The Observer is the Observed
Madras, India. Public Talk 22nd October, 1947
As I am going to talk every Sunday for many Sundays, I think it will be best if I very carefully and slowly develop the ideas which I have. I shall try to make my points as clear as possible during this and subsequent talks every Sunday at 5 p.m.
Most of us are used to listening to talks, and I hope you will not reduce these talks to the level of mere talks to which you attend and which are of no consequence afterwards in your daily life, because I feel that at the present time the world is in such chaos, in such a mess in such an extraordinary catastrophic strain that it requires a new outlook, a revolutionary way of thinking about the problems that surround us every day. So it seems to me that it is very important that we, every one of us should understand the catastrophe that is around us. Verbally we are aware that there is a catastrophe. We read about it in the newspapers, in the magazines. Every person we talk to makes us aware of the approaching catastrophe. If you look at it more closely, you will see that there is chaos and confusion in the political world, and the leaders are themselves confused. Not only here, but everywhere. When talking about the catastrophe, I am not talking about the Indian catastrophe only. India is only a part of the whole world and therefore to regard the Indian problem as the only problem seems to me to be out of proportion and gives it a false emphasis which it does not have. So, this is a world problem and we must look at it in the large and not in the particular. We must see the whole picture and not a part of it and our difficulty will be to see the whole rather than the particular. Because we are surrounded by the national, by the immediate, it seems to me that to understand it, we must approach it not from the particular but must try to understand the catastrophe that exists around us. So, I always say that there is a crisis in every phase of our life, physically, religiously, socially and educationally. Politically we see that there is no solution through nationalism, through division of peoples and through separate Governments. But, we see that the contrary is taking place. We had our faith in the League of Nations, but that failed and we see the U.N.O. quickly failing. So we look to the political leaders to solve our difficulties.
In the religious field also it is the same. We can almost say that religion has failed. The organized religions throughout the world, whether the Christian, the Hindu, or the Buddhist, have nothing real to say about this enormous catastrophe. And this catastrophe is not temporary, not a passing one, not one of those economic crises as in 1929 and various other social upheavals that took place. A catastrophe like this happens very rarely. It is a catastrophe of the highest degree and if you had talks or discussions with many people, you would discover that this catastrophe cannot be compared with any that happened before. Perhaps there have been one or two other catastrophes similar to this, but the fundamental values have been destroyed and new ones have to be created. If you are a student of history and if you look at it you will find that there have been but one or two such enormous catastrophes as the present one.
We have to consider Man as a whole: psychologically, sociologically and economically. Everything is uncertain and we are all trying to solve this problem on our own special level. That is, the economist tries to solve the economic problem on his own level and his own plane and therefore he can never have a solution for it. Again, the politician tries to solve it on his own level and he will never succeed, because the economic crisis, the political crisis, the various problems that surround us every day have to be solved on a different plane and that is where I feel revolution must take place.
So, as this crisis is extraordinary, most people try to solve it by formulae, by systems either of the extreme left or of the extreme right. We have a formula either of the left or of the right or something in between both and we try to apply it to solve the difficulty. It is so, is it not? If you are a socialist, you have the formula and with that formula you approach the problem and with that formula you try to solve it. But you notice it, But you notice that you can only solve a static problem by a formula and no problem is ever static because there are so many influences, so many actions upon it, that it is constantly changing. And therefore, no formula of any kind can ever solve a dynamic problem. And yet that is what we are trying to do. The left and the right are trying to solve it within the framework of certain formulae, certain set ideas. But the formulae can never solve anything. Systems have never solved anything, nor brought about a revolution. A revolution has been brought about by creative thinkers, not by mere followers. So what is required at the present time, I feel, is not a new formula, not a new system, neither of the left nor of the right, but a different approach, and that is important. If you have a problem what matters is how you approach it. If you approach it with a fixed mentality, with set ideas, you will not solve the problem, because the problem is not static. It is constantly undergoing a change and the fact that it cannot be solved by mere formulae seems to be obvious and I hope it will be obvious to you by the time I finish with these talks.
