The Observer is the Observed
Bombay, India. Public Talk 29th February, 1948
This evening I shall answer questions only, and before I do so I would like to point out one or two things. I think there is an art in listening. Most of us listen through a screen of prejudice. Either we are expecting a definite solution to our problems, or we are not aware of the innumerable prejudices which prevent us from really hearing what another says, or we are not sufficiently interested or concentrated to listen at all, To listen truly is to listen without strain, without struggle, without the effort of hearing; it is to listen as we would to music, to something that we know and enjoy, not merely to the repetition of a record, but to something fresh, new. You know what I mean. When you are enjoying something, a conversation, a piece of music, or when reading literature, you listen, and the words, the music, the sound, the silence between two notes, slips in, enters without your struggling to understand. So, if I may suggest, it will be good if we can listen without making the effort to listen, without accepting or rejecting; if we can listen without erecting a barrier of defence, or trying too eagerly to grasp what is being said. There must be a certain tension, like that of the violin string. When it is at the right tension, it gives the right note. Similarly, if we listen with right tension, with right awareness, then I think we will understand far more deeply and extensively than by merely listening to verbal expression. Then, if you are really aware, the words have a different significance, they penetrate far more deeply. It is like a seed that is sown in rich soil. So, if I may suggest, please listen to these answers, not so much with the intention of grasping the solution to the question, but rather let us consider that you and I are going to think out the problem together aloud and see where it leads us. Because, answering questions must be a rediscovery, to me as well as to you, not merely a repetition of an old record which you and I have learnt by heart. After all, music is the silence between two notes. If it were a continuous sound, there would be no music. It is the silence between two notes that gives emphasis, beauty to the notes. Similarly, it is silence between words, between thoughts, that gives significance, meaning to the thought. So, in listening to the answers to these questions, what is important is neither to accept nor to reject, but to understand what is being said without the barrier of prejudice. This is extremely arduous, because most of us are so grossly prejudiced, and are so unconscious of our prejudice, that it is very difficult to penetrate the thick armour of our own intentions, of our own bias; but if we can, at least for an evening, put this thick armour aside and listen as though we were really enjoying something together, then I think this and other meetings will have a definite significance.
Question: Our ideals are the only thing between ourselves and madness. You are breaking a dam which keeps chaos out of our homes and fields. Why are you so foolhardy? The immature and the unsteady minds will be thrown off their feet by your sweeping generalizations.
Krishnamurti: This question is put with regard to what I have said concerning ideals, examples, and the opposites; so, we will have to go over what I have said concerning ideals. And, as I have just said, please listen, not as if through a wall of resistance, but rather with a wish to understand. You have certain traditions and ideals, and perhaps what I am going to say will be contrary to everything that you think; and what I say may or may not be the truth. So, you have to listen with a certain resistance, with a certain freedom, with a certain elasticity; but if you merely enclose yourself within the walls of your own ideals, your own understanding, then, surely, what is being said will have no meaning. What I am going to say may be, and I think probably will be, quite contrary to what you believe; so, please listen to it, not with any dogmatism, or with any defensive mechanism, but with a sense of trying to understand what the other fellow is trying to say.
Now, I have said that ideals in any form are an escape from the understanding of what is; that ideals, however noble, however intriguing, however fine, have no reality. Ideals are fictitious, without significance, because it is more important to understand what is than to pursue an ideal, or follow an ideal or a mode of action. We have innumerable ideals - non-violence, good, non-greed, peace, merit, and so on. You know the innumerable ideals within which our minds are enclosed. Now, are not these ideals fictitious? They are not really factual, they are non-existent, and since they are non-existent, of what value are they? Do they help me to understand my conflict, my violence, my greed, or are they a hindrance to that understanding? Will the screen of ideals help me to understand my arrogance, my violence, my evil? If ideals help me to understand, then they have significance; but if they do not give understanding, then they are valueless. Can a violent man become peaceful through the ideal of non-violence? Can I understand violence through the screen of my own idealism of non-violence? Must I not put aside the screen, the ideal, and examine my violence directly? And will the ideal help me to understand violence? This ia a very fundamental and important question. We ought to spend a little time on it, because the issues arising from it are very significant, and our whole social structure is based on this idealism which has no reality behind it.
