Ojai 6th Public Talk 21st August 1955
It is an obvious fact that human beings demand something to worship. You and I and many others desire to have something sacred in our lives, and either we go to temples, to mosques, or to churches, or we have other symbols, images and ideas which we worship. The necessity to worship something seems very urgent because we want to be taken out of ourselves into something greater, wider, more profound, more permanent, so we begin to invent Masters, teachers, divine beings in heaven or on the earth, we devise various symbols, the cross, the crescent, so on. Or, if none of that is satisfactory, we speculate about what lies beyond the mind, holding that it is something sacred, something to be worshipped. That is what happens in our everyday existence, as I think most of us are well aware. There is always this effort within the field of the known, within the field of the mind, of memory, and we never seem able to break away and find something sacred that is not manufactured by the mind.
So this morning I would like, if I may, to go into this question of whether there is something really sacred, something immeasurable, which cannot be fathomed by the mind. To do that, there must obviously be a revolution in our thinking, in our values. I do not mean an economic or social revolution, which is merely immature; it may superficially affect our lives, but fundamentally it is not a revolution at all. I am talking of the revolution which is brought about through self-knowledge - not through the superficial self-knowledge which is achieved by an examination of thought on the surface of the mind, but through the profound depths of self-knowledge.
Surely, one of our greatest difficulties is this fact that all our effort is within the field of recognition. We seem to function only within the limits of that which we are capable of recognizing, that is, within the field of memory; and is it possible for the mind to go beyond that field? Memory is obviously essential at a certain level. I must know the road from here back to where I live. If you ask me a question about something with which I am very familiar, my response is immediate.
Please, if I may suggest, observe your own mind as I am talking; because I want to go into this rather deeply, and if you merely follow the verbal explanation without applying it immediately, the explanation will have no significance whatsoever. If you listen and say, `I will think about it tomorrow or after the meeting' then it is gone, it has no value at all; but if you give complete attention to what is being said and are capable of applying it, which means being aware of your own intellectual and emotional processes, then you will see that what I am saying has significance immediately.
As I was saying, there is an instantaneous response to anything that you know intimately; when a familiar question is asked, you reply easily, the reaction is immediate. And if you are asked a question with which you are not very familiar, then what happens? You begin to search in the cupboards of memory, you try to recall what you have read or thought about it, what your experience has been. That is, you turn back and look at certain memories which you have acquired; because what you call knowledge is essentially memory. But if you are asked a question of which you know nothing at all so that you have no referent in memory, and if you are capable of replying honestly that you do not know, then that state of not-knowing is the first step of real inquiry into the unknown.
That is, technologically we are extraordinarily well-developed, we have become very clever in mechanical things. We go to school and learn various techniques, the `know-how' of putting engines together, of mending roads, of building airplanes, and so on, which is but the cultivation of memory. With that same mentality we wish to find something beyond the mind, so we practise a discipline, follow a system, or belong to some stupid religious organization; and all organizations of that kind are essentially stupid, however satisfactory and gratifying they may temporarily be.
Now, if we can go into this matter together - and I think we can if we give our attention to it - , I would like to inquire with you whether the mind is capable of putting aside all memory of technique, all search into the known for that which is hidden. Because, when we seek, that is what we are doing, is it not? We are seeking in the field of the known for that which is not known to us. When we seek happiness, peace, God, love, or what you will, it is always within the field of the known, because memory has already given us a hint, an intimation of something, and we have faith in that. So our search is always within the field of the known. And even in science it is only when the mind completely ceases to look into the known that a new thing comes into being. But the cessation of this search into the known is not a determination, it does not come about by any action of will. To say, `I shall not look into the known but be open to the unknown' is utterly childish, it has no meaning. Then the mind invents, speculates, it experiences something which is absolute nonsense. The freedom of the mind from the known can come about only through self-knowledge, through the revolution that comes into being when every day you understand the meaning of the self. You cannot understand the meaning of the self if there is the accumulation of memory which is helping you to understand the self. Do you understand that?
You see, we think we understand things by accumulating knowledge, by comparing. Surely we do not understand in that way. If you compare one thing with another, you are merely lost in comparison. You can understand something only when you give it your complete attention, and any form of comparison or evaluation is a distraction.
Self-knowledge, then, is not cumulative, and I think it is very important to understand that. If self-knowledge is cumulative, it is merely mechanical. It is like the knowledge of a doctor who has learned a technique and everlastingly specializes in a certain part of the body. A surgeon may be an excellent mechanic in his surgery because he has learned the technique, he has the knowledge and the gift for it, and there is the cumulative experience which helps him. But we are not talking of such cumulative experience. On the contrary, any form of cumulative knowledge destroys further discovery; but when one discovers, then perhaps one can use the cumulative technique.