What I feel important in this is that each one of us should solve this problem and not leave it to the leaders. This problem, this catastrophe requires, not static thinking but revolutionary thinking, a thinking which is not based on any ideology, whether of Hinduism, Nationalism or Capitalism. It requires a change in our thinking. And so, the approach to the problem becomes all important. The `how' is more important than `action'. So, to know how to approach this catastrophe is more important than what to do about it. That `how' can only be understood, when we are capable of looking at the problem through ourselves and not through formula. That is, as it is a world catastrophe, it requires a mind that is capable of looking at it without any prejudice. You cannot look at it as a Brahmin or as a Mussalman, as a Christian or as a Buddhist. Because we have looked at it in the past in this way we have brought about this crisis. Because of tradition and other absurdities among us, we have brought about this problem and if we approach the problem with the same mentality, we shall not clarify or understand it, but only further it. It is, as if we were standing near a precipice with our minds biased, and we have come to that bias through centuries of division, communal and social, rich and poor; divisions of formulae, organized religious divisions and so on have brought us to this appalling misery and `confusion'. If we would understand it, we must go away from the precipice and look at the problem. We cannot stand at the precipice, at the edge of the precipice and try to solve the problem. On the contrary, we must completely abandon those causes which have brought us to that stage and look at the problem from a distance and that is where our difficulty is. We know the catastrophe, we know the sociological causes of the wars that have been fought and the wars that are going to be fought. Preparations are going on with marvellous skill for the third war and you and I know that is the edge of the precipice. I do not think India is going to escape from it. Most of us realize, how comparatively serious the whole thing is. We read about it all in the papers but are distracted away by our immediate demands and pleasures and pains. But the catastrophe is enormously serious and that is why if we would salvage something out of this catastrophe, we would become very serious and feel sorry for the absurdities of class divisions and the like. If the problem were serious enough we would do something about it. If you had a toothache you would do something immediately. But this pain is much greater and more grievous than a toothache. It is more continuous, more distant and that is why we are doing nothing. We are looking to leaders, gurus, formulae, systems, etc., we look either to Moscow or to Washington. So, we are at the edge of it and we have to confront it.
This catastrophe has been brought about by each one of us. We are confused within us and that confusion manifests itself in the outer. So, each one, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, is responsible for this misery. Neither the capitalist nor the socialist can escape from it, and each one is responsible for it. Since we have brought about this catastrophe, each one of us is responsible and must confront it. That is what is called bringing about a new way of thinking, a new way of looking and therefore it is important to realize how extraordinarily vital is an individual at the present time. Please differentiate between the individual and individualistic action. Individualistic action takes place when the individual acts as a part and not as a whole. That is, when he is thinking in terms of power, greed and position, then he is acting individualistically. This has led to this crisis, and when he acts as a whole being, that is, individually, then such an action has immense significance. We will discuss this as we go along, every Sunday.
What I want to do this evening is more or less briefly and simply to put to you in resume the formulation of some of these ideas. So, as I say, since the individual is confused, you are confused. Since you as an individual are confused you are bound to spread confusion. Your State, your Government, your Religion, each one of these is bound to be confused because you are the State and you bring about your Society. The Society is the relationship between two individuals and that Society that is produced shares the greed, the lust for power and all the rest of it. So the confusion is in us and it projects itself in action into the world and we create the world crisis. After all war is only an outward and spectacular result of our daily life. So, if we do not transform our daily life and bear responsibility for it, not superficially but fundamentally, really and profoundly, we cannot escape from this chaos that is coming. And therefore, for me, the importance of the individual is supreme, but not as the individual in opposition to Society, in opposition to the whole. I think we should be very clear about this point. When we regard the individual and his function in society we have to consider the individual as a whole and not only the individual's activity which may be antisocial. It is a worldwide problem and it is exactly the same in America, in Europe and Damascus. I heard two Syrians talking about this problem in French in the same way as you and I talk here. Because you and I have brought about this catastrophe, we should be responsible for it, because no leader, no guru, no politician, no teacher is going to save us. Since the problem is vital and is constantly undergoing change, no formulae can solve it.