So, our problem is: Is evil ever understood through the ideal of good? Is not evil transformed, not through an ideal, not through the pursuit of its opposite, but in the direct understanding of evil itself? And does not the ideal in any form, which is the opposite, prevent the understanding of what is? I am greedy, I am violent, I am arrogant, I am angry, vicious, brutal; and will the ideal of non-violence, non-greed, kindliness, help me to overcome that which I am? Surely, we have tried the pursuit of the ideal, of the opposite, and we are familiar with the conflict thus created between the opposites. We know all that very well. We are entirely familiar with that extraordinary struggle to become something other that what we are. Our religious, social, and moral education is based on this attempt to become something, to transform what is into something which it is not; and we know the struggle, the pain, the constant battle of the opposites, of the thesis and antithesis, hoping to arrive at a synthesis which is beyond both. Though we have not succeeded in arriving at that state, we are familiar with the constant battle of the opposites which is supposed to bring it about.
Now, is that struggle necessary? Is not that struggle fallacious, unreal? Is not the opposite unreal? What is the real, the factual? The fact is, I am arrogant. Humility, the ideal is non-existent, it is fictitious. It is a creation of the mind as a means of escaping from what is. You are violent; and will the opposite help you to overcome that which you are? Obviously not. For centuries you have struggled to overcome it, yet you are violent. So the method of our approach must be wrong, and therefore there must be a new approach, a different way of attacking the problem of greed, of arrogance, of violence. But first we must see the fallacy of the ideal. As it was suggested to me this morning. India is the nation which fabricates ideals. Your pet industry is creating ideals for the world. And do we need ideals? Please, this is really a very important question. If you have no ideals, will you collapse, will you become immoral? Are your ideals acting as a dam against your immoral actions? Is your ideal of non-violence preventing you from being violent? The ideal of not being greedy, of having just enough to live, is that making you less greedy? Obviously not. Sir, we must look at this, mustn't we? The man who is greedy, who wants to pursue riches, goes on doing it in spite of the ideal which he talks about. Obviously, ideals are non-existent except in theory, and therefore they are valueless. So, why pursue them? In other words, an idealist is really a man who is escaping from that which is, who is avoiding action in the present. We are all very familiar with the idealist, how hard they are, how brutal, how resistant with that quality of hardness, because they are really avoiding the central issue, which is what they are. So, by removing the ideals, will the weak-minded be thrown off there feet? The weak-minded are already thrown off there feet by politicians, by the gurus, by there pujas, by there wedding ceremonies; and the man who is strong disregards the ideals anyhow, he pursues what he wants. So, neither party pays any attention to the ideals, which are a very convenient way to cover up a great many false things.
So, is an ideal necessary to understand what is? Will the ideal of non-violence help me to understand violence? That is, if I am violent and want to transcend violence must I have the ideal of non-violence? Surely, I don't have to have it do I? It is a hindrance, a positive hindrance to my direct understanding of the state in which I am, which is violence. So, the ideal, the opposite, the example, is a hindrance, an avoidance of the direct understanding of what is. Being violent, can I not understand it and transcend it? I can tackle it, I can understand it, only when I am not escaping from it, when I haven't this fantasy of the ideal, when I can look at it, examine it, and act upon it directly. But I don't want to act upon it directly, and therefore I invent this marvellous thing called the opposite, the ideal - a state which I can never achieve, because it is merely a postponement. So, the problem is: how to transcend, how to go beyond what is, which is violence, and not how to achieve the opposite. There is no opposite. There are the opposites of man and woman, a biological fact; but the opposite that the mind has created is non-existent. It is a convenient ruse, a trick of the mind to avoid acting directly upon what is. Can I transcend that which is, and not transform it, not make it into something else? I am greedy, violent; and can that violence, greed, come to an end? Obviously, it comes to an end when I can examine it and be completely aware of its whole social and psychological significance; but I can examine it only when there is no escape from what is - which none of us want to do, and that is the difficulty. None of us are honest enough to acknowledge that we are what we are, and then do something about it. To know that I am a liar, to know that I am greedy, is already the beginning of freedom from greed, from falsehood. But to acknowledge it requires a certain honesty, and as we are so dishonest in our thinking, in our relationships, in almost everything that we do, we are incapable of facing what is. So, in this question is involved seeing the truth in the false, that is seeing the truth of the falseness of the ideal; and the moment one is capable of seeing the truth in the false, one is also able to see that which is true as being true. It is that truthfulness, the acknowledgment that you are greedy, that you are violent, seeing the fact - of what you are without any pretence, that brings about liberation from it, and not the pursuit of the opposite.
