Banaras 3rd Public Talk 25th December 1955
I think it would be interesting and worth while if we could this evening go into the question of what makes the mind deteriorate. When we are young we are full of zeal, we have so many enthusiastic and revolutionary ideas, but generally we get caught in some kind of activity and slowly peter out. We see this happening all around us and in ourselves; and is it possible to stop this process of deterioration, which is surely one of our major problems? Whether socialism or capitalism, the left or the right, should organize the world's welfare, now that there is such immense production - I don't think that is the problem. I think the problem is much deeper, and it is this: can the mind be freed so that it remains free all the time, and is therefore not subject to deterioration?
I don't know if you have thought about this problem, or whether you have observed how the vitality, the vigour, the zest of our own minds slowly ebbs away, and the mind gradually becomes merely an instrument of mechanical habits and beliefs, a whole complex of routine and repetition. If we have thought about it at all, I think this must be a problem to most of us. As one grows older, the weight of the past, the burden of things remembered, the hopes, the frustrations, the fears - all this seems to enclose the mind, and there is never anything new out of it, but only a repetition, a sense of anxiety, a constant escape from itself, and ultimately the desire to find some kind of release, some kind of peace, a God that will be completely satisfactory.
Now, if we could go into this matter, I think it might be worth while. Can the mind be freed from this whole process of deterioration and go beyond itself, not mysteriously or by some miracle, not tomorrow or at some future date, but immediately, instantly? To find that out may be the way of meditation. So why is it that our minds deteriorate? Why is it that there is in us nothing original, that all we know is mere repetition, that there is never a constancy of creativity? These are facts, are they not? What causes this deterioration, and can the mind put a stop to it? We shall discuss this presently, and I hope you will take part in the discussion.
To me it is evident that there must be deterioration as long as there is effort; and one observes that our whole life is based on effort - effort to learn, to acquire, to hold, to be something, or to push aside what we are and become something else. There is always this struggle to be or to become, either conscious or unconscious, either voluntary or compelled by unknown desires; and is not this struggle the major cause of the mind's deterioration?
As I said, we are going to discuss all this after I have talked a little, so please don't just listen to words. We are trying to find out together why the wave of deterioration is always following us. I know there is the immediate problem of food, clothing, and shelter, but I think we must look at this problem from a different angle if we are to resolve it; and even those of us who have enough food, clothing, and shelter, have another problem which is much deeper. One sees that there is in the world both complete tyranny, and relative freedom; and if we were concerned only with the universal distribution of food and other products, then perhaps absolute tyranny might help. But in that process the creative development of man would be destroyed; and if we are concerned with the whole of man, and not merely with the social or economic problem, then I think a far more basic question must inevitably arise. Why is there this process of deterioration, this incapacity to discover the new, not in the scientific realm, but within ourselves? Why is it that we are not creative?
If you observe what is happening, either here, in Europe, or America, I think you will see that most of us are imitating, we are complying with the past, with tradition, and as individuals we have never deeply, fundamentally discovered anything for ourselves. We live like machines, which brings a sense of unhappiness, does it not? I don't know if you have looked into it at all, but it seems to me that one of the major causes of this conformity is the desire to feel inwardly secure. To be psychologically secure there must be exclusiveness, and to be exclusive there must be effort, the effort to be something; and this may be one of the factors which is preventing the discovery of anything new on the part of each one of us. Can we discuss this? (Pause)
All right, sirs, let us put the problem differently. One can see that meditation is necessary, because through meditation one discovers a great many things. Meditation opens the door to extraordinary experiences, both fanciful and real; and we are always inquiring how to meditate, are we not? Most of us read books which prescribe a system of meditation, or we look to some teacher to tell us how to meditate. Whereas, we are now trying to find out, not how to meditate, but what is meditation; and the very inquiry into what is meditation, is meditation. But our minds desire to know how to meditate, and therefore we invite deterioration.
If thought can inquire very deeply and expose itself to itself, never correcting but always watching to find out, never condemning but always probing, then that state of mind may be called meditation; and such a mind, because it is free, can discover. For such a mind there is no deterioration, because there is no accumulation. But the mind that says, `Tell me how to be peaceful, tell me how to get there and I will try to follow it', is obviously imitative, without daring, and therefore it is inviting its own deterioration.
