Amsterdam 1st Public Talk 17th May 1955
One is apt rather to think that what is going to be said will be oriental, and something which you have to struggle after to find. You need not struggle; but I think it is important, if we wish to understand each other, that we should first of all clear our minds of obvious conclusions. I feel that what I am going to say is neither oriental nor occidental. It is not something which, because I happen to have a brown skin, is being brought from India for western people to believe in. On the contrary, I think there is no east or west when we are concerned with human problems. As we are concerned with human problems, surely we must look at them from no particular point of view, but comprehensively. If we look at our human problems from a western point of view, or with the attitude of an Indian, with certain traditions, ideas and beliefs, it obviously prevents the comprehension of the total process of our living. So it seems to me that it is very important not to assume anything, not to draw upon any conclusion. or base our life on any suppositions or postulates. That is one of our greatest difficulties, - to free the mind from any assumption, from any belief, from all the accretions of our own accumulated knowledge and all that we have learned. Surely, if we would understand anything, we must have a free mind, unburdened of any previous conclusions, unburdened of all belief. When the mind is so free, unhampered by the various conditionings which have been imposed on it, is it not possible that such a mind is then capable of understanding the immediate challenge of life, whatever it may be?
We are concerned, are we not? - not only here in Europe but also in Asia and India - with a challenge that demands quite a different approach from any method tried before. We have to respond to the challenge of the present crisis, surely, with a total mind, not with a fragmented mind, - not as Christians or Buddhists or Hindus or Communists or Catholics or Protestants or what you will. If we do so approach the challenge, from our own particular standpoint, we shall fail, because the challenge is far too big, too great, for us to respond to it partially, or with a mind conditioned as a Christian or Buddhist or Hindu. So it seems to me that it is very important to free the mind. and not to start from any premise, from any conclusion. Because if we do start with any conclusion, with any premise, we have already responded to the challenge according to our own particular conditioning. So what is important, if we are at all serious and earnest, is to ask ourselves whether the mind can be unconditioned, and not merely seek to condition it into a better, nobler pattern, - communist or socialist or catholic or what you will. Most of us are concerned with how to condition the mind into a nobler pattern; but can we not rather ask ourselves whether the mind can really be unconditioned? It seems to me that if we are at all serious, that is the fundamental issue. At present we are approaching life, with its extraordinarily fundamental challenge, either as a Christian, or as a Communist, or as a Hindu, or as a Buddhist, or what you will, and so our response is always conditioned, limited narrow and therefore our reaction to the challenge is very petty. Therefore there is always conflict, there is always sorrow, confusion. My response being inadequate, insufficient, incomplete, must create within me a sense of conflict, from which arises sorrow. Realizing that one suffers, one tries to find a better, a nobler pattern of action, politically, or religiously, or economically, but it is still, essentially, conditioned.
So surely, our problem is not the search for a better pattern offered by one or the other of the various political or religious groups. Nor can we return in our confusion to the past, as most people are apt to do when they are confused, - go back to something which we know, or which we have heard, or read of in books, which again is the constant pursuit, is it not?, of a better, nobler pattern of thinking, of conditioning. What we are talking about here is an entirely different matter, - which is, is it possible for the mind to be free, totally unconditioned? At present all our minds are conditioned from the moment we are born to the moment we die; our mind is shaped by circumstances, by society, by religion, by education, by all the various pressures and strains of life, moral, social, ethical, and all the rest of it. And, having been shaped, we try to respond to something new; but obviously such a response can never be complete. There is always a sense of failure, of guilt, of misery. So, our question is then, is it not?, whether the mind can be really free from all conditioning. And it seems to me that it is really a very fundamental issue.
