The Observer is the Observed
Bombay, India. Public Talk 18th January, 1948
To communicate with one another, even if we know each other very well, is extremely difficult. Here we are; you do not know me, and I do not know you. We are talking at different levels. I may use words that may have to you a significance, different from mine. Understanding comes only when we, you and I, meet on the same level at the same time. That happens only when there is real affection between people, between husband and wife, between intimate friends. That is real communion. Instantaneous understanding comes when we meet on the same level at the same time.
It is very difficult, at a gathering of this kind, to commune with one another easily, effectively and with definitive action. I am using words which are simple, which are not technical, because I do not think that any technical type of expression is going to help us solve our difficult problems. So I am not going to use any technical terms, either of psychology or of science. I have not read any books on psychology or any religious books, fortunately. I would like to convey, by the very simple words which we use in our daily life, a deeper significance; but that is very difficult if you do not know how to listen.
There is an art of listening. To listen really, one should abandon or put aside all prejudices, pre-formulations and daily activities. When you are in a receptive state of mind, things can be easily understood; you are listening when your real attention is given to something. But, unfortunately, most of us listen through a screen of resistance. We are screened with prejudices, whether religious or spiritual, psychological or scientific; or with our daily worries, desires and fears. And with these for a screen, we listen. Therefore, we listen really to our own noise, to our own sound, not to what is being said. It is extremely difficult to put aside our training, our prejudices, our inclination, our resistance, and, reaching beyond the verbal expression, to listen so that we understand instantaneously. That is going to be one of our difficulties.
I am going to explain presently that truth can be understood instantaneously. It is not a matter of time, it is not a matter of growth or of habit. Truth can only be understood directly, immediately, now, in the present, not in the future; and it can be understood, felt, realized, when there is the capability of listening directly, in an open manner and with an open heart. But if our minds are engrossed, if our hearts are tired, then there is no possibility of receiving that which is truth. So our difficulty is to have that instantaneous capacity to perceive directly for ourselves and not wait for the medium of time. Time and life become a process of destruction when we are unable to understand directly; so it is obvious why I suggest that you should listen without any resistance.
If, during this discourse, anything is said which is opposed to your way of thinking and belief, just listen, do not resist. You may be right, and I may be wrong; but by listening and considering together, we are going to find out what is the truth. Truth cannot be given to you by somebody. You have to discover it; and to discover, there must be a state of mind in which there is direct perception. There is no direct perception when there is a resistance, a safeguard, a protection. Understanding comes through being aware of what is. To know exactly what is, the real, the actual, without interpreting it, without condemning or justifying it, is, surely, the beginning of wisdom. It is only when we begin to interpret, to translate according to our conditioning, according to our prejudice, that we miss the truth. After all, it is like research. To know what something is, what it is exactly, requires research - you cannot translate it according to your moods. Similarly, if we can look, observe, listen, be aware of what is, exactly, then the problem is solved. And that is what we are trying to do in all these discourses. I am going to point out to you what is, and not translate it according to my fancy; nor should you translate it or interpret it according to your background or training.
Is it not possible, then, to be aware of everything as it is? Starting from there, surely, there can be an understanding. To acknowledge, to be aware of, to get at that which is, puts an end to struggle. If I know that I am a liar, and it is a fact which I recognize, then the struggle is over. To acknowledge, to be aware of what one is, is already the beginning of wisdom, the beginning of understanding, which releases you from time. To bring in the quality of time - time, not in the chronological sense, but as the medium, as the psychological process, the process of the mind - is destructive, and creates confusion.
So, we can have understanding of what is when we recognize it without condemnation, without justification, without identification. To know that one is in a certain condition, in a certain state, is already a process of liberation; but a man who is not aware of his condition, of his struggle, tries to be something other than he is, which brings about habit. So, then, let us keep in mind that we want to examine what is, to observe and be aware of exactly what is the actual, without giving it any slant, without giving it an interpretation. It needs an extraordinarily astute mind, an extraordinarily pliable heart, to be aware of and to follow what is; because what is, is constantly moving, constantly undergoing a transformation, and if the mind is tethered to belief, to knowledge, it ceases to pursue, it ceases to follow the swift movement of what is. What is, is not static, surely - it is constantly moving, as you will see if you observe it very closely. And to follow it, you need a very swift mind and a pliable heart which are denied when the mind is static, fixed in a belief, in a prejudice, in an identification; and a mind and heart that are dry cannot follow easily, swiftly, that which is.
So, what are we going to do in all these talks, discussions, questions and answers? I am just going to say what is and follow the movement of what is; and you will understand what is, only if you also are capable of following it.
