Ojai 8th Public Talk 24th August 1952
I would like to continue this morning with what we were discussing yesterday afternoon, the necessity of change and the problem involved in changing. I think most of us see at least superficially and sometimes, perhaps, deeply, the important change in the outward world, where there is so much misery: war, starvation, class distinctions, snobbishness, the appalling difference bet when the rich and the poor, eighty or ninety percent of Asia going to bed without proper food, while here you are well fed. There must obviously be a complete transformation, a vital change, and many people have tried to bring it about in different ways: through bloody revolution, through economic adjustments, through various superficial reforms and so on. But it seems to me that the fundamental revolution cannot take place unless there is complete self-abnegation, a total dissolution of the "me", of the self; and yesterday I somewhat went into the problem and the processes involved in the dissolution of this "me" that is everlastingly struggling to assert it self, positively or negatively.
This morning I would like to discuss desire, and whether desire can ever be changed; for I think that desire is one of the major problems that confront each one of us in considering the question of fundamental transformation. Surely, until we understand the whole process of desire, the longing, the striving, the conscious or unconscious pursuit of a particular object, however noble - until we go into and understand that process, mere superficial reform or violent revolution will have very little significance. And again, as I said yesterday please do not regard this as a talk to which you are listening, do not argue with me in your own mind, opposing one idea by another idea. What we are trying to do is to see the complex problem involved in this process of desire. am talking to you as an individual, not to a large and heterogeneous group of people who are not particularly interested in all this. We are discussing the problem as one individual to another without opposition, to see how far we can go into it, how deeply we can bring about a radical transformation in ourselves. In talking it over with you, I am merely exposing the problem, and how I feel it may be approached; and I think it is much more important to listen, as it were, unconsciously, rather than with a conscious effort to understand.
For most of us, desire is quite a problem: the desire for property, for position, for power, for comfort, for immortality, for continuity, the desire to be loved, to have something permanent, satisfying, lasting, some thing which is beyond time. Now, what is desire? What is this thing that is urging, compelling us? - which doesn't mean that we should be satisfied with what we have or with what we are which is merely the opposite of what we want. We are trying to see what desire is and if we can go into it tentatively, hesitantly, I think we will bring about a transformation which is not a mere substitution of one object of desire for another object of desire. But this is generally what we mean by "change", is it not? Being dissatisfied with one particular object of desire, we find a substitute for it. We are everlastingly moving from one object of desire to another which we consider to be higher, nobler, more refined; but, however refined, desire is still desire, and in this movement of desire there is endless struggle the conflict of the opposites.
So, is it not important to find out what is desire and whether it can be transformed? What is desire? Is it not the symbol and its sensation? Desire is sensation with the object of its attainment. Is there desire with- out a symbol and its sensation? Obviously not. The symbol may be a picture, a person, a word, a name, an image, an idea which gives me a sensation, which makes me feel that I like or dislike it; if the sensation is pleasurable, I want to attain, to possess, to hold on to its symbol and continue in that pleasure. From time to time, according to my inclinations and intensities, I change the picture, the image, the object. With one form of pleasure I am fed up, tired, bored, so I seek a new sensation, a new idea, a new symbol. I reject the old sensation and take on a new one, with new words, new significances, new experiences. I resist the old and yield to the new which I consider to be higher, nobler, more satisfying. So, in desire there is a resistance and a yielding, which involves temptation; and of course, in yielding to a particular symbol of desire, there is always the fear of frustration.
If I observe the whole process of desire in myself I see there is always an object towards which my mind is directed for further sensation, and that in this process there is involved resistance, temptation and discipline. There is perception, sensation, contact and desire, and the mind becomes the mechanical instrument of this process, in which symbols, words, objects are the centre round which all desire, all pursuits, all ambitions are built; and that centre is the "me". And can I dissolve that centre of desire - not one-particular desire, one particular appetite or craving, but the whole structure of desire, of longing, hoping, in which there is always the fear of frustration? The more I am frustrated, the more strength I give to the "me". As long as there is hoping, longing there is always the background of fear, which again strengthens that centre. And revolution is possible only at that centre, not on the surface, which is merely a process of distraction, a superficial change leading to mischievous action.
