Seattle 1st Public Talk 16th July 1950
I think it is important to learn the art of hearing. Most of us listen only to that which is convenient, pleasurable; we do not hear those things that might affect us deeply, that are disturbing, that contradict our particular beliefs and opinions. And surely, it is important that we should know how to listen without making a tremendous effort to understand. When we make an effort to understand, our energy goes into the effort rather than into the process of understanding. Very few can listen without resistance, without creating barriers between themselves and the speaker; but if we can put aside our particular opinions, our accumulated knowledge and experience, and listen easily, without effort, then perhaps we shall be able to understand the nature of the fundamental and radical transformation that is so essential in a crisis of the present kind.
Now, it is obvious that there must be some kind of change. We are at the edge of a precipice; and the crisis is not limited to a particular group, religion, or people, but it is a crisis that involves us all. Whether you are an American or a Korean, a Japanese or a German, a Russian or a Hindu, you are affected by this crisis. It is a world crisis; and to understand it fully, if one is at all serious about it, one has obviously to begin with a fundamental understanding of oneself. The world is not different from each one of us. The world's problems are your problems and mine. This is not a histrionic assertion, but an actual fact. If you examine the matter closely, go into it fully, you will see that the collective problems are the problems that con front each one of us individually. I do not think there is a division between the collective problems and those of the individual. The world is what we are; what we are, we project, and that to us becomes the world problem.
So, to understand this extraordinarily complex and everincreasing problem that we see in the world, we have to understand ourselves - which does not mean that we must become so subjective, so inward-turned, that we lose contact with external affairs. Such an action, such a process, is meaningless, it has no validity at all. But if we can see that the world crisis - the confusion, the tragedy, the appalling murders and disasters that are taking place and are going to take place, this whole beastly mess - if we can see that all this is the result of our own daily life and action, of our particular beliefs, both religious and national; if we can see that this world cataclysm is a projection of our selves and is not independent of us, then our examination of the problem will be neither subjective nor objective, but will come about through quite a different approach.
Now, we generally approach a problem of this kind either objectively or subjectively, do we not? We try to understand it either on the objective or on the subjective level; and the difficulty is that the problem is neither purely subjective nor purely objective, but is a combination of the two. It is both a social and a psychological process, and that is why no specialist, no economist, no psychologist, no follower of a system, whether of the right or of the left, can ever solve this problem. The specialists and experts can attack the problem only in their own particular fields, they never treat it as a total process; and to understand it, one must approach it in its totality. So, our ap- proach to the problem can obviously be neither subjective nor objective, but we must be capable of seeing it as a total process.
To understand the world crisis as a total process, one has to begin with oneself. Outwardly there is constant war, conflict, confusion, misery, and strife; and through it all there is the search for security, for happiness. Surely, these outward problems are the result, the projection, of our own inward confusion, conflict, and misery. Therefore, in order to solve the external problems, which are not independent of our inward struggles and pains, we must obviously begin to understand the process of our own thinking; that is, there must be self-knowledge. Without knowing ourselves fundamentally, both the conscious and the unconscious, there is no basis for thinking, is there? If I do not know myself deeply, at all the different levels, what basis is there for my thinking, for my action? Though this has been said over and over again by every preacher since the beginning of time, we go on disregarding it because we think that by environmental change, by altering outward circumstances, by bringing about an economic revolution, we can transform fundamentally the process of our thinking. But surely, if we can look at the problem a little more closely and ardently, we will see that mere external alterations can never bring about a fundamental revolution. Without understanding the whole process of the self, of the `me', the process of our own thinking, the inward confusion in which we live will always overcome the cunning reconstruction of outer circumstances.