Surely what I am saying is quite simple. If one is capable of studying, watching oneself, one begins to discover how cumulative memory is acting on everything one sees; one is forever evaluating, discarding or accepting, condemning or justifying, so one's experience is always within the field of the known, of the conditioned. But without cumulative memory as a directive, most of us feel lost, we feel frightened, and so we are incapable of observing ourselves as we are. When there is the accumulative process, which is the cultivation of memory, our observation of ourselves becomes very superficial. Memory is helpful in directing, improving oneself, but in self-improvement there can never be a revolution, a radical transformation. It is only when the sense of self-improvement completely ceases, but not by volition, that there is a possibility of something transcendental, something totally new coming into being.
So it seems to me that as long as we do not understand the process of thinking, mere intellection, mentation, will have little value. What is thinking? Please, as I am talking, watch yourselves. What is thinking? Thinking is the response of memory, is it not? I ask you where you live, and your response is immediate, because that is something with which you are very familiar, you instantly recognize the house, the name of the street, and all the rest of it. That is one form of thinking. If I ask you a question which is a little more complicated, your mind hesitates; in that hesitation it is searching in the vast collection of memories, in the record of the past, to find the right answer. That is another form of thinking, is it not? If I ask you a still more complicated question, your mind becomes bewildered, disturbed; and as it dislikes disturbance it tries in various ways to find an answer, which is yet another form of thinking. I hope you are following all this. And if I ask you about something vast, profound, like whether you know what truth is, what God is, what love is, then your mind searches the evidence of others who you think have experienced these things, and you begin to quote, repeat. Finally, if someone points out the futility of repeating what others say. of depending on the evidence of others, which may be nonsense, then you must surely say, `I do not know'.
Now, if one can really come to that state of saying, `I do not know', it indicates an extraordinary sense of humility; there is no arrogance of knowledge, there is no self-assertive answer to make an impression. When you can actually say, `I do not know', which very few are capable of saying, then in that state all fear ceases because all sense of recognition, the search into memory, has come to an end; there is no longer inquiry into the field of the known. Then comes the extraordinary thing. If you have so far followed what I am talking about, not just verbally, but if you are actually experiencing it, you will find that when you can say, `I do not know', all conditioning has stopped. And what then is the state of the mind? Do you understand what I am talking about? Am I making myself clear? I think it is important for you to give a little attention to this, if you care to.
You see, we are seeking something permanent, permanent in the sense of time, something enduring, everlasting. We see that everything about us is transient, in flux, being born, withering and dying, and our search is always to establish something that will endure within the field of the known. But that which is truly sacred is beyond the measure of time, it is not to be found within the field of the known. The known operates only through thought, which is the response of memory to challenge. If I see that and I want to find out how to end thinking, what am I to do? Surely, I must through self-knowledge be aware of the whole process of my thinking. I must see that every thought, however subtle, however lofty, or however ignoble, stupid, has its roots in the known, in memory. If I see that very clearly, then the mind, when confronted with an immense problem, is capable of saying, `I do not know', because it has no answer. Then all the answers of the Buddha, of the Christ, of the Masters, the teachers, the gurus, have no meaning; because if they have a meaning, that meaning is born of the collection of memories which is my conditioning.
So, if I see the truth of all that and actually put aside all the answers, which I can do only when there is this immense humility of not-knowing, then what is the state of the mind? What is the state of the mind which says, `I do not know whether there is God, whether there is love', that is, when there is no response of memory? Please don't immediately answer the question to yourselves, because if you do your answer will be merely the recognition of what you think it should or should not be. If you say, `It is a state of negation', you are comparing it with something that you already know; therefore that state in which you say, `I do not know' is non-existent.
I am trying to inquire into this problem aloud so that you also can follow it through the observation of your own mind. That state in which the mind says, `I do not know', is not negation. The mind has completely stopped searching, it has ceased making any movement, for it sees that any movement out of the known towards the thing it calls the unknown is only a projection of the known. So the mind that is capable of saying, `I do not know' is in the only state in which anything can be discovered. But the man who says, `I know', the man who has studied infinitely the varieties of human experience and whose mind is burdened with information, with encyclopaedic knowledge, can he ever experience something which is not to be accumulated? He will find it extremely hard. When the mind totally puts aside all the knowledge that it has acquired, when for it there are no Buddhas, no Christs, no Masters, no teachers no religions, no quotations; when the mind is completely alone, uncontami- nated, which means that the movement of the known has come to an end - it is only then that there is a possibility of a tremendous revolution, a fundamental change. Such a change is obviously necessary; and it is only the few, you and I, or X, who have brought about in themselves this revolution, that are capable of creating a new world, not the idealists, not the intellectuals, not the people who have immense knowledge, or who are doing good works; they are not the people. They are all reformers. The religious man is he who does not belong to any religion, to any nation, to any race, who is inwardly completely alone, in a state of not-knowing, and for him the blessing of the sacred comes into being.