One is aware, I think, without too much discussion, too much verbal expression, that there is individually as well as collective chaos, confusion and misery. It is not only in India, but right throughout the world; in China, America, England, Germany, all over the world, there is confusion, mounting sorrow. It is not only national, it is not particularly here, it is all over the world. There is extraordinarily acute suffering, and it is not individual only, but collective. So, it is a world catastrophe, and to limit it merely to a geographical area, a coloured section of the map, is absurd; because then we will not understand the full significance of this worldwide as well as individual suffering. Being aware of this confusion, what is our response today? How do we react?
There is suffering, political,social, religious; our whole psychological being is confused, and all the leaders, political and religious, have failed us; all the books have lost their significance. You may go to the Bhagavad Gita or the Bible or the latest treatise on politics or psychology, and you will find that they have lost that ring, that quality of truth; they have become mere words. You yourself, who are the repeater of those words, are confused and uncertain, and mere repetition of words conveys nothing. Therefore, the words and the books have lost their value; that is, if you quote the Bible, or Marx, or the Bhagavad Gita, as you who quote it, are yourself uncertain, confused, your repetition becomes a lie. Because, what is written there becomes mere propaganda, and propaganda is not truth. So, when you repeat, you have ceased to understand your own state of being. You are merely covering with words of authority your own confusion. But what we are trying to do, is to understand this confusion and not cover it up with quotations. So, what is your response to it? How do you respond to this extraordinary chaos, this confusion, this uncertainty of existence? Be aware of it, as I discuss it; follow, not my words, but the thought which is active in you. Most of us are accustomed to be spectators, and not to partake in the game. We read books, but we never write books. It has become our tradition, our national and universal habit, to be the spectators, to look on at a football game, to watch the public politicians and orators. We are merely the outsiders, looking on, and we have lost the creative capacity. Therefore, we want to absorb and partake.
But here, in this crowd, if you are merely observing, if you are merely spectators, you will lose entirely the significance of this discourse, because this is not a lecture which you are to listen to from force of habit. I am not going to give you information which you can pick up in an encyclopedia. What we are trying to do, is to follow each other's thoughts, to pursue as far as we can, as profoundly as we can, the intimations, the responses of our own feelings. So, please find out what your response is to this cause, to this suffering; not what somebody else's words are, but how you yourself respond. Your response is one of indifference if you benefit by the suffering, by the chaos, if you derive profit from it, either economic, social, political or psychological. Therefore, you do not mind to have this chaos continue. Surely, the more trouble there is in the world the more chaos, the more one seeks security. Haven't you noticed it? When there is confusion in the world, psychologically and in every way, you enclose yourself in some kind of security, either that of a bank account or that of an ideology; or else you turn to prayer, you go to the temple - which is really escaping from what is happening in the world. More and more sects are being formed, more and more `isms' are springing up all over the world. Because, the more confusion there is, the more you want a leader, somebody who will guide you out of this mess; so you turn to the religious books, or to one of the latest teachers; or else you act and respond according to a system which appears to solve the problem, a system either of the left or of the right. So, that is exactly what is happening.
The moment you are aware of confusion, of exactly what is, you try to escape from it. And those sects which offer you a system for the solution of suffering, economic, social or religious, are the worst; because then, system becomes important and not man - whether it be a religious system, or a system of the left or of the right. System becomes important, the philosophy, the idea, becomes important, and not man; and for the sake of the idea, of the ideology, you are willing to sacrifice all mankind, which is exactly what is happening in the world. This is not merely my interpretation; if you observe, you will find that is exactly what is happening. The system has become important. Therefore, as the system has become important, man, you and I, lose significance; and the controllers of the system, whether religious or social, whether of the left or of the right, assume authority, assume power, and therefore sacrifice you, the individual. That is exactly what is happening.
Now what is the cause of this confusion this misery? How did this misery come about, this suffering, not only inwardly but outwardly, this fear and expectation of war, the third world war that is breaking out? What is the cause of it? Surely, if you seek the cause according to Marx, or according to Spengler, or according to the Bhagavad Gita, you will not understand it, will you? You have to find out for yourself what the cause is, you must know the truth of it, see it as it actually is and not as someone else sees it. So, what is the truth of it? First of all, what is the significance of this confusion? Surely it indicates the collapse of all moral, spiritual values, and the glorification of all sensual values, of the value of things made by the hand or by the mind. What happens when we have no other values except the value of the things of the senses, the value of the products of the mind, of the hand or of the machine? The more significance we give to the sensual value of things, the greater the confusion, is it not? Again, this is not my theory. When you are on the street, what is the predominating value that you have? You do not have to quote books to find out that your values, your riches, your economic and social existence are based on things made by the hand or by the mind. So, we live and function and have our being steeped in sensual values, which means that things, the things of the mind, the things of the hand and of the machine, have become important; and when things become important, belief becomes predominantly significant - which is exactly what is happening in the world, is it not?