And if we are at all earnest, not only for the time being, temporarily, but if we would maintain an earnestness to find out if the mind can be free from all conditioning, that requires serious attention. I do not think any book, any philosophy, any leader, any teacher, is going to help us, for surely each one of us must find out for ourselves whether the mind can be free. Some will say "Obviously it cannot", and others may assert that it can. But both the assertions will have very little meaning, will they not?, because the moment I accept one or the other, that very acceptance is a form of conditioning. Whereas if I, as an individual, - if there is such a thing as an individual, - if I as a human being try to find out for myself, to inquire earnestly whether it is at all possible to free the mind totally from conditioning, both the conscious as well as the unconscious, surely that is the beginning of self-knowledge. I do not know it I can uncondition the mind; I neither accept nor reject the possibility, but I want to find out. That is the only way to approach life, is it not? Because a mind that is already in bondage, either in the bondage of nationalism, or in the bondage of any particular religion, or held in a particular belief, however ancient or modern, - such a mind is obviously incapable of really searching out what is true. A mind that is tethered to any belief, whatever the belief be, a mind that is merely held by an experience, whatever that experience be, - how can such a mind investigate, proceed to understand? It can only move within the circle of its own bondage. So, if one is at all serious, - and the times surely demand seriousness, - then each one of us must ask ourselves "Is it possible for the mind to be free from all conditioning?"
Now, what does this conditioning mean, actually? What is the nature of this conditioning? Why is the mind so willing to fit itself into the pattern of a particular design - as of a nation or group or religion? So long as the `me', the self, is important, is there not always some form of conditioning? Because, the self assumes various forms, it exists as the `me' or the `you', as the `I', only when there is some form of conditioning. So long as I think of myself as a Hindu, that very thought is the outcome of the feeling of importance. So long as I identify myself with any particular racial group, that very identification gives importance to me. And so long as I am attached to any particular property, name, family, and so on, that very attachment encourages the `me', which is the very centre of all conditioning. So, if we are serious and earnest in our endeavour to find out if the mind is capable of freeing itself from all conditioning, surely, consciously, there must be no identification with any religion, with any racial group; there must be freedom from all attachment. For where there is identification or attachment, there is no love.
The mere rejection of a belief, of a particular church or a particular religion or other conditioning, is not freedom. But to understand the whole process of it, go into it deeply, consciously, that requires a certain alertness of mind, the non-acceptance of all authority. To have self-knowledge, knowledge of myself as a total human being, the conscious as well as the unconscious, not just one fragment of myself, I must investigate, proceed to understand the whole nature of myself, find out step by step, - but not according to any pattern or any philosophy. according to any particular leader. Investigation into myself is not possible if I assume anything. If I assume that I am merely the product of environment, investigation ceases. Or if I assume that I have within me a spiritual entity, the unfolding God, or what you will, that assumption has already precluded, stopped, further investigation.
Self-knowledge, then, is the beginning of the freedom of the mind. There cannot be understanding of oneself, fundamentally, deeply, if there is any form of assumption, any authority, either of the past or of the present. But the mind is frightened to let go of all authority, and investigate, because it is afraid of not arriving at a particular result. So the mind is concerned with achieving a result, but not with the investigation to find out, to understand. That is why we cling to authority, religious, psychological, or philosophical. Being afraid, we demand guides, authorities, scriptures, saviours, inspiration in various forms, and so the mind is made incapable of standing alone and trying to find out. But one must stand alone, completely, totally alone, to find out what is true. And that is why it is important not to belong to any group. Because truth is discovered only by the mind that is alone, - not in the sense of being lonely, isolated, I do not mean that at all, because isolation is merely a form of resistance, a form of defence.
Only the mind that has gone into this question of self-knowledge deeply, and in the process of investigation has put aside all authority, all churches, all saviours, all following, - only such a mind is capable of discovering reality. But to come to that point is extremely arduous, and most of us are frightened. Because to reject all the things that have been put upon us, to put aside the various forms of religions, churches, beliefs, is the rejection of society, is to withstand society, is it not? He who is outside society, who is no longer held by society, - only such a person is then capable of finding out what God is, what truth is. To merely repeat that one believes or does not believe in God or in truth has very little significance. You can be brought up as a child not to believe in God, as is being done; or, as a child, be brought up to believe in God. They are both the same; because both minds are conditioned. But to find out what is true, if there is such a thing as God, that requires freedom of the mind, complete freedom, which means unconditioning the mind from all the past.
