Sydney 4th Public Talk 19th November, 1955
This evening I would like to talk about a very complex problem, and I think the understanding of it will depend a great deal on what kind of attention one gives to it. I want to talk about the problem of fundamental change, and whether such a change can be brought about through effort, through discipline, through an ideation. It is fairly obvious that there must be a fundamental, radical change in each one of us; and how is this change to be brought about? Can it be brought about through the action of will, through deliberate thought, through any form of compulsion? And at what level of consciousness does this change come into being? Does it occur at the superficial or at the deeper levels of consciousness? Or does the change come about beyond all the levels of consciousness?
Before we go into this problem I think it is important to understand what it means to pay the right kind of attention. If one is merely thinking in terms of exclusive experience, that is, listening to and accepting what is being said as a method by which to attain a certain result, then this method can be opposed by another method, and so exclusiveness comes into being; and all exclusiveness is obviously evil. Whereas, if one can put aside all such ways of thinking - your method as opposed to my method, or your particular line as opposed to mine - and listen to find out the truth of the matter, then that truth is neither yours nor mine and there will be no exclusiveness. Then you do not have to read a single book or follow a single teacher to find out what is true, and I think it is important to understand this. Basically, fundamentally there is no path to truth, no method, neither your way nor my way. In religious experience, surely, there is no exclusiveness, it is neither Christian, Hindu, nor Buddhist. The moment there is any sense of exclusiveness, out of this comes evil. So I would suggest that you listen to find out rather than merely to oppose one argument, one ideation or way of thinking with another.
It is obvious, I think, that there must be some kind of radical change, a profound transformation within oneself. How is this change to be brought about? There must be a change in each one of us that will bring with it a totally different outlook, a way of life that is true, not according to any particular person, but true at all times and in every place; and how is this change to be brought about? Will an ideal bring about such a change? The ideal has been established through experience either by oneself or by someone else; and will an ideal of any sort bring about this change, this radical transformation? I think ideals are fictitious, unreal, they are inventions of the mind and have no reality in themselves at all. We hope that through following an ideal the mind will change itself. That is why we all have ideals, the ideal of goodness, the ideal of non-violence, and so on. We hope that by persistently practising, pursuing, submitting to the ideal, we shall bring about a radical change, or at least a change for the better.
Now, do ideals bring about this change, or are they merely a convenient projection of the mind to postpone action? Please, may I ask you not to reject this, but to listen to what I am saying. Most of us are idealists, we have some form of ideal which we have established through habit, through custom, through tradition, through our own volition, and we hope that by conforming to this ideal we shall radically change. But after all, the ideal is merely a projection of the opposite of what is. Being violent, I project the ideal of non-violence and try to transform my violence according to that ideal, which creates a constant conflict within me between what is and what should be
We think conflict, effort is necessary to bring about this change. Such effort obviously implies discipline, control, constant practice, adjusting oneself to what should be. Most of us are accustomed to this way of thinking, and our activities, our outlook and our values are based on it; the what-should-be, the ideal has become extraordinarily dominant in our lives. To me this way of thinking is completely erroneous, and since you are here to find out what the speaker has to say, please listen to it, do not reject it.
I feel that a radical change can come only when there is no effort, when the mind is not trying to become something, not trying to be virtuous - which does not mean that the mind must be non-virtuous. As long as there is effort to achieve virtue there is a continuation of the self, of the "me" who is trying to be virtuous, which is merely another form of conditioning, a modification of what is. In this process is involved the question of who is the maker of effort and what he is striving after, which is obviously self-improvement; and as long as there is effort to improve oneself, there is no virtue. That is, as long as there are ideals of any sort there must be effort to conform, to adjust to the ideal, or to become this ideal. If I am violent and I have the ideal of non-violence, there is a conflict, a struggle going on between what is and what should be. This struggle, this conflict is the state of violence, it is not freedom from violence.
Now, can I look at what is, the state of violence, without making an ideal of the opposite? Surely, I am only concerned with violence, and not with how to become non-violent, because the very process of becoming non-violent is a form of violence. So, can I look at violence without any desire to transform it into another state? Please follow patiently to the end what is being said. Can I look at the state which I call violence, or greed, or envy, or whatever it is, without trying to modify or change it? Can I look at it without any reaction, without evaluating or giving it a name?