I will go into this whole matter during the many talks which we are to have, but in this first talk I just want to show what is happening, to point out what is, so that we can be aware of the actual.
So, giving more and more significance to the values of the senses brings about confusion; and being in confusion, we try to escape from it through various forms, whether religious, economic or social, or through ambition, through power, through the search for reality. But the real is near, you do not have to seek it; and a man who seeks truth will never find it. Truth is in what is - and that is the beauty of it. But the moment you conceive it, the moment you seek it, you begin to struggle; and a man who struggles cannot understand. That is why we have to be still, observant, passively aware. We see that our living, our action, is always within the field of destruction, within the field of sorrow; like a wave, confusion and chaos always overtake us. There is no interval in the confusion of existence. I hope you see the significance of this - or do I have to explain it a little further?
Whatever we do at present seems to lead to chaos, seems to lead to sorrow and unhappiness. Look at your own life and you will see that our living is always on the border of sorrow. Our work, our social activity, our politics, the various gatherings of nations to stop war, all produce further war. Destruction follows in the wake of living; whatever we do leads to death. That is what is actually taking place.
So, can we stop this misery at once, and not go on always being caught by the wave of confusion and sorrow? Am I making myself clear? That is, great teachers, whether the Buddha or the Christ, have come; they have accepted faith, making themselves, perhaps, free from confusion and sorrow. But they never prevented sorrow, they never stopped confusion. Confusion goes on, sorrow goes on. And if you, seeing this social and economic confusion, this chaos, this misery, withdraw into what is called the religious life and abandon the world, you may feel that you are joining these great Teachers; but the world goes on with its chaos, its misery and destruction, the everlasting suffering of its rich and poor. So, our problem, yours and mine, is whether we can step out of this misery instantaneously. If, living in the world, you refuse to be a part of it, you will help others out of this chaos - not in the future, not tomorrow, but now. Surely, that is our problem. The war is probably coming, more destructive, more appalling in its form. Surely, we cannot prevent it, because the issues are much too strong and too close. But you and I can perceive the confusion and misery immediately, can we not? We must perceive them, and then we will be in a position to awaken the same understanding of truth in another. In other words, can you be instantaneously free? - because that is the only way out of this misery. Perception can take place only in the present; but if you say, `I will do it tomorrow', the wave of confusion overtakes you, and you are then always involved in confusion.
So, is it possible to come to that state when you yourself perceive the truth instantaneously, and therefore put an end to confusion? I say that it is, and that it is the only possible way. I say it can be done and must be done, not based on supposition or belief. To bring about this extraordinary revolution - which is not the revolution to get rid of the capitalists and install another group - , to bring about this wonderful transformation, which is the only true revolution, is the problem. What is generally called revolution is merely the modification or the continuance of the right according to the ideas of the left. The left, after all, is the continuation of the right in a modified form. If the right is based on sensual values, the left is but the continuance of the same sensual values, different only in degree or expression. So, true revolution can take place only when you, the individual, become aware in your relationship to another. Surely, what you are in your relationship to another, to your wife, your child, your boss, your neighbour, is society. Society by itself is non-existent. Society is what you and I, in our relationship, have created; it is the outward projection of all of our own inward psychological states. So, if you and I do not understand ourselves, merely transforming the outer, which is the projection of the inner, has no significance whatsoever; that is, there can be no significant alteration or modification in society as long as I do not understand myself in relationship to you. Being confused in my relationship, I create a society which is the replica, the outward expression of what I am. This is a obvious fact, which we can discuss. We can discuss whether society, the outward expression, has produced me, or whether I have produced society. We can go into that later. So, is it not an obvious fact that what I am in my relationship to another, creates society; and that, without radically transforming myself, there can be no transformation of the essential function of society? When we look to a system for the transformation of society, we are merely evading, the question, because a system cannot transform man; man always transforms the system, which history shows. Until I, in my relationship to you, understand myself, I am the cause of chaos, misery, destruction, fear, brutality. Understanding myself is not a matter of time; that is, I can understand myself this very moment. If I say, `I will understand myself tomorrow', I am bringing in chaos and misery, my action ia destructive. The moment I say that I `will' understand, I bring in the time element and so am already caught up in the wave of confusion and destruction. Surely, understanding is now, not tomorrow. Tomorrow is for the lazy mind, the sluggish mind, the mind that is not interested. When you are interested in something, you do it instantaneously, there is immediate understanding, immediate transformation. If you do not change now, you will never change; because the change that takes place tomorrow is merely a modification, it is not transformation. Transformation can only take place immediately; the revolution is now, not tomorrow.