Question: Will the sexual urge disappear when we refuse to name it?
Krishnamurti: I am afraid the question needs considerable explanation. It arises, apparently, from what we discussed yesterday evening. Now, the process of naming, terming, is quite a complex problem, and we must go into it very carefully and precisely; that is, we must understand the process of consciousness. I am sorry that in this question, though it is very simply put, a great deal is involved; and if I answer it too directly and briefly, those who were not at the discussion yesterday may misunderstand. So, I must go into it carefully, explaining the whole issue,
Now, what do we mean by consciousness? I am not asking this question irrelevantly. It is directly connected with the question itself. What do we mean by consciousness? Consciousness, surely, is challenge and response, which is experiencing. That is the beginning of consciousness - challenge, response, and experiencing. The experience is named, termed, given a label as pleasant or unpleasant, and then it is recorded, put away in the mind. So, consciousness is a process of experiencing, naming and recording. Though complex, it is very simple. Please don't needlessly complicate it. Without the three processes at work, which are really a unitary process - experiencing, naming or terming and record- ing, pigeonholing, putting experience away in the framework of memory - , without this process, there is no consciousness. Now, this process is going on all the time, instantaneously, at different levels, and that is what you call consciousness. The song is repeated in different moods, with different themes, profoundly, in the deep layers of the unconscious, or superficially, on the surface of consciousness, in our everyday life; but it is always the same process of challenge and response, experiencing, naming or terming, and recording or memory. This is the theme, this is the record that is being played. Now, what would happen if the middle process, which is naming or terming, were not done, if the middle process were put an end to? Why do we term, why do we give a name to a feeling or to an experience calling it pleasant or unpleasant, anger, violence, good, bad, and so on? Why do we term an experience?
Please, to some of you all this may appear to be technical. It is not technical. It is very simple, though it demands a little concentration. Most of us are used to political lectures, being told what to do or what to think, and we may find it difficult to pursue, evenly, easily, a thought of this kind; but as this is not a political lecture, we will have to be a little concentrated.
So, consciousness is a process of experiencing, naming, and recording; and why is it that we give a name to an experience, to a feeling? We give it a name, either to communicate it to another; or else to fix it in memory, which is to give it continuity,. If there is no continuity, then mind is not, consciousness is not. I must give continuity to an experience, otherwise consciousness ceases. Therefore, I must give it a name. The giving of a name to a feeling, to an experience, is instantaneous; because the mind, which is the record-keeper, memory, labels a feeling in order to give it substance, in order to give it continuity, in order to be able to examine it - which means the continuation of thought. After all, the thinker is the thought; and without the process of thought, without giving continuity to the process of thought, there is no permanency for the thinker. So, naming a feeling, an experience, gives permanency to the thinker, to the record-keeper, which is the mind. That is, you give a name to a feeling, to an experience, and thereby give it continuity; and upon this, the mind feeds and feels itself to be existent. Take any experience, any feeling or sensation that you have - anger, hatred, love; by giving it a name, you have stabilized it, you have put it within the framework of reference. So, the very nature of terming an experience is the giving of continuity to consciousness, to the `I'. This process is going on all the time, so swiftly that we are unconscious of it. This record is being played ceaselessly at different levels, in different themes, with different words, whether waking or sleeping.
Now, what happens if you don't term, if you don't give a name to an experience? If you are not naming the various sensations, if you have no background, where is the `you'? That is, when it is not named, the feeling or the experience withers away, it has no continuity. Experiment with yourself, and you will see. If you have a very strong feeling of nationalism, what happens? You give it a name, the thought arises of idealism, love, `my country; that is, you term it and thereby give it a continuity. It is very difficult not to term it, because the process of naming a feeling is so automatic, so instantaneous. But suppose you do not name a feeling, what happens to that feeling? Surely, the record-keeper cannot identify himself with that feeling. He does not give it substance, he does not give it strength, he does not give it vitality. Therefore, it withers away. The next time you are feeling the sensation which you term irritation, don't give it a name. Don't say, `I am irritated', don't term it, and see what happens. You will discover an extraordinary thing happening. The mind is bewildered, because the mind dislikes to be in a state of uncertainty. Then bewilderment becomes more important than the feeling, and the feeling is forgotten and bewilderment remains. But the mind does not like to be bewildered, puzzled; therefore, it demands security, and it seeks security, certainty, in the record, in memory, thereby strengthening the record-keeper.