So what is required is right thinking. Right thinking is not a formula. It is not based on any system. Right thinking can only take place when there is self-knowledge, that is, when the individual understands his total position and that is where we will find the greatest difficulty. To understand something requires an intensity, an unnatural intellectual intensity. Your approach is going to be the most difficult job as you are not used to thinking as a whole but only used to thinking compartmentally. So right thinking seems to me to be the solution for the present chaos and right thinking cannot come either through any formula or through following anybody. Right thinking can only take place through self-knowledge, that is, knowing yourself. To know yourself you have to study yourself. If one is to understand oneself he must cease to condemn. If you understand something you must not compare it with something else. You must study it by itself. If you would understand it you must not judge or condemn or identify yourself with it. If you would understand and if you condemn, surely you would put a stop to understanding altogether. If you would understand yourself the whole process being physiological as well as psychological we must approach it without condemnation which is an extraordinarily difficult task. I do not know if you have ever tried it or experimented with it yourself, to see how far you can understand yourself.
The religious person will state that he is god, and the extreme left-winger that he is nothing but a set of reactions. Therefore they have reached conclusions and stopped all real thinking; their actions are not based on right thinking and therefore not resulting from self-knowledge. Self-knowledge is not possible if there is any sense of condemnation or identification. In other words, relationship with one or with the many is a process of self-revolu- tion through self-knowledge. And it is only right thinking which can create a new set of values which will completely, supersede the false set of values, not by replacing old values with new formulae, but with the values that you have discovered and which were not handed down to you by a guru, by a political leader, by a swami, by this or that person, values that you have through your self-awareness discovered. It is in the present there is right thinking and that is going to solve the world-chaos and that means you have to withdraw from the base and become a centre of right thinking. Surely this is what has happened always in those moments, in those times when the world had to face such crises. There were a few who, seeing the confusion and the impossibility of altering that catastrophe, withdrew and formed groups. Who is going to take the trouble nowadays to settle down and very seriously think of the whole problem? Those who study, study by a formula, limited by conditioning. But there are very few who study the chaos without a system, without being conditioned and it is they who are going to save, because they will be the creators and I hope that during these coming weeks it will be possible for us to be really serious, to discover this creative thinking, which is the real discovery of truth, but this creation cannot be formulated. What is creation? Deep meditation and self-abnegation, as it is to most of us? Because we create an image and live in that image that is not God. We invite Reality, but Reality cannot be invited. It must come. To let it come there must be the right feeling, that is, mind must put away all the things that it knows, which is an enormously difficult task and without that reality, whatever action we do on the precipice is futile. So it is my intention, during my talks, to consider with those who are really serious and help them to experience directly this creative reality.
To do that we shall have to arrange discussions every other day here between 7:30 in the morning and 9.00. But what is important in these talks and discussions is to be really earnest, because earnestness is not a matter created, a matter of environmental cause. Then earnestness becomes merely transient. But if we realize this chaos, misery and appalling suffering, it will make us serious. And it is this seriousness and earnestness that are required, to solve this problem.
I have been given two or three questions and I shall try to answer them.
Question: The communist believes that on guaranteeing food, clothing and shelter to every individual and abolishing private property a state can be created in which we can live happily. What do you say about it?
Krishnamurti: I wonder what you would say? I also wonder whether you have ever thought about this problem. it will be extraordinarily interesting to find out what you would think about it. it is your problem also because we do need clothes, food and shelter. We need to organize that on a world-scale not just on a communal scale, which means we need people who are not thinking in terms of nationalism etc., but thinking in terms of man. Not in terms of formulae but in terms of human happiness, and not as the people that have and the people that have not. There are millions and millions without any food, clothing and shelter not only in this country, but in Germany, in America and all over the world, and the communist says that we have the means to solve this problem and that is your responsibility to do. Those of you who believe in God, in religion, what is your response? You must have a reply? Since all of you cannot reply I have to go on.
Obviously we have to organize a world-pool of food, clothing and shelter so that every human being in the world has enough, and I assure you it can be done, if scientists devote their time to it. They are at present interested only in destroying each other, in the discovery of the atomic power. So if there are means to produce enough food, enough shelter, enough clothing for al human beings, why is it not possible? Because each one wants to be at the head of distribution. Each nation wants to be at the top. Surely, it is so simple to organize for the whole of man whether American, Hindu or any other, enough clothing and shelter but that is prevented by greed and when we are capable of getting rid of greed we can organize it. But it is not so simple. Life is much more complex than distributing to the few or organizing for the many. In the organizing for the many, the psychological, the hidden factors come into being and therefore life is not dependent on `bread alone' but on a much greater factor that controls bread. `We do not live by bread alone'. We live by far deeper psychological factors which must be taken into account before we can organize and bring about a change not based upon any formula. What is required is to understand these new psychological factors which are brought into being and which transform our lives.
