The Observer is the Observed
Madras, India. Public Talk 23rd November, 1947
I think we ought to spend some time considering what is right listening. I think there is an art to listening. Most of us are accustomed to translate what is being said into our own terms, interpret it according to our own understanding, our background, our tradition. Is it not possible to listen as though we had no background at all, merely listen as we would listen to a song or music? You are not interpreting music when you are listening. You are listening to the silence in between two notes; you are attentive and sufficiently relaxed, sufficiently focussed to give your whole attention without any effort, because you feel a tremendous interest. Likewise when there is right communication - right communication exists only when there is affection, love - there is immediate response. There is no translation, there is no interpretation, there is comprehension at the same time, on the same level, but it is very rare to find people who love each other so completely that there is complete understanding. Most people meet, but on different levels and at different times, whereas what we are trying to do is not only to listen, but also at the same time to be creative, which is not merely following or accepting or denying verbally, but to experiment within yourself with what is being said as though you were following your own thoughts sufficiently alertly and yet silently. But the difficulty is that we do not know how to listen, how to see, and how to hear because when a thing that is said is new, we put it into old bottles, fit it into old terminologies and therefore we spoil it, like `new wine put into old bottles'. What happens when you put new wine into old bottles? Fermentation starts and the bottles break and yet, I am afraid that is what most of us are doing. We do not approach our experience anew. We approach it anew only when there is a tremendous interest, when there is great love it is something new every second and not a continuation of the old or an interpretation according to a pattern or a system of thought.
So, if I may suggest, it would be worth. while if we could listen with that peculiar quality of creative attention, as though we were meeting something anew. As I said over and over again, a truth that is repeated ceases to be a truth and by merely hearing it, it becomes a repetition, which you translate into your own terms, which you fit into particular channels with which you are familiar and so it ceases to be the truth. Whereas if you listen with that intense creative understanding, creative stillness, which is not interpretation, then it is your truth and that is what liberates you and gives you freedom, gives you happiness. We miss that happiness, that creative joy, if we merely translate or absorb the old books, or hear the words of some teacher or saint. So, there can be happiness only when the mind is capable of receiving the new, but as our mind is the result of the old, it is extremely difficult to listen as though we have never heard it before. I do not know if you have listened to the songs of the birds in the morning. You must have. You never compare it to yesterday's song. It is new, it is something very lovely because your mind is fresh, untroubled by the day's activities and so is capable of hearing it as if for the first time even though the song is as old as the hills. Similarly, please listen to whatever I am saying as though you were hearing it anew, and you will see an extraordinary thing taking place in yourself, because happiness is not something that is old, but happiness is something that is constantly renewing itself.
As I said last week, what is sought through an object or material or psychological, can never yield happiness. In that case what seems happiness is merely gratification which is always impermanent. So to understand happiness or to be happy, we must understand the process of becoming happy and that is what we are all trying to do. We are trying to become happy. We are trying to become virtuous. We are trying to become cleverer than we are. So if we can understand the becoming and the being, then perhaps we shall understand what happiness is.
Surely becoming and being are two wholly different states. Becoming is continuous and have you noticed that that which is continuous is always binding. Relationship is binding if it is merely continuous, if it is merely a habit. If it is merely a gratification, it is merely a habit. The moment it ceases to be continuous, there is a new quality in relationship and if you go into it further you will see that where there is continuity, habit, a thought process which is moving from continuity to continuity, there is always a bond of friction, of pain; yet if we do not understand this continuity, which is the becoming there is no being. You never say to yourself, `I will become happy'. So, being can only be understood, when becoming ceases.
To put it differently, after all, virtue gives freedom. Have you ever noticed that an immoral man is stupid, because he is caught, he is miserable; while the really virtuous are free and happy and are not becoming something but being. That is, there can be freedom only in virtue, because it is orderly, clear and free but a man who is not virtuous is disorderly and unclear and his mind is confused. So virtue is not an end in itself, but it creates that freedom without which reality cannot exist; but when we translate virtue as a means of becoming, then there is friction. So becoming and being virtuous are two wholly different states. Virtue is understanding, is it not? That which you understand brings freedom. That which you do not understand creates confusion, darkness and so on. The moment you understand something there is virtue. So, is understanding to come through effort, or is there a state in which effort has ceased for understanding to be? Does understanding come through effort, or does understanding come when there is no effort? Have you tested it or tried it? If I want to understand what you are saying, must I make an effort to listen? When I make an effort there are distractions. Then, distractions become more important than listening. Not being interested in what you are saying, I have to make an effort not to be distracted, in order to listen. Whereas if there is interest, if there is communion, then there is no effort. Now, you are listening to me without effort. The moment you make an effort, you have ceased to understand.