Are you following all this? Please experiment with what I am saying and you will see it directly, now, not when you go home.
Being violent, can one look at this state which one has called violence without condemning it? Not to condemn is an extremely complex process, because the very verbalization of this feeling, the very word "violence" is condemnatory. And can one look at this feeling, at this state which one has called violence, without giving it a name? When one does not give it a name, what is happening? The mind is made up of words, is it not? All thinking is a process of verbalization. And when one does not give this feeling a name, when one does not term it as violence, is there not a profound revolution taking place in the attention one gives to this feeling?
Let us look at it differently. The mind divides itself as violence and non-violence, so there are supposedly two states: the state which it wants to attain, and the state which is. There is a dualistic process going on, and I feel there can be a radical change only when this dualistic process has altogether ceased, that is, when the totality of consciousness, of the mind, can give complete attention to what is. And the mind cannot give complete attention if there is any sense of condemnation, any desire to change what is, any form of distraction as verbalization, naming. When attention is complete, then you will find that such attention is in itself the good, and that the good is not this effort to transform what is into something else.
I think this is perhaps a very difficult explanation of a very simple fact. As long as the mind wishes to change, any change is merely a modified continuity of what is, because the mind cannot think of total change. There can be total change only when the mind pays complete attention to what is, and attention cannot be complete if there is any form of verbalization, condemnation, justification, or evaluation.
You know, when a question is put, most of us expect a gratifying answer, we want to be told how to get there, or what to do. I am afraid I have no such answer; but what we can do is to look at the problem, go into it together and discover the truth of the matter, and in considering some of these questions let us bear this in mind. To look for an answer which will be gratifying, to want to be told how to get there or what to do, is really an immature way of thinking. But if we can examine the problem, go into it together, in the very unfolding of the problem we shall discover what is true, and then it will be the truth which operates, not you or I who operate on the truth.
Question: Being both a parent and a teacher, and seeing the truth of the freedom of which you speak, how am I to regard and help my children?
Krishnamurti: I think the first question is whether one really comprehends deeply that freedom is at the beginning and not at the end. If as a parent and a teacher I really understand this truth, then my whole relationship with the child changes, does it not? Then there is no attachment. Where there is attachment there is no love. But if I see the truth that freedom is at the beginning, not at the end, then the child is no longer the guarantee, the way of my fulfilment, which means that I do not seek the continuation of myself through the child. Then my whole attitude has undergone a tremendous revolution.
The child is the repository of influence, is he not? He is being influenced, not only by you and me, but by his environment, by his school, by the climate, by the food he eats, by the books he reads. If his parents are Catholics or Communists, he is deliberately shaped, conditioned, and this is what every parent, every teacher does in different ways. And can we be aware of these multiplying influences and help the child to be aware of them, so that as he grows up he will not be caught in any one of them? So what is important, surely, is to help the child as he matures not to be conditioned as a Christian, as a Hindu, or as an Australian, but to be a totally intelligent human being, and this can take place only if you as the teacher or the parent see the truth that there must be freedom from the very beginning.
Freedom is not the outcome of discipline. Freedom does not come after conditioning the mind, or while conditioning is going on. There can be freedom only if you and I are aware of all the influences that condition the mind, and help the child to be equally aware, so that he does not become entangled in any of them. But most parents and teachers feel that the child must conform to society. What will he do if he does not conform? To most people conformity is imperative, essential, is it not? We have accepted the idea that the child must adjust himself to the civilization, the culture, the society about him. We take this for granted, and through education we help the child to conform, to adjust himself to society.
But is it necessary that the child should adjust himself to society? If the parent or the teacher feels that freedom is the imperative, the essential thing, and not mere conformity to society, then as the child grows up he will be aware of the influences that condition the mind and will not conform to the present society with its greed, its corruption, its force, its dogmas and authoritarian outlook; and such people will create a totally different kind of society.