And so man does not live by bread alone but by deeper factors and if we do not study those deeper factors and understand them it is impossible to organize the distribution of food, clothing and shelter for all. So where do we lay the emphasis? Surely that is an important question. Is it on bread or on those subtle hidden factors which dominate and are capable of organizing for bread. Where is your emphasis? Obviously in a man who is really wanting to provide food, clothes or shelter and not merely on an amazing formula or creed. it is surely the psychological factor that is more important than bread. I am not laying down anything dogmatically. We can discuss this during the coming several weeks. But if we merely adhered to the formula with all its implications, then as has been over and over again proved by history, it would be futile.
After all what is the State? What is Government? it represents the relationship of individuals. If our relationship is based on greed, competition etc., we will have Government that will represent us. This is an obviously simple fact. You need not read history to find this out. And if we do not lay emphasis on the right issue but are merely carried away by issues of secondary importance, how can we succeed? To lay emphasis on something that is of secondary importance rather than on the major issues is to produce confusion and perhaps that is the interest of those who want to gain power.
So in order to bring about a happy state for man, that is, for you and me, and since we do not live by bread alone, we have to understand the psychological factors, the complexities that exist in each one of us; and we must free ourselves from such conditioning as greed for power. Without understanding all this, to organize for bread becomes impossible. So without transformation of the individual there will be no happiness for man and if you are not willing to change, then surely you have vested interests in religion, in property, in ideals and so on. Since you have vested interests and since you cannot be shaken, the extreme left winger says `destroy them'. What is important in all this is, to take each problem as a whole, not as a part, and try to solve the problem. In part you can never find the solution but you can find the solution only by understanding the problem as a whole.
Question: Mahatma Gandhi and others believe that the time has come when men of goodwill, the just, the wise men should join together to organize to fight the present crisis. Are you not escaping from this duty as most of our spiritual leaders are doing?
Krishnamurti: It is obviously necessary that men of goodwill all over the world should come together. That goes without saying. But how can they come together. We want to do something fundamentally and also peacefully. Our function is to do something because we are good at heart. But individually the good at heart have also formulae. They want to act in a certain way and then we begin. Then we find we cannot get on. Men of goodwill should not have formulae. They should be above formulae and not be part of any system. And that is where we find the difficulty. First of all I do not believe in leadership. I think the very idea of leading somebody is antisocial, anti-spiritual, and with that idea I wish to explain my position.
First of all, as I said during the talk, any action on the edge of the precipice will only create further confusion for the very reason that we are at the edge of the precipice, that we are confused. And action out of confusion cannot produce good results but will only further the confusion. So what we can do is to move away from the confusion, that is, the confusion within ourselves. And that is what I am doing; moving away from confusion, political, spiritual, psychological and helping those who want to withdraw from that confusion. But in order to understand the confusion they must look at it and it requires enormous thinking. Surely such a person is not an escapist. How can you act when you yourself are in confusion? How can you bring about clarity if you are blind and how can you lead anybody? When a man realizes that he is blind and confused he should first free himself from confusion and from those bondages which are binding and blinding him. To act without the clarification is to create further misery and the idea of following is really very important. The idea of having a leader should be really understood. We have been led, socially, economically, religiously by our leaders. You may ask negatively: but for them, what would have been our condition? Is it not an important question to ask? is it not the fact that we are being led which shows our incapacity to think for ourselves, to live rightly for ourselves. We depend on somebody to tell us how to act, how to think, in other words our system of upbringing is based on what to think and not how to think and hence we need leaders. And I assure you the present chaos does not demand new leaders. It does demand something totally different, that is, for each individual to become a light to himself and not be dependent on somebody else. And that requires great effort and understanding on the part of each one of us. So, men of goodwill are many in the world. If you really come down to facts you and I are men of goodwill at moments. We want to live peacefully in the world. But so many influences and conditions have overpowered us and it is from these we have to free ourselves. That depends naturally on each one of us and not on somebody else. So, that means that men of goodwill must also be free from conditioning, from nationalistic and communalistic ideals. They must cease to be nationalistic. They must cease to think as Brahmins, Muslims, Christians and so on. They must have no definite formula. For that is what is preventing us from coming together. If you are a Hindu you want to express your goodwill within the framework of Hinduism and where will that lead you? The same applies to the Christian, the Mussalman and so on. And therefore we are back to the whole problem which is much more difficult than it appears superficially.