Most of us are concerned with the `how', which is a means of security, safety. However noble, however exacting, however disciplinary the `how' may be, and whatever it may promise, it can only lead to conformity. A conforming mind, through its own efforts, enslaves itself to a method, and therefore it loses this extraordinary capacity for discovery; and without the discovery in yourself of something original, new, uncontaminated, though you may have the most perfect organization to produce and distribute the physical necessities, you will still be like a machine. So this is your problem, is it not? Can the mind, which is so mechanical, habit ridden, full of the past, free itself from the past and discover the new, call it God or what you will? Can we discuss this? (Pause)
Sirs, is this problem new to you, or is it that you have not thought about these things in this way? Let me again put the problem differently.
You are all well-versed in the Upanishads, the Gita, the Bible, you are familiar with the philosophy of Hinduism, of Christianity, of Communism, and so on. These philosophies, these religions have obviously not solved man's problem. If you say, `Man's problem is not solved because we have not strictly followed the injunctions of the Gita', the obvious answer is that any following of authority, however noble or tyrannical, makes the mind mechanical, unoriginal, like a gramophone record that repeats over and over again; and you cannot be happy in that state.
Now, being aware of that fact, how would you set about discovering the real for yourself? Do you understand, sirs? God, truth, or whatever it is, must be totally new, something outside of time, outside of memory, must it not? It cannot be something remembered from the past, something of which you have been told, or which the mind has conjectured, created. And how will you find it? It can be found, surely, only when the mind is free from the past, when the mind ceases to formulate any image, any symbol. When the mind formulates images, symbols, is that not a factor of real deterioration? And that may be what is happening in India, as well as in the rest of the world.
Am I explaining the problem? Or is it not a problem to you? Questioner: The mind cannot go beyond its own past experiences.
Questioner: When the mind is conditioned...
Krishnamurti Sir, this gentleman has asked a question.
Questioner: Was it a question or a statement?
Krishnamurti: He probably meant it as a question. Unfortunately, most of us are so occupied with the formulation of a question, or with our own way of looking at things, that we never really listen to each other. This gentleman has said that it is not possible for the mind to be free of the past. Is that not our problem as well as his?
Questioner: If he wants to know how to be detached from the past, that is a question and not a statement..
Krishnamurti: Sir, please, we are not here verbally to show off or to prove who is right and who is wrong. We are really trying to find out why the mind never discovers anything new. We are not for the moment referring to specialists like the scientists, the physicists, and so on, but to ourselves as common human beings. Why is it that we never discover in ourselves anything new?
Questioner: With regard to the question raised by that gentleman as to whether the mind can do away with the past, I would like to ask, what is meant by the past?
Krishnamurti: The past is experience, memory, knowledge, the influence of tradition, the impression left by insult and praise, by the books you have read, by laughter and the sight of death. All that is the past, which is time.
Questioner: You say that the mind is conditioned by the past. But is the mind so rigidly conditioned by the past that it cannot make further inquiry?
Krishnamurti: Sir, what is the mind? Please do not answer this question theoretically or according to what you have read in books. Can you and I here this evening find out what the mind is?
Questioner: The mind is the result of the past.
Krishnamurti: Is your mind the result of the past? What do you mean by the past?
Questioner: Whatever is in my mind at present is all from the past.
Krishnamurti: Can you separate the past from the mind? Please, let us examine the mind, not a theoretical mind, but the mind of each one of us. Your mind is the result of many influences, both collective and individual, is it not? Our mind is the outcome of education, of food, of climate, of many centuries of tradition; it is made up of your beliefs, desires, memories, the things that you have read, and so on. That is the mind, is it not, sir? The conscious mind which operates every day, and the mind which is deeper, hidden, are both the result of the past. As far as one can see, the whole area of the mind is the result of the past. You may believe that there is God, or that there is no God, you may think there is a higher and a lower self, and so on; but all that is the outcome of your education, conditioning, which means that your mind is the result of the past, does it not? And that same mind is trying to find something new; it says, `I must know what is God, what is truth'. Is not that what you are doing, sirs and ladies? And I say it is impossible, it is a contradiction. Questioner: I think most people don't bother about God. We are concerned with life's problems.
Krishnamurti: Which means that there is antagonism, bitterness, frustration, wanting power, position, prestige; because somebody else has what you want, you feel jealous, and so on. These are life's problems, are they not? Wanting to be loved, wanting more money, wanting to improve the village through this system or that system, having a belief or an ideal which is in contradiction with everyday existence, and trying to bridge the gap between the fact and the ideal - all this is life.
Questioner: Life is something more also. If I am a teacher, I want to teach better.