We say that some day there is going to be a Utopia. Theoretically it is very nice, but it does not come into existence, and I am afraid the educator needs educating, as the parent does. If we are only concerned with conditioning the child to conform to a particular culture or pattern of society, then we shall perpetuate the present state with its everlasting battle between ourselves and others, and continue in the same misery. But if there is an understanding of this problem of right attention, which begins not with the child but with the parent and the teacher, then perhaps we shall help to bring about an unconditioning of the mind, which is not a hopeless task. It is a hopeless task only if you as the parent or the teacher feel that it is impossible. But if you perceive the necessity, the urgency, the truth of all this, then that very perception does bring about a revolution within yourself, and therefore you will help the child to grow into an intelligent human being who will put an end to all this misery, strife and sorrow.
Question: All life is a form of ceremony, and the ritual in a church is a divine form of the ceremony of life. Surely you cannot condemn this totally. Or are you condemning, not the ritual itself, but only the corruption that arises from the rigidity of the mind?
Krishnamurti: Whether they are divine or not divine, I wonder why we are so fond of ceremonies, rituals, why they are so important to us? To me the whole ceremonial approach to life, the church and its ceremonies included, is totally immature and absurd. Ceremonies have no significance, they are vain repetitions, though you may give divine significance to the ceremonies of the church. To say, "Ceremonies are my way and not your way" is to breed evil, so let us look at it dispassionately to find out the truth of the matter.
There is the daily repetition of going to bed, getting up, going to the office, doing certain things, but would you call it a ceremony? Do we give extraordinary meaning to all this, a divine significance? Do we regard it as something from which to get inspiration? Obviously not. There are various daily actions which may become habitual, but perhaps we have thought them out intelligently and are not caught in them. But when we perform ceremonies, the rituals of the church, and so on, do we not look to them for inspiration? We feel good when the ceremony is going on, we feel a certain sense of beauty and we are quiet. The repetition dulls our minds. The ritual absorbs us, it temporarily takes us away from ourselves and we like that feeling, so we give extraordinary meaning to all this. These are simple, obvious facts. Ceremonies are also used for exploitation, to control people, to bring them to a sense of unity which they do not feel. The present society is a society of disunion, but in the church, in rituals, through vain repetition people are temporarily... (Interruption).
Please, would you mind sitting down? This is not a discussion. I am talking, I am not attacking, so please do not defend. I am showing you what is. You can take it or leave it. It does not matter to me.
Questioner: What you are saying is not the truth.
Krishnamurti: Please, if you think ceremonies are necessary, perform them. But if you are willing to examine the whole issue, let us go into it, and you will see how the mind is caught in habits, in vain repetitions, in sensations, in obedience to some authority. A mind that is caught in habit is obviously not free, and such a mind cannot find out what is true.
Through habit - I am not for the moment talking about physical habit - the mind seeks a sensation, it becomes psychologically attached to a particular form of ceremony from which it derives a certain satisfaction, a sense of security. Such a mind is obviously not free, and it cannot discover what is true. It is only a free mind that can discover, not the mind that is clogged with beliefs, dogmas, fear, with the constant demand for security.
Throughout the centuries every religion has had some kind of ceremony, some kind of ritual to hold the people together, and in ceremonies the people themselves find a certain ease, a forgetfulness of their tiresome daily existence. Their everyday life is boring, and religious rituals, like the processions of kings and queens, offer an escape. But the mind that is seeking escape cannot find that which is timeless, immortal.
It does not matter which church says that ceremonies are divine, they are still the inventions of the mind, of the human mind that is conditioned. It is not a matter of my path as opposed to your path, nor are there people who are going to arrive at the truth through ceremonies, while others will arrive by a different way. There is only truth, not your way and my way. To think in terms of your way and my way is false because it tends to exclusiveness, and what is exclusive is evil.
Question: We have been taught to believe in personal immortality and in the continuation of the individual life after death. Is this real to you also?
Krishnamurti: Is there personal immortality after death? Is there continuity of the "me" with its accumulation of experiences, knowledge, qualities and relationships? Does all that continue when I die? And if it does not continue, then what is the value of this whole process? If the cultivation of character, with its struggles, joys and miseries, merely comes to an end at death, then what significance has life?
