom and happiness. You say that you want freedom and happiness, because hard feelings and troubles are difficult to bear. So you are merely running away from them, you don't understand why they exist; you don't understand why you have worries, why you have troubles, hard feelings, bitterness, suffering, and passing joy. And since you don't understand, you want to know the shortest way out of the confusion. I say, beware of the man who shows you the shortest way out. There is no way out of suffering and trouble except through that suffering and trouble itself. This is not a hard saying; you will understand it if you think it over. The moment you stop trying to escape you will understand; you cannot but understand, for then you are no longer entangled in explanations. When all explanations have ceased, when they no longer have any meaning, then truth is. Now you are seeking explanations; you are seeking the shortest way, the quickest method; you are looking to practices, to ceremonials, to the newest theory of science. These are all escapes. But when you really understand the illusion of escape, when you are wholly confronting the thing that creates conflict within you, then that very thing will release you.
Now life creates great disturbance in you, problems of possession, sex, hatred. So you say, "Let me find a higher life, a divine life, a life of non-possession, a life of love." But your very striving for such a life is but an escape from these disturbances. If you become aware of the falseness of escape, which you can understand only when there is conflict, then you will see how your mind is accustomed to escape. And when you have ceased to escape, when your mind is no longer seeking an explanation, which is but a drug, then that very thing from which you have been trying to escape reveals its full significance. This understanding frees the mind and heart from sorrow.
Question: Have you no faith whatever in the power of Divinity that shapes the destiny of man? If not, are you then an atheist? Krishnamurti: The belief that there is a Divinity that can shape man is one of the hindrances of man; but when I say that, it does not mean that I am an atheist. I think the people who say they believe in God are atheists, not only those who do not believe in God, because both are slaves to a belief.
You cannot believe in God; you have to believe in God only when there is no understanding, and you cannot have understanding by searching for it. Rather, when your mind is really free from all values, which have become the very centre of ego consciousness, then there is God. We have an idea that some miracle will change us; we think that some divine or external influence will bring about changes in ourselves and in the world. We have lived in that hope for centuries, and that is what is the matter with the world - complete chaos, irresponsibility in action, because we think someone else is going to do everything for us. To discard this false idea does not mean that we must turn to its opposite. When we free the mind from opposites, when we see the falseness of the belief that someone else is looking after us, then a new intelligence is awakened in us.
You want to know what God is, what truth is, what eternal life is; so you ask me, "Are you an atheist or a theist? If you are a believer in God, then tell me what God is." I say the man who describes what truth or God is, to him truth does not exist. When it is put in the cage of words, then truth is no longer a living reality. But if you understand the false values in which you are held, if you free yourself from them, then there is an everliving reality.
Question: When we know that our way of living will inevitably disgust others and produce complete misunderstanding in their minds, how should we act, if we are to respect their feelings and their points of view?
Krishnamurti: This question seems so simple that I do not see where the difficulty is. "How should we act in order not to trouble others?" Is that what you want to know? I am afraid then we should not be acting at all. If you live completely, your actions may cause trouble; but what is more important: finding out what is true, or not disturbing others? This seems so simple that it hardly needs to be answered. Why do you want to respect other people's feelings and points of view? Are you afraid of having your own feelings hurt, your point of view being changed? If people have opinions that differ from yours, you can find out if they are true only by questioning them, by coming into active contact with them. And if you find that those opinions and feelings are not true, your discovery may cause disturbance to those who cherish them. Then what should you do? Should you comply with them, or compromise with them in order not to hurt your friends?
Question: Do you think that pure food has anything to do with the fulfillment of your ideas of life? Are you a vegetarian? (Laughter)
Krishnamurti: You know, humour is impersonal. I hope that the questioner is not hurt when people laugh. If I am a vegetarian, what of it? It is not what goes into your mouth that will free you, but the finding out of true values, from which arises complete action.
Question: Your message of disinterested remoteness, detachment, has been preached in all ages and in many faiths to a few chosen disciples. What makes you think that this message is now fit for everyone in a human society where there is of necessity interdependence in all social actions?
Krishnamurti: I am very sorry, but I have never said that one should be remotely disinterested, that one should be detached; quite the contrary. So first please understand what I say, and then see if it has any value.
Let us take the question of detachment. You know, for centuries we have been gathering, accumulating, making ourselves secure. Intellectually you may see the foolishness of possessiveness, and say to yourself, "Let me be detached." Or rather, you don't see the foolishness of it; so you begin to practise detachment, which is but another way of gathering in, laying up. For if you really perceive the foolishness of possessiveness, then you are free from both detachment and its opposite. The result is not a remote inactivity, but rather, complete action. You know, we are slaves to legislation. If a law were passed tomorrow decreeing that we should not possess property, we should be forced to comply with it, with a good deal of kicking. In that also there would be security, security in non-possession. So I say, do not be the plaything of legislation, but find out the very thing to which you are a slave - that is, acquisitiveness. Find out its true significance, without escaping into detachment; how it gives you social distinctions, power, leading to an empty, superficial life. If you relinquish possessions without understanding them, you will have the same emptiness in non-possession - the sensation of security in asceticism, in detachment, which will become the shelter to which you will withdraw in times of conflict. As long as there is fear there must be the pursuit of opposites; but if the mind frees itself from the very cause of fear, which is self-consciousness, the "I", the limited consciousness, then there is fulfillment, completeness of action.
1933, The Art of Listening
4th Public Talk. Frognerseteren, Norway; 12th September, 1933
Jiddu Krishnamurti. The Art of Listening. The collected works of J.Krishnamurti, 1933.