So, it is important, is it not?, for those who are really serious, who are in earnest, who are not just flippant or pursuing some sectarian belief - surely, it is important for such people to begin to understand the process of their own thinking. Because, after all, our thought is the response of our particular conditioning; and there would be no thought if there were no conditioning. That is, whether you are a socialist, a communist, a capitalist, a catholic, a protestant, a Hindu, or what you will, your thinking is the response of that conditioning; and without understanding that conditioning or background, which is the `you', whatever you do, whatever you think, must obviously be the response of that conditioning. So, to bring about a fundamental revolution, a transformation in oneself, there must be the understanding of the background, of the conditioning influences which create the process of thinking; and this self-knowledge is the beginning of wisdom.
Most of us, unfortunately, seek wisdom through books, through listening to somebody; we think we will understand life by following experts or by joining philosophical societies or religious organizations. Surely, they are all escapes, are they not? Because, after all, we have to understand ourselves; and the understanding of oneself is a very complex process. We do not exist at only one level; our structure of being is at several levels, with different entities all in conflict with each other. Without understanding that whole process of the self, we cannot finally solve any problem, whether political, economic, or social. The basic problem is one of human relationship, and to solve that, we must begin to understand the total process of ourselves. To bring about a change in the world, which is obviously essential, we must lie aware of all our psychological responses, must we not? To be aware of our responses is to observe them without choice, without condemnation or justification - just to see the whole process of our own thinking in the midst of relationship, in the midst of action. Then we begin to examine the problem in its totality, that is, we are aware of its full scope; and then we shall see how our responses are conditioned by our particular background, and how those conditioned responses are contributing to the chaos in the world. So, self - knowledge is the beginning of freedom.
Now, to discover anything, to understand what is truth, reality, or God, there must be freedom. Freedom can never come through a belief; on the contrary, there is freedom only when the conditioning influences of belief, and of the process of memory, are understood. When there is that understanding of its own process, then the mind is really still, spontaneously silent; and in that silence, which cannot come through any enforcement, there is freedom. Then only is there a possibility of discovering what is real. So, there can be freedom only with the understanding of the self, of the `me', of the whole process of our thinking.
There are some questions, and in considering them, may I suggest that you and I should both try to discover the truth of the matter, and not merely wait for an answer. Life has no categorical answer of `yes' or `no'. We must go into each problem very deeply; and to go into it deeply, we must begin very near and follow it closely without missing a step. And if we can take the journey together and discover the truth of these problems, then no expert, no pressure of public opinion, no immature thinking, can ever obscure that which has been discovered.
Question: What is my responsibility towards the present world crisis?
Krishnamurti: First of all, is the world crisis something apart from you? Is the present world catastrophe different from the conflict for our daily existence? After all, this disastrous world situation is the collective result of our separative beliefs, of our narrow patriotism's, of our religious bigotries, petty antagonisms, and economic frontiers. It is the result of our daily competition, of our ruthless efficiency, is it not?
So, the world crisis is a projection of ourselves; it is not separate from us. And to bring about a fundamental change in the world, surely we must individually break down and be free from those limitations, barriers, and conditioning influences, which create this universal horror and confusion. But our difficulty is that we do not see that we are responsible. We do not really see that nationalism divides people, that so-called religions, with their dogmas, beliefs, and rituals, are separating influences. Though they preach the unity of man, they themselves are a means of setting man against man. We do not see the truth of that, nor of the fact that our own limited thoughts, experiences, and knowledge, are again a separative process; and where there is separation, obviously there is disintegration and ultimately war.
Our life, then, is actually a process of disintegration; in it there is nothing creative. We are like gramophone records, repeating certain experiences, certain slogans, and reproducing the knowledge which we have acquired. In repeating, we make a lot of noise, and we think we are living; but this mechanical repetition is obviously a process of disintegration which, when projected, becomes a world crisis of ultimate destruction. So, the world crisis is a projection of our daily existence. What we are makes the world around us. Therefore, for those who ar; really serious, it is of the highest importance to bring about a fundamental change in what we are; because, only in the transformation of ourselves can there be the cessation of this horror that is going on. But unfortunately, most of us are lazy. We want others to do the work for us, to tell us what to do. We are satisfied with our little knowledge, with our little experience, with trite newspaper slogans; and gradually we become set in our narrow ways, we lose the vitality of change, the quickness, the alertness of mind.