So, when I am aware of this whole structure of desire, I see how my mind has become a dead centre, a mechanical process of memory. Having tired of one desire, I automatically want to fulfil myself in another. My mind is always experiencing in terms of sensation, it is the instrument of sensation. Being bored with a particular sensation, I seek a new sensation, which may be what I call the realization of God; but it is still sensation. I have had enough of this world and its travail, and I want peace, the peace that is everlasting; so I meditate, control, I shape my mind in order to experience that peace. The experiencing of that peace is still sensation. So my mind is the mechanical instrument of sensation, of memory, a dead centre from which I act, think. The objects I pursue are the projections of the mind as symbols from which it derives sensations. The word "God", the word "love", the word" communism", the word "democracy", the word "nationalism" - these are all symbols which give sensations to the mind, and therefore the mind clings to them. As you and I know, every sensation comes to an end, and so we proceed from one sensation to another; and every sensation strengthens the habit of seeking further sensation. So, the mind becomes merely an instrument of sensation and memory, and in that process we are caught. As long as the mind is seeking further experience, it can only think in terms of sensation; and any experience that may be spontaneous, creative, vital, strikingly new, it immediately reduces to sensation, and pursues that sensation, which then becomes a memory. Therefore the experience is dead and the mind becomes merely a stagnant pool of the past.
If we have gone into it at all deeply we are familiar with this process; and we seem to be incapable of going beyond. And we want to go beyond, because we are tired of this endless routine, this mechani- cal pursuit of sensation; so the mind projects the idea of truth, of God; it dreams of a vital change and of playing a principal part in that change, and so on and on and on. Hence there is never a creative state. In myself I see this process of desire going on, which is mechanical, repetitive, which holds the mind in a process of routine and makes of it a dead centre of the past in which there is no creative spontaneity. And also there are sudden moments of creation, of that which is not of the mind, which is not of memory, which is not of sensation, of desire. So, what am I to do?
As I said yesterday, I think it is important to listen to what I am saying and merely be aware of what I am trying to imply. I am not trying to convince you or to impress upon you a particular pattern of thought, which only leads to superficial thinking and so to mischievous action. To see how far what I am saying is true, as you listen be aware of the process of your own thinking with out judgment; and the moment you are aware of something that is true, it will act if you give it a chance. But if you listen to something that is true without letting it act upon you, it becomes a poison, it brings about a state of deterioration. Consciously or unconsciously, most of us avoid finding out what is true; we do not want to listen to something which is not habitual, which is not the traditional pursuit of thought. So, if I may suggest, please listen, not with a view to being convinced, but listen to find out how your own mind operates. The moment I see how I am thinking, how I am acting, I do not want another to convince me of what I am. Self-knowledge brings wisdom; and wisdom is not conviction opinion, information, knowledge. It is something which is not measurable by the mind. All that I am trying to convey is the process of our own thinking, and how to be aware of it; and in the process of being aware of itself, the mind captures the significance that lies beyond the words, beyond the symbols and their sensations.
So, our problem is to understand desire - not how far it should go, or where it should come to an end, but to understand the whole process of desire, the cravings, the longings, the burning appetites. Most of us think that possessing very little indicates freedom from desire - and how we worship those who have but few things! A loin cloth, a robe, symbolizes our desire to be free from desire; but that again is a very superficial reaction. Why begin at the superficial level of giving up out ward possessions when your mind is crippled with innumerable desires, beliefs, struggles? Surely it is there that the revolution must take place, not in how much you possess, or what clothes you wear, or how many meals you eat. But we are impressed by these things because our minds are very superficial.
So, your problem and my problem is to see whether the mind can ever be free from desire, from sensation. Surely, creation has nothing to do with sensation; reality, God, or what you will, is not a state which can be experienced as sensation. When you have an experience, what happens? It has given you a certain sensation, a feeling of elation or depression. Naturally, you try to avoid, put aside the state of depression; but if it is a joy, a feeling of elation, you pursue it. Your experience has produced a pleasurable sensation, and you want more of it; and the more strengthens the dead centre of the mind, which is ever craving further experience. Hence the mind cannot experience anything new, it is incapable of experiencing anything new, because its approach is always through memory, through recognition; and that which is recognized through memory is not truth, creation, reality. Such a mind cannot experience reality, it can only experience sensation; and creation is not sensation, it is something that is everlastingly new, from moment to moment.