After all when you see a picture or a painting, do you make an effort? If you want to criticize, to compare, or to find out who painted it, then you have to make an effort. If you really want to understand, you sit quietly in front of it, if the picture appeals to you. In that quietness in which there is no distraction, you understand the beauty of the picture.
So, surely virtue comes without any effort. But since our whole existence is based on effort, we must find out why we are making an effort, why this constant trouble, why this incessant battle to be something. To be something is what we are striving all day long, consciously or unconsciously. We strive to become something. I wonder if you have ever asked yourself why we are striving. Is striving inevitable? Is striving part of existence and what do we mean by making an effort. Essentially it is to be something other than what we are. Is it not so? You see what is and you do not like it and you want to be something else. The essential reason behind all effort is the desire to transform what is into something which is to be. I am stupid and I am striving to become clever. Can stupidity ever become cleverness or must stupidity merely cease? If we can understand that, we shall understand the whole significance of making an effort. That is, we are afraid to face what is. We are afraid to understand what is and therefore we always strive to transform, to move, to change. Surely a rose is not striving. It is what it is. In the very being there is a kind of creation. It does not desire to be other than what is. It knows no strife other than the natural strife to live. With us, there is not only the natural struggle to survive, that is, for food, clothing and shelter, but there is the struggle to transform that which is. Yet we do not understand that which is.
So the difficulty is to understand what is and a mind cannot understand what is, if it is distracted, if it is seeking something other than what is, if it is trying to transform what is into something else. Is not our whole education based on that? Are not our religious conceptions and formulae rooted in that? You are this and you must become that, you are greedy and you must become non-greedy, and therefore strive, strain and struggle to become that. But, if you understood what is, there is no striving. If you are greedy and if you really understood what greed is, then there is no becoming non-greedy. But to understand what greed is you have to give your whole attention, you have to be significantly aware of its extensional values. We won't understand as long as we are striving to change what is into something which is more desirable.
Take a very simple example. If one is stupid and one tries to become clever, can one become clever? You would say `yes', yet can one become clever by passing examinations, by studying and acquiring knowledge and sharpening one's mind? Surely not. That person is still stupid. Greed can never become non-greed. Only when greed, stupidity, etc., cease, is there virtue, intelligence, a state in which there is no greed, no stupidity. Only when I know that I am stupid, will I begin to have intelligence. But, merely to strive after cleverness is not intelligence. Do you need to make an effort in order to understand what is? You make an effort only when you are distracted. Our whole tendency, educationally, spiritually, socially is based on transforming what is into something other than what is. We have spent our days and our energies in transforming what is without understanding what is. Is it not extraordinary, if we look at it in that way? How can you transform anything without understanding what is? To understand what is. surely you must not suppress it, you must not control it, but merely look at it without condemnation or justification. Surely, suppression or discipline do not bring understanding. They only distract from what is. Whereas, if we spent all that energy which we now waste by striving to change what is, in understanding what is, we would find an extraordinary transformation, which is not the result of effort, but the result of understanding. Understanding comes only when there is no effort, when there is a stillness, and when there is no striving to be other than what is.
Question: What is the difference between introspection and awareness?
Krishnamurti: Introspection begins when there is the desire to change the self. I introspect myself in order to transform, modify, change myself into something. That is why we look into ourselves. I am unhappy and I look into myself to find the cause of unhappiness. To introspect is to look into oneself, to change oneself, to modify oneself according to environmental and religious demands. What happens in that process? In that process there is condemnation. I do not like this and I must become that. I am greedy and I must change to be non-greedy. I am angry and I must become peaceful. By that strife you begin to modify. But the effort becomes tyrannic, does it not? This introspection leads nowhere. Have you tried to become introspective? Is there not a continuity in introspection and therefore a bondage? Every experience is translated according to the pattern of the self, which is always examining, translating, interpreting, putting away things which it does not like and accepting things which it wants. So, introspection is a constant struggle to change what is, whereas awareness is the recognition of what is and therefore the understanding of what is. You cannot recognize or understand something when you condemn it. You can understand only when you are observant, when you are not dissecting or pulling apart to see what is. It is only when you are quiet that what is begins to unfold.