This unconditioning is essential, because the times demand a new creative understanding, not the mere response of a past conditioning. Any society that does not respond to the new challenge of a group or an individual, obviously decays. And it seems to me that if we would create a new world, a new society, we must have a free mind. And that mind cannot come about without real self-knowledge. Do not say "All this has been said by so-and-so on the past. We can never find out the totality of our whole self." On the contrary, I think one can. To find out, the mind must surely be in a state in which there is no condemnation. Because what I am is the fact. Whatever I am, - jealous, envious, haughty, ambitious, whatever it be, - can we not just observe it without condemnation? Because the very process of condemnation is another form of conditioning `what is'. If one would understand the whole process of the self, there must be no identification, condemnation or judgment, but an awareness in which there is no choice, - just observation. If you attempt it, you will see how extraordinarily difficult it is. Because all our morality, our social and educational training, leads us to compare and to condemn, to judge. And the moment you judge, you have stopped the process of inquiry, insight. Thus in the process of relationship, one begins to discover what the ways of the self are.
It is important not to merely listen to what is being said and accept or reject it, but to observe the process of our own thinking in all our relationships. For in relationship, which is the mirror, we see ourselves as we actually are. And if we do not condemn or compare, then it is possible to penetrate deeper into the whole process of consciousness. And it is only then that there can be a fundamental revolution, - not the revolution of the communist or what you will, but a real regeneration, in the deepest sense of that word. The man who is freeing himself from all conditioning, who is fully aware, - such a man is a religious man; not the man who merely believes. And it is only such a religious man who is capable of producing a revolution in the world, Surely that is the fundamental issue for all of us, - not to substitute one belief for another belief, to join this group or that, to go from one religion to another, one cage to another. As individuals we are confronted with enormous problems, which can only be answered in the process of understanding ourselves. It is only such religious human beings, - who are free, unconditioned, - who can create a new world.
Several questions have been sent in. And in considering them, it is important to bear in mind that life has no answer. If you are merely looking for an answer to the various problems, then you will never find it, you will only find a solution that is suitable to you, that you like or dislike, that you reject or accept; but that is not the answer, it is only your response to a particular like or dislike. But if one does not seek an answer, but looks at the problem, really investigates it, then the answer is in the problem itself. But you see, we are so eager to find an answer. We suffer, our life is a confusion of conflict, and we want to put an end to that confusion, we want to find a solution; and so we are everlastingly seeking an answer. Probably there is no answer, in the way we want it answered.
But if we do not seek an answer, - which is extraordinarily difficult, and which means to investigate the whole problem patiently, without condemnation, without accepting or rejecting, just investigate, and proceed patiently, - then you will find the problem itself, in its unfolding, reveals extraordinary things. For that the mind must be free, it must not take sides, choose.
Question: It is fairly obvious that we are the product of our environment, and so we react according to how we are brought up. Is it ever possible to break down this background and live without self-contradiction?
Krishnamurti: When we say it is fairly obvious that we are the product of our environment, I wonder if we are really aware of such a fact? Or, is it merely a verbal statement without much meaning? When we say that we are the product of the environment, is that so? Do you actually feel that you are the product of the whole weight of Christian tradition, conscious as well as unconscious, the culture, the civilization, the wars, the hatreds, the imposition of various beliefs? Are you really aware of it? Or, do you merely reject certain portions of that conditioning, and keep others, those which are pleasant, profitable, which give you sustenance, strength? Those you keep, do you not?, and the rest, which are rather unpleasant, tiresome, you reject. But, if you are aware that you are the product of environment, then you must be aware of the total conditioning, not merely those parts which you have rejected but also those which are pleasant and which you want to keep.