Now, I realize the state of my own mind; I see that it is the instrument of sensation and desire, or rather, that it is sensation and desire, and that it is mechanically caught up in routine. Such a mind is incapable of ever receiving or feeling out the new; for the new must obviously be something beyond sensation, which is always the old. So, this mechanical process with its sensations has to come to an end, has it not? The wanting more, the pursuit of symbols, words, images with their sensations - all that has to come to an end. Only then is it possible for the mind to be in that state of creativeness in which the new can always come into being. If you will listen without being mesmerized by words, by habits, by ideas, and see how important it is to have the new constantly impinging on the mind, then, perhaps, you will understand the process of desire, the routine, the boredom, the constant craving for experience. Then I think you will begin to see that desire has very little significance in life for a man who is really seeking. Obviously, there are certain physical needs: food, clothing, shelter, and all the rest of it. But they never become psychological appetites, things on which the mind builds itself as a centre of desire. Beyond the physical needs, any form of desire - for greatness, for truth, for virtue - becomes a psychological process by which the mind builds the idea of the "me" and strengthens itself at the centre.
So, when you see this process, when you are really aware of it with out opposition, without a sense of temptation, without resistance, with out justifying or judging it, then you will discover that the mind is capable of receiving the new, and that the new is never a sensation; therefore it can never be recognized, re-experienced. It is a state of being in which creativeness comes without invitation, without memory; and that is reality.
Question: I happen to be a successful business man of considerable means. I dropped by casually last Sunday to hear your talk, and I saw at once that what you are saying is perfectly true. It has created in me a serious conflict, for my whole background and occupation are diametrically opposed to the kind of life which I now realize is essential. I don't see how I can return to my business. What am I to do?
Krishnamurti: I wonder why some of you laughed? Was it a nervous reaction to cover up your our conflict of a similar kind? This man has asked a serious question, and you brush it off with a laugh. He is concerned, he wants to know what to do. What should he do? If he is serious and not carried away by words, by the mere sensation of a pleasant morning, obviously he has to act drastically, has he not? He may have to give up his business, because what he has realized is much more important than the business, than making money, than position, prestige, family, property. Can he go back to an occupation which is not what he wants, which he realizes is not his life? But we generally cover up this struggle, this discontent, by words, by explanations, justifications, and slip back to the former state. We realize that the life we have been leading as a business man, or what you will, is unworthy, corrupting, destructive - we realize that, we feel it in our bones and blood. But instead of acting, thinking it out, pursuing what we think, we are afraid of the consequences; and so there is an everlasting conflict going on between what we have realized and what we should do according to the dictates of society. So we invite psychosomatic diseases, we invite the deterioration of the mind, the conflict under ground. You have felt the stirring of something real, of something which you know to be true, but you are caught in a machine of making money, or ritualism, or what you will. If you fully realize that, and not just verbally accept it, then there will be drastic action, a breaking away from the old habits. But you see, very few ever come to that realization. We are getting old, our habits are settled, we want comfort, we want people to appreciate us, to love us, to be kind in the pattern of action to which we are accustomed. So, instead of taking the drastic action, we cover up our conflict and get lost in words, in explanations. The more you are attached to possessions, to responsibilities, the vaster are the implications and the more difficult it is to act. But if you realize that it has to be done, there is the end of the matter, you will do it. When you perceive what is true, that very perception is action.
Question: After stripping away all the stimulations, sensations, hopes and beliefs, one is left with a sense of utter dullness. Since you say that the thinker can do nothing about this dullness, one feels frustrated. How is one to go beyond the dullness with out doing something about it?
Krishnamurti: I think most of us feel this way, do we not? We consciously strip ourselves of beliefs, of hopes, of sensations, because we want greater hopes more stimulating sensations, more satisfying beliefs. We do not see the significance of hope, of belief, of sensation as a total process; we merely see that certain beliefs, sensations, hopes are futile, empty, without meaning, so we push them aside, we strip ourselves of them, or resign from certain societies. In stripping itself in order to gain more, naturally the mind be comes dull. It is still acting within the pattern of hope, of belief and sensation, so it feels frustrated; and then the problem arises, "How am I to be free of frustration? "With out understanding the total process of belief, which is the desire to be secure, to be certain, to take shelter in an idea, in a sensation - without understanding all that, going into it, being aware of all its implications, its nuances, we strip away one belief and pursue another. Whereas, if one is aware of how the mind creates a belief and clings to it, how it is ever lastingly seeking sensation through experience - if one sees the full significance of that, then there is no problem of frustration. Then the mind is not dull - it is alert, it is constantly watching to find out, to discover where it lurks in its own security. It is fully aware of itself, ceaselessly observing its own processes; and how can such a mind be dull? How can such a mind ever feel frustrated? You feel frustrated because you want to fulfil yourself in certain sensations, in certain beliefs, certain hopes. Where there is the desire to fulfil, there is fear, which is frustration.