Let us take an example and I hope I can make it clearer. When the man of introspection, is aware that he is greedy, what is his reaction? It is one of condemnation, is it not? Or it may be a denial or a justification. He wants to change it, that is, to change the quality of greed which is painful or pleasant. He either identifies himself with it and therefore pursues it or he denies it and puts it aside. Therefore the reaction is always one of justification, condemnation or identification because he is always translating what is in terms of becoming. This is what we are doing in our daily life, and we are spending our life in this constant transformation of what is, that is, we are striving to be free from greed and still we are greedy, we are confused and weary. After all, the action of a man of introspection is residual, his action springs always from the residue of yesterday, whereas for the man of awareness there is no residual response. He is simply aware, which means, he is not translating, not condemning, not justifying and not identifying himself with anything and therefore his response is non-residual, it is spontaneous. So, there is a great deal of difference between residual response and awareness, the one is a becoming and therefore a constant strife, and the other is being aware of what is and therefore understanding what is and going above and beyond what is, which the introspector can never do.
So, if you really go into it very deeply you will see the extraordinary creative quality of being aware and the destructive quality of introspection. The man of introspection, the introvert, which is unfortunately, a psychoanalytical phrase, is a man who is concerned with changing what is and he can never be creative. He is only concerned with improving himself and he can never be free. He is only moving within the fortress of his own desires and therefore he can never find reality. He is never happy. Reality will shun him because he is immersed in the idea of becoming righteous. You know that a respectable man, a righteous man, is a curse, which does not mean that the sinner is not also a curse. But at least the sinner is aware and is inquiring and therefore there is a possibility that he will see more than the man who is respectable in his enclosure. Whereas a man of awareness understands directly what is, and in that understanding of what is, there is an extraordinary transformation, an instantaneous transformation, which is creation.
Question: Do you believe in immortality?
Krishnamurti: What do you mean by a belief? Why do you believe and what is there to believe? Do you believe that you are alive? Do you believe that you hear? Does not belief come to be when you are confused, disturbed, anxious and because you need to believe in something to give you a sense of tranquility? Belief then is not what is, and a man who is aware of what is, will never believe. What is there to believe? Surely, when a man believes, his belief is based on some authority which gives him security, certainty, such as the society which provides him with a job, or the organization which gives him a house. For that same reason a man believes in the Master or in his brother because it places him in a safe position. So, belief ensures security and a man who is secure can never find reality, and can never find what is eternal. Only the man who is inquiring, uncertain, anxiously searching, neither accepting nor denying, will find reality. But a man who is resting in his security can never find reality and because belief makes a man secure, it not only binds him but destroys his creative thinking.
What do we mean by immortality? We will perhaps understand it if we can understand what is continuity. If we can understand death perhaps we shall be able to understand immortality. If we can understand the ending of things, then we shall be able to understand that which is imperishable, immortal. And therefore to understand the immortal, the imperishable, we have to understand the ending which we call death. We say we understand death because we see a dead body. Surely that is not death. Death is the unknown, is it not? As reality, the imperishable, is the unknown, so death is the unknown and you do not know it. But you have searched for years, for centuries and given all your thoughts to truth which is also the unknown but you have avoided thinking about death. Why is that? I think, there is the problem, if we can understand it. Death, the unknown, you have shunned and put away, and you have pursued reality, you have pursued and you have written volumes about God; every temple has an image of Him or inscriptions about Him. By your thoughts you have given life to things. Why have we pursued reality, God, the Truth, the unknown? You do not know it. If you knew it the world would be different and we would love one another. Why do you shun one and accept the other? You shun death because you fear the cessation of continuity and pursue immortality because you want continuity. So you invest in God, not knowing what you are investing in. Is this not very odd? And after investing in God you ask, is there immortality, because you want insurance, a further guarantee and the man who assures you of immortality, will gratify you and you will be pleased.
Surely the problem is not whether there is immortality or whether there is not. If I tell you there is, what difference will it make? Will you transform your life tomorrow? Certainly not. If I tell you there is not, you will go to someone else who will assure you there is. So you are between the believer and the non-believer and it gives you pain. And to understand anxiety or fear of death, you must find out why there is this division between reality and death; why you pursue ceaselessly, generation after generation what you call God not knowing what it is and always avoiding the thought of death. Has there been a sacred book about death? No there have always been books and books on God.
If you know God as an idea or as a formula it cannot be real. Surely the unknown can never be translated into things. The real cannot be explained to him who does not know it. There is immediate communication between two persons who love each other. You can write poems about love, volumes and volumes about it, but you cannot communicate it to another if he does not know it. Similarly, it seems to me futile to inquire whether there is God, because if you search rightly you will find out if there is or if there is not. Similarly if you search rightly you will find out the significance of death. We seek continuity through property, through family, or through beliefs or ideation and as long as we are assured of continuity there is no fear. So the man who is seeking psychological continuity invests in property and when he realizes its impermanency, he seeks other forms of continuity, psychological continuity in the nation, in the race and if that is denied to him, then in belief of the ultimate continuity in God, the unknown, and when that assurance is threatened he calls it death of which he is afraid. So, we are not really concerned with reality or God or death, we are concerned with continuity which we call by a lovely word `immortality.' You only want continuity in some form or another, to be given to you by a name, by the family, by the priest, by the book, by tradition, by the temple.