So, is one truly aware that one the product of the environment? And, if one is aware, then where does self-contradiction arise? You understand the issue? Within ourselves we are in contradiction, we are confused, we are pulled in different directions by our desires, ideals, beliefs, because our environment has given us certain values, certain standards. Surely the contradiction is part of the environment, it is not separate from it. We are part of the environment, - which is, religion, education, social morality, business values, tradition, beliefs, various impositions of churches, governments, the whole process of the past: those are all superficial conditionings; and there are also the inward unconscious responses to those superficial conditionings. When one is aware of all that, is there a contradiction? Or, does contradiction arise because I am only partially aware of the conditioning of the environment, and assume that there are parts of me which are not conditioned, thereby creating a conflict within myself?
So long as I feel guilty because I do not conform to a particular pattern of thought, of morality, obviously there is contradiction; the very nature of guilt is contradiction. I have certain values, which have been imposed or self-cultivated, and so long as I accept those values there must be contradiction. But cannot the mind understand that it is entirely the product of conditioning? The mind is the result of time, conditioning. experience, and therefore invariably there must be contradiction within itself. Surely, so long as the mind is trying to fit into any particular pattern of thought, of morality, of belief, then that patten itself creates the contradiction. And when we say "How am I to be free from self-contradiction?", there is only one answer, - to be free from all thought which creates the pattern. Then only is it possible for the mind to be free from self-contradiction.
Please, if I may suggest, do not reject this, - perhaps you have to think about it, go more deeply into it. It is something you have not heard before, and the obvious reaction is to say "Well, it is nonsense", and throw it out. But if you would understand, if you will listen to it deeply, you will see that so lone as the mind, which is the centre of all thought, is trying to think in a certain pattern, there will be contradiction. If it is thinking exclusively in that pattern, then there is no contradiction for the moment; but as soon as it diverges, moves away at all from the pattern, there must be contradiction.
So, the question "How is one to be free from self-contradiction?" is obviously a wrong question. The question is, "How can the mind be free from all environmental influences?" The mind itself is the product of environment. So as long as the mind is battling against the environment, trying to shake it, trying to break away from it, that very breaking away is a contradiction, and therefore there is a struggle. But if the mind is observant, is aware that it is itself the product of environment, then the mind becomes quiet, then the mind no longer struggles against itself. And being quiet, still, then it will be free from environment.
Perhaps you will kindly think about this, - not accept or reject, but see the truth of what is being said; and you cannot understand the truth of something if you are battling against it or defending it. Can we not see that the very nature of the mind is to contradict, to be a slave to environment? - because it is the product of time, of centuries of tradition, of fear, of hope, of inspiration, of stress and strain. Such a mind is conditioned, totally. And, when such a mind rejects or accepts, that very acceptance or rejection is the further continuance of conditioning. Whereas when the mind is aware that it is totally conditioned, consciously as well as unconsciously, then it is still, and in that stillness there is freedom from conditioning. Then there is no contradiction.
The division between contradiction and complete integration cannot be drawn intellectually, verbally. Integration comes into being only when there is the total understanding of oneself. And that understanding of oneself does not come through analysis, because the problem then arises, who is the analyser? The analyser himself is conditioned, obviously; and therefore that which he analyses is also the result of conditioning.
So, what is important is not, how to eradicate self-contradiction, but to understand the whole process of the conditioning of the mind. That can only be understood in relationship, in our daily life, seeing how the mind reacts, observing, watching, being aware, without condemning. Then you will see how extraordinarily difficult it is to free the mind, because the mind assumes so many things, it has deposited so many assertions, values, beliefs. When the mind is constantly aware, without judging, without condemning, without comparing, then such a mind can begin to understand the total process of itself, and therefore become still. Only in that stillness of mind can that which is real come into being.
May 17, 1955
Amsterdam 1st Public Talk 17th May 1955
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