So, the problem is not to find out your responsibility towards the world crisis, but to see that what you are, the world is. Without a fundamental transformation in yourself, world crises will go on multiplying, becoming more and more disastrous. The problem, then, is how to bring about a fundamental transformation in oneself; and we shall discuss this during the next four weeks as we go along. It is not an easy problem. Transformation is not mere change, a mere modification in one's attitude. Such change is superficial, it can never be fundamental. So, we must think about the whole problem quite differently, which we will do in the course of the coming weeks.
Question: Is the individual the instrument of society, or does society exist for the individual?
Krishnamurti: This is an important question, is it not? Let us think it out together and find the truth of the matter without depending on the opinion of any authority or any expert. Authorities and experts change their views according to their convenience, according to their latest discoveries, and so on; but if we can discover the truth of the matter for ourselves, then we shall not be dependent on others.
Now, this question implies that the world is divided, does it not? There are those who assert, with enormous knowledge in addition to their personal inclination and idiosyncrasy, that the individual is the instrument of society - which means that the individual is not important at all. There is a tremendous group of people who maintain this, and who therefore give all their energies to the reconstruction of society. And there are those who believe with equal emphasis that the individual is above society, that society exists for the individual.
So, you and I have to find out what the truth of this matter is. How are we going to find out? Surely, not by being persuaded to accept this or that opinion, but by going into the whole problem very deeply. That is, our problem is not whether society exists for the individual, or the individual for society, but to find out what is the individual. I hope I am making myself clear. There are those who assert that the individual is not important, and that only society is important; and there are others who maintain that the individual is beyond society. But to find out the truth of the matter, surely we must inquire into the problem of what is individuality.
Are you an individual? You may think you are an individual, because you have your own house, your own name, your own family, your own bank account; you have the particular experiences, the memories, both private and collective, of a separate person. But does that constitute individuality? Because, after all, you are conditioned by your environment, are you not? You are an American, or a Russian, or a Hindu, with all its implications; you have a certain ideology imposed upon you by your society, either of the left or of the right. You are educated in certain ways by your society. Your religious beliefs are a result of your education, of your environmental influence. You believe in God, or disbelieve in God, according to your conditioning. So, you, as an entity, are the result of social or environmental conditioning, are you not? That is, you are a conditioned entity; and is a conditioned entity a true individual? Indi- viduality is unique, is it not? Otherwise it is not individuality. And that which is unique is creative, it is beyond all conditioning, it is not limited, controlled by thought. So, there can be individuality only when there is freedom from conditioning; and as long as you are conditioned as a Hindu, a Buddhist, a communist, a capitalist, a Russian, or what you will, there can be no individuality.
Now, society is only concerned with creating an entity which is efficient for its own purposes, including war; it is obviously not concerned with bringing about an individual who is unique, creative. So, the problem is, not whether the individual is or is not the instrument of society, but whether we ourselves are individuals; and to find out if we are individuals, surely we must be aware of our conditioning. As long as we are not free from our particular conditioning, there cannot be the creative uniqueness of individuality. There can be individuality only when there is freedom from all conditioning, whether of the left or of the right; and that freedom alone brings about the creative uniqueness of the individual.
You may say that I am giving quite a different significance to that word `individual'. But I don't think we are individuals, are we? And by recognizing that we are not individuals, that we merely respond according to our conditioning - by recognizing that fact, we can go beyond it; but if we deny the fact, then it is obviously impossible to go beyond. And most of us will deny the fact, because we like what we are. We like to be comfortable in our own little backyard of thinking - and for that we will fight. But if we can understand our conditioning and the responses of that conditioning, which we so proudly call individuality, if we can be aware of all that, then there is a possibility of going beyond and discovering what is true creation.
Question: There are many concepts of God in the world today. What is your thought concerning God?