What happens to anything that continues? It decays, or it becomes a routine and therefore merely functions as a machine. Continuity is a guarantee of decay, but the moment you think you will cease to continue you become afraid. If you are aware of that fear you will see that the fear ceases. Only then will you be able to understand that there is no division between death and life because death and reality are the unknown, but a mind that is moving, that has its being in the known can never find the unknown. The known is always the continuous and the mind clings to the known and gives life to the known, and therefore it is always moving within the house of the known and it is that known which wants to be continued. Surely that which is known is already in the net of time. It can never know the unknowable and it is only when the mind is freed from the net of time that there is the timeless. Then only there is a life that is not thought in terms of time or continuity. To understand death there must be no fear. But a man who desires continuity is frightened and the escapes that civilization has created to allay his fear have so drugged him, made him so dull, that he cannot see the significance of death. Surely death is as lovely as the real is, because both are the unknown, but a mind that is merely functioning within the known can never understand the unknown. Question: Please explain further what you mean by the clarification of the conscious?
Krishnamurti: I said in my talk last Sunday that the superficial consciousness must clarify itself and be clear, for the hidden to project itself - the hidden motives, unconscious and subconscious hidden demands, pursuits, ignorance and darkness, the hidden being not the real. That is, if we would understand anything, the immediate mind must be calm. What generally happens when you have a problem is that you think about it, worry over it like a dog worries a bone, you take it, tear it, look at it from different angles and at the end of the day you are tired of the problem and you go to bed, worn out by your struggle to comprehend and to find a solution. When you go to bed and when you sleep your conscious mind is relaxed because having thought a great deal you cannot think any more. Being relaxed, when you wake up in the morning you see the answer.
There is a phrase, `go and sleep over a problem for the answer.' What happens is that your conscious mind, not understanding the problem puts it aside and having detached itself from it, has become clarified; and the unconscious or the deeper layers begin to project themselves into the conscious and when you wake up, the problem has been very simply solved. So, similarly the conscious mind, the upper layers of consciousness must be clarified so that the mind can always be tranquil, so that it can receive intimations or hints from the hidden. But we are not tranquil. Our conscious mind is incessantly restless, moving from problem to problem, from one desire to another, from one demand to another, from one distraction to another and from one attraction to another. Have you not noticed that the superficial layer is never still? It is always battling and striving, being very cunning in business, in law, cunning with God, with everything, it is so alive, so alert with knowledge and with education. So, how can such a mind be receptive? Surely, Sir, a room is useful only when it is empty and a conscious mind that is not empty is really a useless mind, it is no good for anything except modern civilization which is so utterly degraded and degenerated, because it is the product of the upper layer. The upper layer is mechanical, swift and cunning, ever safeguarding itself. Is not the modern civilization only mechanical and industrial, even though the upper layer may talk about beauty and the dance, and invest a great deal of money in education, in painting, in discussing the true dance, the unknown dance, the modern dance and so on? And if the upper layer of consciousness is not still, how can it be receptive, how can it receive intimations of things hidden, of things unknown?
So the problem then is how to make the upper layer of the mind, that superficial layer of consciousness, act. But is that not a wrong question to put to oneself? Because, to make the superficial consciousness act is only another form of activity. `How' immediately becomes the problem and therefore you are back again where you were. What is important is to be aware of what is, aware that the superficial mind is restless, without denying or justifying it; aware of all its destructiveness and all its cleverness and its substitutions. And you will see that by being, not becoming, aware of it, the superficial consciousness becomes free to act.
When you are interested in something you listen to it. You are observing now the picture which I am painting and therefore the superficial layer is very quiet. If there is any distraction, your listening becomes merely a distraction. So the difficulty lies not in making the superficial consciousness which you call mind quiet but in being aware of all the extraordinary and rapid activities of the mind. To slow it down is very difficult and you can do it only if every thought is followed through fully, without fear and without condemnation. As long as the conscious mind, the superficial layer, is agitated, restless, demanding, seeking, striving and translating, it cannot understand and it is only in the clarity of the upper layers of consciousness that it can receive intimations of the hidden.