It is really quite fascinating, if you observe the process of your own consciousness. But you cannot learn all this in a book. No book can teach it, and what a book teaches is not worthwhile. You can only repeat what a book teaches; but if you experiment and discover for yourself, then you are both the teacher and the pupil, and you no longer want the gurus, the books, and all the rest of it. Then you know how to tackle the problem, any problem that arises, for yourself, because you are both the teacher and the pupil, you know the ways of the working of your own consciousness. You discover that in not terming a sensation, in not giving it a name, that feeling, that sensation comes to an end.
And now you will say `I have learned a very good trick. I know how to deal with unpleasant feelings, how to make them come to an end quickly: I won't term them'. But will you do the same with regard to pleasant feelings? I am afraid you won't. Because, you want pleasant feelings to continue, you want to give substance to pleasant sensations, you want to maintain them. Therefore, you will keep on giving them names. But that does not lead anywhere; because, the moment you give a name, a term, to a feeling which is pleasant, you are inevitably creating the opposite, and therefore you will always have the conflict of the opposites. Whereas, if you don't name, term, label, a sensation, whether pleasant or unpleasant, they both wither away; and therefore the thinker, who is the creator of the opposites, comes to an end. Then only shall we know what love is, because love is not a sensation. You can name it, but when you name it, you are naming the sensation of love, which is not love. When you love somebody, what happens? When you think about a person, what happens? You are really dealing with the sensation of that person; you are concerned with that sensation, and the more you give emphasis to sensation the less there is of love.
Now, the question is, "will the sexual urge disappear when we refuse to name it?" It will disappear, obviously; but if you don't understand the whole process of consciousness, as I have carefully explained, merely putting an end to a particular urge, pleasant or unpleasant, does not bring about that eternal quality of love. Without love, merely putting an end to an urge has no meaning, and you will become as dry as the idealist whose passions are very carefully held in check. Because, if you do not understand the whole process of consciousness, the passions are always there, though you refuse to name them. To understand the whole process, is very arduous. You may have understood the verbal expressions of what I have explained, but the living significance, the inward meaning, you will understand only through experimentation. As I have said, where there is love, there is chastity. But the man, the idealist who is passionate and wants to be chaste, who wants to become dispassionate - such a man will never know love, because he is only concerned with becoming something, which is another form of selfishness. He is only concerned with his struggle to achieve, to reach the ideal, which is non-existent. Therefore such a man has an empty heart, and he fills his empty heart with the things made by the mind. And how can he know love, when his heart is filled with the ideal, which is a thing made by the mind?
So, it is a very complex and subtle problem, this question of terming, giving a name; but you will understand it if you experiment with it. There are enormous riches, an enormous depth, in understanding this process of terming, naming a feeling a sensation. Once you open the door to it, you will discover vast riches; but to discover, there must be freedom to experiment, and freedom comes through virtue - not in becoming virtuous, but in being virtuous.
Question: Why can't you influence the leaders of a party, or members of a government, and work through them?
Krishnamurti: For the simple reason that leaders are factors of degeneration in society, and governments are the expression of violence. And how can you, how can any man who really wants to understand truth, work through instruments which are opposed to reality? Now, why do we want leaders, political or religious: For the obvious reason that we want to be directed, we want to be told what to do or what to think. Our education, our social and religious organizations, are based on that: they tell us, not how to think, but what to think. Naturally, then, you must have leaders. Because you are confused, disintegrating, because you are in misery and do not know what to do, you look to somebody else, to political, religious, or economic leaders, to help you out of this chaotic condition of existence. Now, can any leader, political or religious, lead you out of this misery, out of this confusion? Please, this is a very important question. Because, in leadership is implied power, position, prestige; in leadership is implied exploitation - by the follower as well as by the leader. The leader comes into being because the led want to be led. That is, the follower exploits the leader, and the leader exploits the follower. Without the follower, where is the leader? He is frustrated, he feels lost. And without the leader, where is the follower? So, it is a process of mutual exploitation; and where there is a desire for power, for position, for dominance, for guidance, there is no understanding. Where the leader becomes the authority, the person to whom everything is referred, politically or religiously, then you as the follower become merely the record-player, the automaton; and as most people want to repeat, to look on while the leaders play, the result is that you become unproductive, thoughtless. That is exactly what has happened in the world.