You all look so baffled. Why? Because you say, `How can I change now? I, who am a product of the past, of innumerable conditionings, I, who am a bundle of mannerisms, how can I change, how can I throw all that away and be free?' But if you do not throw it all away, if there is not that tremendous revolution, you will always live with chaos. So, how is it possible for this instantaneous revolution to take place? I hope you see the importance of immediate change. If you do not see that, you miss the whole significance of it. Understanding does not come tomorrow; there is understanding now, or never. The present is always the continuation of the past, So, can I, who am a result of the past, whose being is founded on the past, I who am the outcome of yesterday - can I step out of time, not chronologically but psychologically? Surely, you do step out of time when you are vitally interested - you take a stride in that timeless existence, which is not an illusion a self-induced hallucination. When that happens, you are completely without a problem, for then the self is not worried about itself; and then you are beyond the wave of destruction. And during these talks, that timeless transformation is the only thing that I am going to be concerned with. I cannot induce it in you, that would be false. But if you follow freely, without resistance, with understanding, you will find yourselves very often in that state of immediate perception and therefore of immediate transformation.
Question: I am born with a certain temperament, a certain psychological and physical pattern, whatever may be its reason. This pattern becomes the major single factor in my life. It dominates me absolutely. My freedom within the pattern is very limited the majority of my reactions and impulses being rigidly predetermined. Can I break up the tyranny of this genetic factor?
Krishnamurti: To put it differently, I am caught in a pattern, social, hereditary, environmental, ideological, whether it is the pattern of my parents or of the society about me. I am hemmed in by a pattern, and the question is, how am I to break it up? I am the result of my father and mother, biologically, physically. I am the result of my parents' beliefs, habits, fears, which have created the society around me. My parents, in turn, were the result of their parents, with their social, physical, psychological environment, and so on backward indefinitely, timelessly, without a beginning. Each person is held with a pattern of existence, and I am the result of all that past - not just my own past, but the whole past of mankind. I am, after all, the son of my father. I am the result of the past modified in conjunction with the present. We are not bringing in the question of reincarnation, which is merely a theory. We are just examining what really is. My existence is the result of my past, my past being the result of my father's existence. I am the outcome of time, I am the past going through the present to become the future. I am the result of yesterday, which is today becoming tomorrow.
Now, can I step out of that process of time, that is, can I break away from the pattern which my father and I myself have created? I am not different from my father; I am my father, modified. That is exactly what is. But if I begin to translate what is, if, for example, I bring in the idea that I am the soul, a spiritual entity, then I step into another realm altogether. That is not the point for the moment - we will discuss that when we go into the problem of what is soul, what is continuity, what is reincarnation. The problem at the present moment is: Can I, who am conditioned - whether by the left or by the right is irrelevant - , can I step out of that conditioning?
What is it that conditions you? What is it that limits thought? What is it that creates the pattern in which you are caught? If I cease to think, then there is no pattern. That is, I am the thinker, my thoughts are the outcome of yesterday, I respond to every new challenge according to the pattern of yesterday or of the past second; and can I, whose thinking process is the outcome of yesterday, cease to think in terms of yesterday? I am only explaining the problem differently, and you will find the answer for yourself in a minute. My thought is conditioned, because any response from the conditioned state creates further conditioning; any action from the conditioned state is a conditioned action, and therefore gives continuity to the conditioned state. Therefore, to step out of it, there must be freedom from condition, which means freedom from the process of thinking - which does not mean that I am suggesting this as a means of escape. Most people do try to escape because life is too urgent, too strong, too demanding for them. I am not proposing such an escape; I am just asking you to look at the truth of the problem. Can you be free of the process of thinking? Can there be a complete revolution in thinking - not according to the old pattern, which is the continuation of the old with values modified, but - , a complete transformation, a total breaking up of what is? As I am the product of yesterday, freedom obviously does not lie on the same level, which would merely be a continuation of yesterday. So, I can step out of it only when there is cessation of thinking.