Question: The function of the mind is to think. I have spent a great many years thinking about the things we all know: business, science, philosophy, psychology, the arts, and so on, and now I think a great deal about God. From studying the evidence of many mystics and other religious writers, I am convinced that God exists, and I am able to contribute my own thoughts on the subject. What is wrong with this? Does not thinking about God help to bring about the realization of God?
Krishnamurti: Can you think about God? And can you be convinced about the existence of God because you have read all the evidence? The Atheist has also his evidence; he has probably studied as much as you, and he says there is no God. You believe that there is God, and he believes that there is not; both of you have beliefs, both of you spend your time thinking about God. But before you think about something which you do not know, you must find out what thinking is, must you not? How can you think about something which you do not know? You may have read the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita, or other books in which various erudite scholars have skilfully described what God is, asserting this and contradicting that; but as long as you do not know the process of your own thinking, what you think about God may be stupid and petty, and generally it is. You may collect a lot of evidence for the existence of God and write very clever articles about it; but surely the first question is, how do you know what you think is true? And can thinking ever bring about the experience of that which is unknowable? Which doesn't mean that you must emotionally, sentimentally accept some rubbish about God.
So, is it not important to find out whether your mind is conditioned, rather than to seek that which is unconditioned? Surely, if your mind is conditioned, which it is, however much it may inquire into the reality of God, it can only gather knowledge or information according to its conditioning. So your thinking about God is an utter waste of time, it is a speculation that has no value. It is like my sitting in this grove and wishing to be on the top of that mountain. If I really want to find out what is on the top of the mountain and beyond, I must go to it. It is no good my sitting here speculating, building temples, churches, and getting excited about them. What I have to do is to stand up, walk, struggle, push, get there and find out; but as most of us are unwilling to do that, we are satisfied to sit here and speculate about something which we do not know. And I say such speculation is a hindrance, it is a deterioration of the mind, it has no value at all; it only brings more confusion, more sorrow to man.
So, God is something that cannot be talked about, that cannot be described, that cannot be put into words, because it must ever remain the unknown. The moment the recognizing process takes place, you are back in the field of memory. Do you understand? Say, for instance, you have a momentary experience of something extraordinary. At that precise moment there is no thinker who says, `I must remember it; there is only the state of experiencing. But when that moment goes by, the process of recognition comes into being. Please follow this. The mind says, `I have had a marvellous experience and I wish I could have more of it', so the struggle of the more begins. The acquisitive instinct, the possessive pursuit of the more comes into being for various reasons: because it gives you pleasure, prestige, knowledge, you become an authority, and all the rest of that nonsense.
The mind pursues that which it has experienced; but that which it has experienced is already over, dead, gone and to discover that which is, the mind must die to that which it has experienced. This is not something that can be cultivated day after day that can be gathered, accumulated held, and then talked and written about. All that we can do is to see that the mind is conditioned and through self-knowledge to understand the process of our own thinking. I must know myself, not as I would ideologically like to be, but as I actually am, however ugly or beautiful, however jealous, envious, acquisitive. But it is very difficult just to see what one is without wishing to change it, and that very desire to change it is another form of conditioning; and so we go on, moving from conditioning to conditioning, never experiencing something beyond that which is limited.
Question: I have listened to you for many years and I have become quite good at watching my our thoughts and being aware of every thing I do, but I have never touched the deep waters or experienced the transformation of which you speak. Why?
Krishnamurti: I think it is fairly clear why none of us do experience something beyond the mere watching. There may be rare moments of an emotional state in which we see, as it were, the clarity of the sky between clouds, but I do not mean anything of that kind. All such experiences are temporary and have very little significance. The questioner wants to know why, after these many years of watching, he hasn't found the deep waters. Why should he find them? Do you understand? You think that by watching your own thoughts you are going to get a reward: if you do this, you will get that. You are really not watching at all, because your mind is concerned with gaining a reward. You think that by watching, by being aware, you will be more loving, you will suffer less, be less irritable, get something beyond; so your watching is a process of buying. With this coin you are buying that, which means that your watching is a process of choice; therefore it isn't watching, it isn't attention. To watch is to observe without choice, to see yourself as you are without any movement of desire to change, which is an extremely arduous thing to do; but that doesn't mean that you are going to remain in your present state. You do not know what will happen if you see yourself as you are without wishing to bring about a change in that which you see. Do you understand?