So, our problem is, why do we need leaders? Can anybody, lead you out of your confusion, which you yourself are creating? Others may point out the causes of your confusion - but surely, they don't become leaders. For example, I am pointing out the cause of confusion, but I am not becoming your leader or your guru. It is for you to perceive and act upon it, or to leave it. But if I made you join an organization, if I became your authority, then I would become important; therefore your confusion would still exist, and you would merely be running away from your confusion and giving emphasis to me; whereas, the emphasis should be laid on your confusion, and not on me. So, I am out of the picture. What is important is to understand your own suffering, your own confusion, your own pain, your own disastrous existence. And to understand, do you need anybody's help? What you need is to look truly, to look with clarity, with eyes that are not biased. And you have to do that for yourself, you have to look within yourself to find out whether you are biased, whether you are prejudiced. That means, you have to be aware of your own process, of your idiosyncracies; but as most of us are unwilling to discover ourselves and go into the process of self-knowledge, we look to a leader - or rather, we create a leader. So, the leader becomes important, because the leader helps us to run away from ourselves. The leader can be worshipped, put away in a cage and whispered about. So, the leader is really a degenerating factor. Surely, when the individual, when a society, when a culture looks to a leader, it indicates a state of disintegration. A society that is creative has no leader, because each individual is a light unto himself. Such a society is the result of relationship between people who are seeking deep, fundamental self-knowledge, understanding; and such people don't require a static society with its leaders, with its authoritarian social organizations.
Question: By what mechanism do we change the world when we change ourselves?
Krishnamurti: I have said that the individual problem is the world problem; that the individual, with his inner conflicts, with his psychological struggles, with his frustrations, with his anxieties, pursuits, motives, projects these into the world, and in this way the problem of the individual becomes the world problem. Therefore, the world and the individual are not two separate entities; the mass and the individual are interrelated, they are inseparable. When we consider the individual, we are considering the world, the mass, the whole. They cannot be separated. The world is not apart from you, the world is you - not mystically, but actually; biologically and psychologically, in relationship, the world is you. Because, whatever you are - your greeds, your ambitions, your frustrations - , is projected into the world; and however cunningly and subtly the social system may be devised, the inner man always overcomes the outer. Therefore, there must be transformation of the inner - not in opposition to the outer, not in antagonism to the mass, not in separation from the world, but as a total process. The individual and the world are a total process, and to transform the world, you must begin near, with yourself. You cannot transform the world - that has no meaning. The world has no referent; but the individual has a referent, which is me, which is you. Therefore, I can begin with myself - which does not mean opposing individual perfection to the mass. It is very important to understand that we are not discussing individual perfection at all. To seek individual perfection leads to isolation, to segregation; and nothing can exist in isolation. We are not discussing self-improvement. On the contrary, self-improvement is merely another form of self-enclosure. We are discussing, we are trying to understand, the individual process, which is not separate from the world process. But to understand the world, I must begin somewhere, and I can begin only with that which is near, which is me. So, if that is clear, then we can see the mechanism of change - how, by changing myself, I can transform the world. That is, as long as I am greedy, as long as I am nationalistic, as long as I am acquisitive, I create a society in which greed, acquisitiveness, and nationalism are rampant, which means conflict, ultimately leading to war. Obviously, there can be no mechanism of change as long as I am greedy, as long as I am seeking power, for my actions will inevitably bring about a state of power, political, religious and social power, leading ultimately to conflict. Therefore, being the total process of society" I am responsible for war; and if I wish ardently for peace, if I would concern myself with peace, then I must cease to be greedy, acquisitive, I must have no nationality, I must not belong to any organized religion or to any ideology. I am the total process of the world, and if I change, if I transform myself, I bring about radical transformation in society; but to be free of ideology, to be free from belief - which separates man from man, as the Hindu and the Muslim, the Christian and the Buddhist - , to be free from acquisitiveness, to be free from envy, is very arduous. And a man who wants to understand the whole significance of existence, has to understand himself - not as the individual opposed to society or the mass, but as a total process. That is, he has to be aware of every thought, every feeling, every action; and in understanding greed - which, as I have explained, is not naming, is not thinking about greed - he puts an end to greed. Such a man will know love; being free from the elements that create antagonism - belief, nationalism, acquisitiveness - , he will be a factor in bringing about a transformation in the world.