Question: You have realized reality. Can you tell us what God is? Krishnamurti: Sirs, how do you know that I have realized? To know that I have realized, you also must have realized. This is not just a clever answer. To know something you must be of it. You must yourself have had the experience also and therefore your saying that I have realized has apparently no meaning. And what does it matter if I have realized or have not realized? Is not what I am saying the truth? Even if I am the most perfect human being if what I say is not the truth why would you even listen to me? Surely, my realization has nothing whatever to do with what I am saying and the man who worships another because that other has realized is really worshipping authority and therefore he can never find the truth. And to understand what has been realized and to know him who has realized, is not at all important. Is it? I know the whole tradition says `be with a man who has realised.' How can you know that he has realized? All that you can do is to keep company with him, which is extremely difficult nowadays. There are very few good people, in the real sense of the word `good,' who are not seeking something, who are not after something. Those who are seeking something or are after something are exploiters and therefore it is very difficult for anyone to find a companion to love. We idealize those who have realized and hope that they will give us something which is again a false relationship.
How can the man who has realized, communicate, if there is no love? That is our difficulty. In all our discussions we do not really love each other and we are suspicious. You want something from me, knowledge, realization, or you want to keep company with me all of which indicates that you do not love. You want something and therefore you are out to exploit. If we really love each other then there will be instantaneous communication. Then it does not matter if you have realized and I have not, or you are the high or the low. And since our heart has withered, God has become awfully important. That is, you want to know God because you have lost the song in your heart and you pursue the singer and ask him whether he can teach you how to sing. He can teach you the technique but the technique will not lead you to creation. You cannot be a musician by merely knowing how to sing. You may know all the steps of a dance but if you have not creation in your heart you are only functioning as a machine. You cannot love if your object is merely to achieve a result. There is no such thing as an ideal because that is merely an achievement. Beauty is not an achievement, it is reality, now, not tomorrow, and if there is love you will understand the unknown, you will know what God is, and nobody need tell you and that is the beauty of love. It is eternity in itself. And because we have no love we want someone else like God to give us that. If we really loved, not an ideal, do you know what a different world this would be? We would be really happy people. Therefore we would not invest our happiness in things, in family, in ideals. We would be happy and therefore things, family and ideals will not dominate our lives. They are all secondary things. Because we do not love and because we are not happy we invest in things, thinking that they will give us happiness and one of the things in which we invest is God.
Now, you want me to tell you what reality is. Can the indescribable be put in words? Can you measure something immeasurable? Can you catch the wind in your fist? If you do, is that the wind? If you measure that which is the immeasurable, is that the real? If you formulate it, is that the real? Surely not, for the moment you describe something which is indescribable, it ceases to be the real. The moment you translate the unknowable into the known it ceases to be the unknowable and yet that is what we are hankering after. Every moment we want to know because then we will be able to continue, then we will be able to have ultimate permanency and happiness. We want to know because we are not happy, because we are striving miserably, because we are worn out and degraded; yet instead of realizing the simple fact that we are degraded, that we are dull, that we are weary, that everything is in turmoil, we want to move away from what is known into the known. That which is emphasized is still the known and therefore we can never find the real. Therefore, instead of asking who has realized, or what God is, why not give your whole attention and awareness to what is? Then you will find the unknown, or rather, it will come to you. If you understood what is known, you would experience that extraordinary silence, not induced, not enforced, that silence which is extraordinarily creative, that creative emptiness in which alone reality can enter. It cannot come to that which is becoming, which is striving, it can only come to that which is being, which understands what is. Then you will see that reality is not in the distance, the unknown is not far off, it is in what is. As the answer to a problem is in the problem, so reality is in what is, and if we can understand it then we shall know truth. But it is extremely difficult to be aware of dullness, to be aware of greed, to be aware of ill will, ambition and so on. And the very fact of being aware of what is, is truth. It is truth that liberates, not your striving to be free. So, reality is not far, but we place it far away because we use it as a means to self-continuity. It is here, now, in the immediate. The eternal or the timeless is now and the now cannot be understood by a man who is caught in the net of time. To free thought from time demands action because the mind is lazy, it is slothful and therefore ever creates other hindrances. It is only possible by right meditation, which means complete action,-not a continuous action, and complete action can only be understood when the mind understands the process of continuity, which is memory, not the factual, but the psychological memory and as long as memory functions, the mind cannot understand what is. And one's mind, one's whole being, becomes extraordinarily creative, passively alert when we understand the significance of ending, because in ending there is renewal while in continuity there is death, there is decay.
The Observer is the Observed
Madras, India. Public Talk 23rd November, 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.