In its desire for sensation, happiness, security, certainty, the mind is creating at the same time the fear that they will not be. In pursuing its own projections it gets caught in the fear of not fulfilling, of not being secure. It is this whole process that we have to understand; and under standing comes when we are aware of this process, when we observe it without judgment. The mind observes itself in action, there is no such entity as you observing the mind. The mind is aware of itself, of all its thoughts, of its hidden and open pursuits. Such a mind can never be dull, because there is never a moment of achievement, of success, of conformity. It is only when the mind conforms in its desire to succeed that it becomes dull, weary. A mind that is not seeking to extend itself through sensation, through further experience, has no blockage, no hindrance in which it feels frustrated. If you and I can under stand this process, if the mind can see itself in operation from moment to moment in our daily life, then I think the problem of dullness, of frustration will disappear completely.
Question: I have had an experience of God, and I know for myself that God exists. Though it is a belief, it is not a mere escape, but is based on an actual experience. I listened to you for the first time last week, and I feel you are wrong when you say that all belief is a hindrance. Is not belief based on direct experience, a help to the realization of reality or God?
Krishnamurti: What do we mean by a belief? A conviction? Please, I am not trying to define it according to the dictionary. You have beliefs. What are they based on? On experience, are they not? And your experience is the result of your tradition, of your background, of your education and the influence of your society. The influence of your environment conditions your belief. You have been brought up as a Christian, and you believe according to that tradition, according to that background. Another is brought up in a society where God is taboo, is regarded as absurd, illogical, unreal; and he also believes according to his background. So, you experience ac cording to your background, as he will experience according to his. You experience that which you have unconsciously and deeply cultivated. You have been educated according to a certain pattern of thought which has been inculcated, built into you from childhood, and naturally you experience God according to that pattern; and your experience then becomes a reality to you, and you say it is no longer a matter of mere belief, but is based on knowledge, on conviction, on truth. Will such a belief help you to experience further what you call God? Of course it will. But that which you experience according to your conditioning - is it God, is it truth? And will not that experience strengthen your belief, which is your conditioning? You may say that this is not an escape; but are you not reacting according to your conditioning, as another will react according to his conditioning?
So, what is important is, not whether you believe or disbelieve in God, but to free the mind from its conditioning - and then discover. If, without freeing itself from its own conditioning, the mind asserts that there is or that there is not God, what significance has it? So, the mind must free itself from its conditioning, that is, from its self-projections, its desires, its longing for certainty, for security, for its own continuity, whether in the State or in God. Only then is it possible to say whether there is an absolute reality, or a series of everexpanding and more significant experiences. Surely, that is the important point, not whether your belief strengthens your conditioning, or whether your experience is of God. The moment the mind recognizes God, it is not God; the word is not the thing. Memory is not reality. That which is unnameable cannot be recognized, it is not a sensation; it is something completely different which comes into being from moment to moment; therefore, there is no continuity. As long as my mind seeks continuity, it is conditioned by its own desires; therefore it experiences that which gives it continuity, which it may call God, but which is not God. So, what is vital in this question is how the mind can free itself from its own background, conditioning; and is it ever possible to be free? That is the problem, not continued belief or disbelief, or whether belief will help you. We want God to help us in our pettiness, in our ambitions, in our pursuits. Such a God is not a help but a hindrance.
So, our problem is, can the mind free itself from its conditioning, the background in which it has been brought up, educated controlled, shaped? To be free, one has first to be aware that one is bound. The mind has to be aware of its own conditioning, of the conscious as well as of the hidden, underground conditioning - which is not a process of analysis. That is, if one part of the mind analyzes itself, goes deeply into the problem through analysis, it is not possible to free the mind from its conditioning. The mind can free it self only when it is aware of the total process of its conditioning, and of why it accepts this conditioning; and you can be aware of it, it is not very difficult. If the mind is constantly aware of its conditioning in its relationship with nature, with people, with ideas, with things, then the whole of existence is a mirror in which you can discover without analyzing. Analysis may temporarily open the door to a few difficulties; but to free the mind from its back ground, from conditioning, from tradition, so that it is made new - that is possible only when we are aware from moment to moment with out struggle, when we see without effort what is happening within the corridors, the recesses of the mind. Only when the mind is new, free, is it capable of receiving that which is unnameable, the timeless.
August 24, 1952
Ojai 8th Public Talk 24th August 1952
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