Question: What is true and what is false in the theory of reincarnation?
Krishnamurti: I hope that after listening for two hours and ten minutes your minds are still fresh. Are they, Sirs and Ladies? Alright. What we are trying to do here is to think out the problem together - you are not merely listening to a gramophone. I refuse to be a gramophone; but you are accustomed merely to listen, which means that you are really not following at all. You are listening superficially, being charmed by words, and therefore you are not the regenerators or creators of new society. You are the disintegrating factor, Sirs, and that is the calamity; but you don't see the tragedy of it. The world, India included, is on the verge of a precipice, burning, disintegrating rapidly; and a man who merely listens to the leader, accustoming himself to words and remaining a spectator, is contributing to the disaster. So, if I may suggest, don't get accustomed to what I am saying. I don't repeat; I am thinking anew each time I answer a question. If I merely repeated, it would be frightfully boring to me. As I don't want to bore myself with repetition, I am thinking it out afresh - and so must you, if you have the curiosity and the intensity to discover.
Now, what is involved in this question of reincarnation? It is an enormous problem, and we cannot settle it in a few minutes. So, in examining this question, let us look at it without any bias - which does not mean keeping a so-called open mind. There is no such thing as an open mind: what is needed is an enquiring mind. We must both enquire into this question. Now, in enquiring into it, what is it that we are looking for? We are looking for the truth, not according to your belief or my belief; because, to find the truth of any matter, I can have no belief. I want to find the truth; therefore I am enquiring, laying bare everything involved in this question, not taking shelter behind any particular form of prejudice. That is, I am enquiring honestly, my mind is very honestly trying to find out, therefore it won't be sidetracked either by the Bhagavad Gita, or by the Bible, or by my pet guru. I want to know, and to know I must have the intensity to pursue; and a man who is tethered to a belief, however long the rope, is still held, and therefore he cannot enquire. He can enquire only within the radius of his own bondage, and therefore he will never find truth.
So, what is the thing implied in reincarnation? What is the thing that reincarnates? You understand what is meant by reincarnation: coming back over and over again in different forms at different times. What is this continuous quality that comes into rebirth? There are only two possibilities: either that thing called the soul, the `I', is a spiritual entity, or it is merely a bundle of my memories, my characteristics, my tendencies, my unfulfilled desires, my achievements, and so on. We are looking into the problem, we are not taking sides; therefore we are not defending anything. A man who is on the defensive will never know what is truth. He will find that which he defends, and that which he defends is no longer the truth; it is his own inclination, his own bias, his own prejudice.
Now, we are going to examine that which we call the spiritual entity. The spiritual entity, obviously, cannot be created by me. It is not the outcome of my mind, of my thought, of my projection. It must be independent of me. The spiritual entity, if it is spiritual, cannot be created by me. It must be other than me. Now, if it is other than me, it must be timeless, it must be the eternal, it must be the real; and that which is the real, that which is timeless, that which is immeasurable, cannot evolve, grow. It cannot come back. It is beyond time, therefore it is deathless. Now, if it is deathless, if it is beyond me, then I have no control over it, it is not within the field of my consciousness; therefore I cannot think about it, I cannot enquire if it can or cannot reincarnate. Obviously, that which is beyond my control, I cannot enquire into. I can enquire only into that which I know, which is my own projection; and if the spiritual entity, which I call Krishnamurti, is beyond me, then it is timeless, then I cannot think about it; and what I cannot think about has no reality for me. Therefore, since it is timeless and deathless, and as I am concerned with death, with time, I cannot enquire into it. Therefore, I need not be bothered. But we are bothered. What we are bothered about is not the continuance of a spiritual entity, but whether the `I' continues, the everyday `I' of my achievements, my failures, my frustrations, my bank account, my characteristics and idiosyncracies, my property, my family, my beliefs - will all that continue? That is what we want to know - not whether the spiritual entity continues, which, as I pointed out, is an absurd question, Because, reality, timeless being, cannot be known to a person who is caught in the net of time. As thought is the process of time, as thought is founded on the past, for thought to speculate about the timeless is utterly meaningless. It is an escape. That which is the result of time can only know itself, can only enquire into itself.