Krishnamurti: Which is the same thing. These are all life's problems, and in tackling any one of them you come to the main issue. You say that you want to teach better, to think better, to live a more integrated life, and so on. What do you mean by thinking better? Is it a process of acquiring more information? How do you find out what is better?
Questioner: By thinking deeply.
Krishnamurti: What does it mean to think deeply? And what do you mean by thinking? If you don't know what thinking is, you cannot think deeply. What is thinking? You please tell me what thinking is.
Questioner: Thinking is a process of bringing in more and more associations.
Krishnamurti: I am asking you what thinking is, and if you observe your own minds you will find out how you are reacting to that question - which is thinking, is it not? Are you following what I am saying?
Questioner: This is too technical.
Krishnamurti: Just watch yourself and you will see. I am asking you a question. What is thinking?
Questioner: Whether you ask what is the mind, or what is thinking, it comes to the same thing.
Krishnamurti: I want to find out what thinking is. Now, what is the process that is set going within you by this question?
Questioner: When we begin to look at thinking, the mind stops. There is no answer.
Questioner: Thinking is so spontaneous that we don't know what it is.
Krishnamurti: I am asking you a question: what is thinking? Now, what does your mind do when this question is put to you? Don't you want to know how your mind operates? What happens when the mind is confronted with a question of this kind? For a moment the mind hesitates, because it has probably never thought about it before; then it looks into the chamber of memory and says, `Let me see, the Upanishads say this, the Bible says that, Bertrand Russell says something else. And what do I think?' So you are looking for an answer from the past, are you not?
Questioner: We don't think of Bertrand Russell.
Krishnamurti: Perhaps not; but this is the actual operation of your mind when a question is put to you. If a question is put to you with which your mind is familiar, there is an immediate answer. If someone asks you where you live, you respond instantly, because you are familiar with that, your association with it is constant. Whereas, if an unfamiliar question is put to you, your mind hesitates, and that hesitation indicates that you are looking for an answer, does it not? And where do you look for an answer? In your memory, obviously. So your thinking is the response of memory. No?
Questioner: Does it mean that a person who has lost his memory cannot think?
Krishnamurti: Complete forgetfulness is called amnesia, and a person in that state has to learn the whole business over again.
Questioner: Is having memory a good thing or a bad thing?
Krishnamurti: If you did not know where you live, what would you do? If you did not know the name of the street by which to go to your house, would that be good or bad?
We are trying to find out, sir, what thinking is. For most of us, thinking is the response of memory, is it not? Because I know where I live, I respond quickly when asked; and when a more subtle question is put to me, I look in my memory to find an answer. But memory is the experience of centuries, so my response must inevitably be conditioned. Surely, this is fairly obvious.
Sir, if you are a Hindu and I ask you whether there is such a thing as reincarnation, your instinctive response is to say that there is, and this response is based on the influence of your parents, your sacred books, and the general environment around you. You respond according to what you have been told; your thinking is the result of influence, therefore it is obviously conditioned. Now we are asking ourselves, can the mind dissociate itself from the past and find out what is true?
Questioner: You seem to describe the mind as a collection of past experiences, and I think we all agree; but now you are asking if it is possible for the mind to dissociate itself from all that. What does it mean?
Krishnamurti: Are you asking me, or are you asking yourself?
Questioner: I am asking myself as well as you.
Krishnamurti: That is better. You are asking yourself, not me. The mind is the result of time; and can such a mind ever discover anything new, which must be timeless? Do you understand my question, sir? I see that my mind is made up of the past, yet it is the only instrument that can observe and discover. Then what is it to do? There is no other instrument of discovery, yet that instrument is the result of the past - which is a fact, and no amount of discussion or denial will have any influence on that fact. And can such a mind ever discover anything new? Or will the known, which is the past, though I may be unconscious of it, always continue, so there can only be a continuity of the known in different forms? If the mind can never experience the unknown, whatever the unknown may be, then let us modify the known, let us embellish it, polish it up, accumulate more information, but keeping always within the area of the mind, of the known. Do you follow, sir? This assumption that the mind is in a helpless position, that it can never be out of its own area because it is the result of the known, may be the deteriorating factor. Do you follow what I mean? If you accept that, then obviously you must constantly polish the mind, put it in order, discipline it, stuff it with more information, and so on. Then you have no problem, because you are living within the area of the known. But the moment you begin to inquire into the unknown, you have a problem, have you not, sir?
Questioner: You started by asking what is thinking. It seems to me that thinking is always in relation to something, there is no such thing as pure thinking.