Now, let us look into it. It is not a matter of what I believe and what you believe, because beliefs have nothing to do with the discovery of truth. A mind that is caught in belief, whether it is belief in reincarnation or in God, is incapable of discovering or experiencing what is true. I think it is really important to understand this, if you will bear the repetition, because the mind is taught, conditioned either to believe or not to believe, which is obviously what is happening in the world. The Communist does not believe in immortality, he says it is all nonsense, because he has been taught, conditioned not to believe, so he fulfils himself in the State, which for him is the only good. Others believe in the hereafter, and they are hoping for some form of resurrection or reincarnation. So when you ask me, "Do you also believe?", I am afraid that is not the question at all because, if you will pay attention, we are going to find out the truth of the matter.
Does the "I", the personal "me", continue? What is the "me"? Various tendencies, traits of character, beliefs, the accumulation of knowledge, experience, the memory of pain, of joy and suffering, the sense of my love, my hate - all this is the "me" of the moment, and realizing that it is a very transient "me" we say that beyond it there is the permanent soul, something which is divine. But if that thing is permanent, real, divine, it is beyond time and therefore does not think in terms of dying or having continuity. If there is the soul, or whatever other word you may give to it, it is something beyond time, and you and I cannot think about it because our thinking is conditioned. Our thinking is the outcome of time, therefore we cannot possibly think of that which is beyond time. So all our fear is the product of time, is it not?
Again, this is not a matter of my way and your way. We are examining, trying to find out what actually is. And can we look at what is without introducing the belief in something beyond, something which we all want, something super-permanent, a so-called spiritual entity which is timeless? We want to know if we shall survive, and we ask this question primarily because we are frightened of death. So what do we do? We try to have immortality here in our property, do we not? Our whole society is based on this. Property is yours and mine to be handed on to our children, which is a form of immortality through our children. We seek immortality through name, through achievement, through success, we want the perpetuation of ourselves, the endless fulfilment of ourselves. Knowing that we are going to die, that death is inevitable, we say, "What is beyond?" We want a guarantee that there is continuity, so we believe in the hereafter, in reincarnation, in resurrection, in anything to avoid that extraordinary state which we call death. We invent innumerable escapes because none of us wants to die, and all our questions concerning personal immortality are put in the hope of finding a way to avoid that which we fear. But if we can understand death there will be no fear, and then we shall not seek personal immortality either here or in the hereafter. Then our perception, our whole outlook will have undergone a complete revolution. So belief has nothing to do with the discovery of what is true, and we are now going to find out what is true with regard to death.
What is death? Can one experience it while living? Can you and I experience what death is, not at the moment when through disease or accident there is a cessation of all thinking, but while we are living, vital, clearly and fully conscious? Can you and I find out what it means to die, can we enter the house of death while we are sitting here looking at the whole problem?
What is it to die? Obviously, it is to die to everything that one has accumulated, to every experience, to every memory, to all attachments. To die is to cease to be the self, the "I", is it not? It is to have no sense of continuity as the "me" with all its memories, its hurts, its feeling of vengeance, its desire to fulfil, to become. And can there be the experiencing of this moment when the self is not? Then surely we shall know what death is. The mind is the known, the result of the known, the known being all the experiences of countless yesterdays, and it is only when the mind frees itself from the known, and so is part of the unknown, that there is no fear of death. Then there is no death at all. Then the mind is not seeking personal immortality. Then there is the state of the unknown, which has its own being. But to find that out the mind has to free itself from the known. You may have innumerable beliefs which give you comfort, a sense of security, but until there is freedom from the known there will always be the gnawing of fear. That which continues can never be creative. Only that which is unknown is creative, and the unknown comes into being only when the mind is free from the idea of the perpetuation of the known.
You see, the difficulty with most of us is that we want some kind of continuity, and so we invent illusory beliefs. After all, beliefs are merely explanations, and we are satisfied with explanations. But explanations have very little meaning except to a man who wants some form of security, and to find out what is true the mind must reject all explanations, whether of the church, of the priests, of the books, or of those who want to believe.
When the mind is free of all explanations, free of the known, you will find the unknown is death, and then there is no fear. That state is totally different and it cannot possibly be conceived of by a mind that is conditioned in the known. When the mind is free from the known, the unknown is.
November 19, 1955
Sydney 4th Public Talk 19th November, 1955
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