So, I want to know if the `I' continues. The `I', which is a total process, a psychological as well as physiological process, which is with the body and also apart from the body - I want to know if that `I' continues, if it comes into being after this physical existence ends. Now, what do we mean by continuity? We have examined more or less what we mean by the `I: my name, my characteristics, my frustrations, my achievements - you know, all the varieties of thought and feeling at different levels of consciousness. So, we know that. Then, what do we mean by continuity; to continue, what does it mean? What is it that gives continuity? What is it that says, `I shall or shall not continue'? What is it that is clinging to continuity, permanency, which is security? After all, I seek security here in possessions, in things, in family, in beliefs; and when the body dies, the permanency of things, the permanency of family, has gone, but the permanency of idea continues. So, it is the idea that we want to continue. We see that property is going to disappear, that there will be no family; but we want to know whether the idea continues, whether the idea of `I', the thought `I am', is continuous. Please, it is important to see the difference. I know that I shall be burnt, that the body will be destroyed. I know that I shall not see you, that I shall not see my family; but does not the idea of the `me' continue to exist? Is not the idea of `me' continuous - continuous meaning becoming, moving from time to time, from period to period, from experience to experience. So, that is the real enquiry: whether the `I', the idea or formulation of the `me', will continue. Are you not tired? Alright, Sirs.
So, what is the `I'? We have enquired into that, and you know what it is. Obviously, thought identifies itself with a belief, and that belief continues like an electric wave. Thought, identified with a belief, has continuity, has substance; that thought is termed, is named, it is given recognition as the `I', and that `I' obviously has movement, it continues, becomes. Now, what happens to that which continues? Do you understand the problem? What happens to a thing that is continuous constantly becoming? That which continues has no renewal; it is merely repeating itself in different forms, but it has no renewal. That is, thought identified with an idea has continuance as the `I; but a thing that continues is constantly decaying, it knows birth and death. In that sense it continues, but the thing that continues can never renew itself. There is renewal only when there is an ending. Again, it is very important to discover and to understand this. Say, for example, I am worried over a problem which I am trying to solve, and I keep on worrying. What happens? There is no renewal, is there? The problem continues day after day, week after week, year after year. But when the worry is ended, there is a renewal, and then the problem has a different significance. Only in ending is there renewal, only in death is there a rebirth - which means death to the day, to the moment. But when there is merely the desire to continue and therefore identification with a belief, or with a memory , which is the `I', in such continuance there is no renewal - which is an obvious fact. A man who has a problem, who is continuously worried for a number of years, is dead, for him there is no renewal; he is of the living dead, he merely continues. But the moment the problem ends, there is a renewal. Similarly, where there is ending, there is rebirth, there is creation; but where there is continuity, there is no creation. Sirs, see the beauty of it, the truth of it, that in ending there is love. Love is new from moment to moment, it is not continuous, it is not repetitive. That is its greatness, that is its truth. A man who seeks continuity will obviously find it, because he identifies himself with an idea, and idea or memory continues; but in mere continuity there is no renewal. Only in death, in ending, is there renewal, not in continuity.
Now, you will say that I have not answered the question whether there is reincarnation or not. Surely, I have answered your question. Sir, to the problems of life there are no categorical answers `yes' and `no'. Life is too vast. It is only the thoughtless who seek a categorical answer. But, analyzing this question, we have discovered a great many things. There is beauty only in ending, there is renewal, creation, a beginning, only in death, in dying every minute - which means not hoarding, not laying up, physically or psychologically. So, life and death are one, and the man who knows they are one is he who dies every minute. This means not naming, not letting the record-keeper play over and over again that which is his particular consciousness. Immortality is not the continuance of an idea, which is the `I'. Immortality is that which is constantly dying and therefore constantly renewing.
The Observer is the Observed
Bombay, India. Public Talk 29th February, 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.