Krishnamurti: Thinking is the response to challenge, is it not? There is no isolated thinking. It is only when there is a challenge that you respond. Even when you think in your bedroom, where there is no outward challenge, thinking is still the response to a challenge within yourself. There is this constant relationship of challenge and response, and because you respond according to your beliefs, your upbringing, and all the rest of it, your response is always restricted, narrow, petty.
Now, we are trying to find out where thinking ceases, and something new, which is not thinking, takes place.
Questioner: You are asking where thinking ends and meditation begins.
Krishnamurti: All right, sir. Where does thinking end? Wait a minute. I am inquiring into what is thinking and I say this very inquiry itself is meditation. It is not that there is first the ending of thinking, and then meditation begins. Please go with me, sirs and ladies, step by step. If I can find out what thinking is, then I will never ask how to meditate, because in the very process of finding out what thinking is, there is meditation. But this means that I must give complete attention to the problem, and not merely concentrate on it, which is a form of distraction. I don't know if I am explaining myself.
In trying to find out what thinking is, I must give complete attention, in which there can be no effort, no friction; because in effort, friction, there is distraction. If I am really intent on finding out what thinking is, that very question brings an attention in which there is no deviation, no conflict, no feeling that I must pay attention.
So, what is thinking? Thinking, I see, is the response of memory, at whatever level, conscious or unconscious; it is always the reaction of that area of the mind which is the known, the past. The mind sees this as a fact. Then the mind asks itself if all thinking is merely verbal, symbolic, a reaction of the past; or is there thinking without words, without the past?
Now, is it possible to find out if there is any activity of the mind which is not contaminated by the past? Do you follow, sirs? I am inquiring, I am not assuming anything. The mind sees that it is the result of the past, and it is asking itself whether it is possible to be free of the past. If the mind answers one way or the other, if it says it is possible, or is not possible, then that assumption is the result of the past, is it not? Please go step by step with me, and you will see. The mind is aware that it is the result of the past; it is asking if it can free itself from the past; and it sees that any assumption that it can, or cannot, is the outcome of the past. So what is the state of the mind which has no association, which does not assume anything?
Questioner: It is no longer the mind, the limited mind that we know.
Krishnamurti: We have not come to that yet. I want to go slowly.
Questioner: The question is, who is it that thinks?
Krishnamurti: We know who thinks, sir. The mind has divided itself as the thinker and the thought, but it is still the mind, obviously. The whole process of the separation of the thinker from the thought is still within that area of the mind, which is the result of time, of the past; and the mind is now asking itself whether it can be free of the past.
Questioner: Sir, if we who are listening to you doubt the truth of what you are saying, our old conditioning will continue. On the other hand, if we have faith in what you say, then our minds will again be conditioned by that.
Krishnamurti: I am not asking you to have faith. I am just watching the operation of my own mind, and I hope you are doing the same thing. We are watching the operation of the mind and discovering its processes. That is all we are doing, which does not mean that you should or should not have faith. We are trying to find out how our minds operate, which is meditation.
Questioner: How does a scientist discover a new thing?
Krishnamurti: If you and I were scientists we could discuss that question; but we are not scientists, we are ordinary people, and we are trying to find out if the mind can ever discover something new. What is the process of it, sir? We shall have to stop. May I just go into it a little bit?
I am watching the operation of my mind. That is all. There is challenge and response. The response is invariably according to the culture, the values, the tradition in which the mind has been brought up, and which for the moment we shall call its conditioning. The mind realizes this and is asking itself: is all response the outcome of this conditioning, or is it possible for there to be a response beyond it? I don't say it is, or is not possible. The mind is just asking itself. Any assumption on the part of the mind that it is possible or impossible, is still a response of the background. That is clear, is it not? So the mind can only say, `I don't know'. That is the only right answer to this question as to whether the mind can free itself from the past.
Now, when you say, `I don't know', at what level, at what depth do you say it? Is it merely a verbal statement, or is it the totality of your being which says, `I don't know'? If your whole being genuinely says, `I don't know', it means that you are no longer referring to memory to find an answer. Is not the mind then free from the past? And is not this whole process of inquiry, meditation? Meditation is not a process of learning how to meditate; it is the very inquiry into what is meditation. To inquire into what is meditation, the mind must free itself from what it has learnt about meditation; and the freeing of the mind from what it has learnt, is the beginning of meditation.
Banaras 3rd Public Talk 25th December 1955
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