I am going to take an example and work it out, and you will see. Let us say I am violent, as most people are. Our whole culture is violent; but I won't enter into the anatomy of violence now, because that is not the problem we are considering. I am violent, and I realize that I am violent. What happens? My immediate response is that I must do something about it, is it not? I say I must be- come non-violent. That is what every religious teacher has told us for centuries: that if one is violent one must become non-violent. So I practise, I do all the ideological things. But now I see how absurd that is, because the entity who observes violence and wishes to change it into non-violence, is still violent. So I am concerned, not with the expression of that entity, but with the entity himself. You are following all this, I hope.
Now, what is that entity who says, `I must not be violent'? Is that entity different from the violence he has observed? Are they two different states? Do you understand, sirs, or is this too abstract? It is near the end of the talk and probably you are a bit tired. Surely, the violence and the entity who says, `I must change violence into non-violence', are both the same. To recognize that fact is to put an end to all conflict, is it not? There is no longer the conflict of trying to change, because I see that the very movement of the mind not to be violent is itself the outcome of violence.
So, the questioner wants to know why it is that he cannot go beyond all these superficial wrangles of the mind. For the simple reason that, consciously or unconsciously, the mind is always seeking something, and that very search brings violence, competition, the sense of utter dissatisfaction. It is only when the mind is completely still that there is a possibility of touching the deep waters.
Question: When we die, are we reborn on this earth, or do we pass on into some other world?
Krishnamurti: This question interests all of us, the young and the old, does it not? So I am going into it rather deeply, and I hope you will be good enough to follow, not just the words, but the actual experience of what I am going to discuss with you.
We all know that death exists, especially the older people, and also the young who observe it. The young say, `Wait till it comes and we'll deal with it; and as the old are already near death, they have recourse to various forms of consolation.
Please follow and apply this to yourselves, don't put it off on somebody else. Because you know you are going to die, you have theories about it, don't you? You believe in God, you believe in resurrection, or in karma and reincarnation; you say that you will be reborn here, or in another world. Or you rationalize death, saying that death is inevitable, it happens to everybody; the tree withers away, nourishing the soil, and a new tree comes up. Or else you are too occupied with your daily worries, anxieties, jealousies, envies, with your competition and your wealth, to think about death at all. But it is in your mind, consciously or unconsciously it is there.
First of all, can you be free of the beliefs, the rationalities, or the indifference that you have cultivated towards death? Can you be free of all that now? Because what is important is to enter the house of death while living, while fully conscious, active, in health, and not wait for the coming of death, which may carry you off instantaneously through an accident, or through a disease that slowly makes you unconscious. When death comes it must be an extraordinary moment which is as vital as living.
Now, can I, can you, enter the house of death while living? That is the problem, not whether there is reincarnation, or whether there is another world where you will be reborn, which is all so immature, so infantile. A man who lives never asks what is living and he has no theories about living. It is only the half-alive who talk about the purpose of life.
So, can you and I while living, conscious, active, with all our capacities, whatever they be, know what death is? And is death then different from living? To most of us, living is a continuation of that which we think is permanent. Our name, our family, our property, the things in which we have a vested interest economically and spiritually, the virtues that we have cultivated, the things that we have acquired emotionally - all of that we want to continue. And the moment which we call death is a moment of the unknown, therefore we are frightened, so we try to find a consolation, some kind of comfort; we want to know if there is life after death, and a dozen other things. Those are all irrelevant problems, they are problems for the lazy, for those who do not want to find out what death is while living. So, can you and I find out?
What is death? Surely, it is the complete cessation of everything that you have known. If it is not the cessation of everything you have known, it is not death. If you know death already, then you have nothing to be frightened of. But do you know death? That is, can you while living put an end to this everlasting struggle to find in the impermanent something that will continue? Can you know the unknowable, that state which we call death, while living? Can you put aside all the descriptions of what happens after death which you have read in books, or which your unconscious desire for comfort dictates, and taste or experience that state, which must be extraordinary, now? If that state can be experienced now, then living and dying are the same.
So, can I, who have vast education, knowledge, who have had innumerable experiences, struggles, loves, hates - can that `I' come to an end? The `I' is the recorded memory of all that; and can that `I' come to an end? Without being brought to an end by an accident, by a disease, can you and I while sitting here know that end? Then you will find that you will no longer ask foolish questions about death and continuity, whether there is a world hereafter. Then you will know the answer for yourself, because that which is unknowable will have come into being. Then you will put aside the whole rigmarole of reincarnation, and the many fears - the fear of living and the fear of dying, the fear of growing old and inflicting on others the trouble of looking after you, the fear of loneliness and dependency - will all have come to an end. These are not vain words. It is only when the mind ceases to think in terms of its own continuity that the unknowable comes into being.
August 21, 1955
Ojai 6th Public Talk 21st August 1955
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