By all means men of goodwill should come together. But they do not unfortunately, because they all have the conditioning which society has imposed upon them and that is why I am saying that we should free ourselves from those conditionings and think in new terms. And it is for you to begin and not for the leader or the men of goodwill. It is you who have to live with your neighbour and not the leader.
So in all these questions what is important, it seems to me, is the primary issue; we must not be confused with secondary problems. The primary issue is you and not somebody else. Because we have given ourselves over to the guru, to the political leader, to a theory, we have created in ourselves a state of confusion. Because one theory can be superseded by another theory and one leader can supersede another leader, we get confused. The intellectuals have failed. Their theories have also failed and if we depend on leaders we shall only plunge further into misery and drag humanity too with us. To resist the absurdities of leadership is extraordinarily difficult because we are lazy and because we hope somebody else will solve the problem. So it is important for us to realize the fact that not someone else but we are responsible for this misery and no leader can transform it. To understand this, requires extraordinary effort but we waste our energies in such absurd ways that we cannot tackle the problem fully and completely.
Question: Young men have said to me again and again: We are frustrated, we do not know what we are to do in the present crisis. Our leaders are unable to lead us as they are themselves confused. We expected so much from political independence and from the settlement with the Muslim league.
Krishnamurti: There are so many questions involved in this question. So one has to take them one by one. First of all: `we are frustrated'. You know the meaning of frustration. You want something and you cannot get it and you feel lost and you feel that you have been prevented from getting it. You want to get a job and cannot get it and you feel frustrated. You want to marry a woman and you cannot do that and you feel frustrated, prevented or held back. I want to have power and position and I am thwarted and I feel lost, and a wall has arisen between me and that which I want to gain.
Before you say that you feel frustrated you must find out if ever you are in a position when you are not frustrated. As it is, you get all you want, yet you want something more. So there is constant frustration. It is constant because of emptiness, because you feel empty, economically, psychologically and spiritually empty. You think you can fill that emptiness by getting what you want. But if you examine very closely you will find that you can never fill that emptiness. We have tried to, by much study, by science, through various means of destruction, by pursuing gurus. But as you cannot fill that void you feel frustrated. That is a psychological fact.
Now what is this emptiness? Have you ever examined it? To understand it you must cease trying to fill it. It is like a man filling a bucket with a hole in it. It is always leaking and it can never be filled and you will say that such a man is unbalanced.
In this problem itself is the answer and not away from it. So, if we understood the process of frustration and its implications, the questions could be answered comparatively simply.
Our leaders are unable to lead us; we expected so much from political independence, and from the settlement with the Muslim League. We come back to the same problem. Who creates the leader? You create him, because you want somebody to tell you what to do. Because we are too lazy to think out what we want, and always like to be told by another. Psychologically he becomes your master and because you are confused he is also confused. So out of our confusion we project. When the leader is confused we blame him. We do not blame ourselves but only blame somebody else.
We expected so much from the settlement with the Muslim League. Do you mean to say that through separation you can find any solution? You may get better jobs. it is like this. Once you allow war, which is the major evil, minor evils will follow. Once you admit division between peoples, between groups, between Brahmins and the rest, you create further confusion, and a settlement based on divisions of people is no solution at all. This has been proved over and over again through history, and still we are doing it.
So when you look at all these problems of distribution of food, of men of goodwill and of frustration, you will see that they are all closely interrelated. We have not seen the interrelationship, because we have tried to solve each problem separately on its own level. The only solution to conflict and confusion is after all Truth which liberates. To let Reality or Truth come to you, you have to be free from bondages. Not only from the subtle bondages and the obvious ones, but also from nationalism, communalism etc. If we work at this we will bring about clarity in ourselves.
The Observer is the Observed
Madras, India. Public Talk 22nd October, 1947
Jiddu Krishnamurti texts. The Observer Is the Observed. Contains reports of spontaneous discourses about life and reality, given at different times between 1945 and 1948.