We are just looking at the problem, not seeking an answer; because the answer is in the problem, not away from the problem. If you understand the problem, the answer is there; whereas if you are looking for an answer and you fail, you are puzzled. You are waiting for me to tell you how to step out of the pattern. I am not going to tell you how to step out of it; it has no meaning if I tell you how, because then you are not following the problem. You are waiting for me to tell you what to do, and therefore you are very puzzled. I am not going to tell you what to do; because, if you understand the problem, the problem ceases. When you see a snake and know it is poisonous, there is no problem, is there? You know what to do - you do not touch it. You go away, or do something else. Similarly, you must understand this problem completely - which you are not doing. I am doing it for you, and you are merely listening to me. We must understand the problem, not ask how to solve it. When you understand the problem, surely, the problem itself reveals the answer. It is like a schoolboy taking an examination. He does not read the problem carefully, he wants the answer; and therefore he fails. But if he reads the problem very slowly, very carefully, looking at it from all angles, then he will find the answer - or rather, the answer is there.
Similarly, you are looking at this problem with the desire for a answer. I do not think you see the beauty of it. Probably you are tired, Sirs.
Comment from Audience: No.
Krishnamurti: Yes, you are tired. I will tell you why. Probably this is all very new to you, it must be, it is a new approach altogether; so you are a bit puzzled, and when you are puzzled or bewildered, the mind wanders off. I can go on, it is my job; but I have done this, I am not just talking. Whereas with you, Sirs, if I may say so, you are not studying the problem. I have put it in different ways, but you refuse to follow it. I am just pointing out what is, which is the problem. But you are not interested in studying what is. You are waiting to see the outcome, whereas I am not interested in the outcome. I want to understand the thing as it is - therefore I have found the answer.
So, let me again request you please to follow the problem itself, and not look for an answer. Please see the importance of this: to look for an answer, for a solution, is not to understand the problem; and if you do not understand the problem, there is no answer to that problem. The problem is here, and you are looking for the answer there - which means that you will find an answer which is convenient, gratifying. But if you look at the problem very carefully, very intelligently, then you will see the beauty of it and then the outcome is marvellous.
So, the problem is this: my thought is conditioned, it is fixed in a pattern; and to any challenge, which is always new, my thought can respond only according to its conditioning, transforming the new into the modified old. Therefore, my thought can never be free. My thought, which is the outcome of yesterday, can respond only in terms of yesterday; and when it asks, `how can I go beyond?', it is asking a wrong question. Because, when thought seeks to beyond its own conditioning, it continues itself in a modified way. Therefore, there is a falseness in that question. There is freedom only when there is no conditioning; but for freedom to be, thought must be aware of its condition and not try to become something other than it is. If thought says, `I must free myself from my conditioning', it never can; because whatever it does is its own net continued or modified. All that thought can do is to cease to be. Surely, the moment thought is active, it is conditioned, is continuity modified by a conditioned response. So, along that line there is no way to step out of conditioning. Therefore, there is only one way, which is vertical, which is straight - for thought to cease.
Now, can thinking cease? What is thinking, what do we mean by thinking? We mean by thinking, the response of memory. I am making it very simple. I do not want to complicate it, because the problem itself is quite complex. Thinking is the response of memory; and what is memory? Memory is the residue of experience. That is, when there is a challenge, yesterday's thought, which is memory, responds to that challenge, and therefore that challenge is not fully understood but is interpreted through the screen of yesterday. So, what is not understood leaves a mark, which we call memory. Have you not noticed that when you have understood something, when you have completed a conversation, when it is finished, it does not leave a mark? It is only an incomplete act, whether verbal or physical, that leaves a mark. The response of that mark, which is memory, is called thinking. So, can there be a state in which there is no yesterday, that is, can there be a state when there is no time, no thought that is the product of yesterday? Conditioned thought that seeks to modify or change itself merely continues the conditioned state. That is fairly obvious. Thinking is the response of memory - which is obvious too. And memory is the outcome of imperfect understanding of experience, of challenge. Imperfect understanding of experience is the cause of memory. When you do something with all your being integrated, it leaves no residue of memory; but when the residue gives response, that response we call thinking. Such thinking is conditioned, and that conditioning can come to an end only when the act is complete. That means you meet everything anew.
How can you meet everything anew? How can you meet life, existence, anew, in the sense of `without time'? It is a new question, is it not? That is the question arising out of this question. When I put that new question to you, what is your response? If your response is also new, then you are passively aware, alert, watching. That state is timeless. In that state, when you meet everything with passive alertness, awareness, there is no time; there is a direct experience, the challenge is directly understood; therefore there is freedom from thinking. And that freedom is eternal; it is now, not tomorrow.
The Observer is the Observed
Bombay, India. Public Talk 18th January, 1948
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.