Krishnamurti: First of all, we must find out what we mean by a concept. What do we mean by the process of thinking? Because, after all, when we formulate a concept, let us say, of God, our formula or concept must be the result of our conditioning, must it not? If we believe in God, surely our belief is the result of our environment. There are those who are trained from childhood to deny God, and those who are trained to believe in God - as most of you have been. So, we formulate a concept of God according to our training, according to our background, according to our idiosyncrasies, likes and dislikes, hopes and fears. Obviously, then, as long as we do not understand the process of our own thinking, mere concepts of God have no value at all, have they? Because, thought can project anything it likes. It can create and deny God. Each person can invent or destroy God according to his inclinations, pleasures, and pains. Therefore, as long as thought is active, formulating, inventing, that which is beyond time can never be discovered. God, or reality, is to be discovered only when thought comes to an end.
Now, when you ask, "What is your thought concerning God?", you have already formulated your own thought, have you not? Thought can create God, and experience that which it has created; but surely, that is not true experience. It is only its own projection that thought experiences, and therefore it is not real. But if you and I can see the truth of this, then perhaps we shall experience something much greater than a mere projection of thought.
At the present time, when there is greater and greater insecurity outwardly, there is obviously a yearning for inward security. Since we cannot find security outside, we seek it in an idea, in thought; and so we create that which we call God, and that concept becomes our security. Now, a mind that seeks security surely cannot find the real, the true. To understand that which is beyond time, the fabrications of thought must come to an end. Thought cannot exist without words, symbols, images; and only when the mind is quiet, free of its own creations, is there a possibility of finding out what is real. So, merely to ask if there is or is not God, is an immature response to the problem, is it not? And to formulate opinions about God is really childish.
To experience, to realize, that which is beyond time, we must obviously understand the process of time. The mind is the result of time, it is based on the memories of yesterday; and is it possible to be free from the multiplication of yesterdays, which is the process of time? Surely, this is a very serious problem, it is not a matter of belief or disbelief. Believing and disbelieving is a process of ignorance; whereas, understanding the time-binding quality of thought brings freedom, in which alone there can be discovery. But most of us want to believe, because it is much more convenient; it gives us a sense of security, a sense of belonging to the group. Surely, this very belief separates us; because, you believe in one thing, and I believe in another. So, belief acts as a barrier, it is a process of disintegration.
What is important, then, is not the cultivation of belief or disbelief, but to understand the process of the mind. It is the mind, it is thought, that creates time. Thought is time, and whatever thought projects must be of time; therefore, thought cannot possibly go beyond itself. To discover what is beyond time, thought must come to an end - and that is a most difficult thing; because, the ending of thought does not come about through discipline, through control, through denial or suppression. Thought ends only when we understand the whole process of thinking; and to understand thinking, there must be self-knowledge. Thought is the self, thought is the word which identifies itself as the `me; and at whatever level, high or low, the self is placed, it is still within the field of thought. To find God, that which is beyond time, we must understand the process of thought, that is, the process of oneself. And the self is very complex; it is not at any one level, but is made up of many thoughts, many entities, each in contradiction with the other. There must be a constant awareness of them all - an awareness in which there is no choice, no condemnation or comparison; that is, there must be the capacity to see things as they are without distorting or translating them. The moment we judge or translate what is seen, we distort it according to our background. To discover reality or God, there can be no belief, because acceptance or denial is a barrier to discovery. We all want to be secure, both outwardly and inwardly; and the mind must understand that the search for security is an illusion. It is only the mind which is insecure, completely free from any form of possession, that can discover - and this is an arduous task. It does not mean retiring into the woods, or to a monastery, or isolating oneself in some peculiar belief; on the contrary, nothing can exist in isolation. To be, is to be related; and it is only in the midst of relationship that we can spontaneously discover ourselves as we are. It is this very discovery of ourselves as we are, without any sense of condemnation or justification, that brings about a fundamental transformation in what we are; and that is the beginning of wisdom.
July 16, 1950
Seattle 1st Public Talk 16th July 1950
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