Madras 2nd Public Talk 15th January 1956
If one observes the events of every day, I think it is fairly apparent that, in the very attempt to solve the many problems with which we are beset, we only produce more problems; and it seams to me that as long as we do not understand the processes of thought, and are therefore unable to cleanse the mind, our problems will inevitably soar and multiply. Though each one may express it differently, every intelligent person is aware that the mind must be cleansed; and putting it very simply the implication is that, until the instrument with which man acts, which is the mind, is clear, dispassionate, free of the self with its innumerable prejudices and fears, both conscious and unconscious - until the mind is purged of all that, our problems will increase. We all know this, and every religion that is worth its salt asserts it in different ways; yet why is it that we never seem able to cleanse our minds? Is it that there are not enough systems, or that the true system has yet to be invented and applied? Or is it that no method or system can ever bring about this purification? Surely, all systems and methods breed tradition, which brings mediocrity of mind; and a mediocre mind, facing a great problem, will inevitably translate that problem in terms of its own conditioning.
That is, to tackle any main issue in human affairs we see the necessity of a mind that is clear, purged of all its prejudices, and in order to cleanse the mind we say we must have a system, a method, a practice; but if one is at all alert one sees that in the very practising of a system the mind gets caught in the system, and therefore it is not free, it is not purged, it is not cleansed. Being caught in a system, the mind translates or responds to the challenge according to that conditioning. This is again fairly obvious if you go into it.
We have many problems at all levels of our existence, and to respond to these problems the mind must be fresh, eager, alert. In order to produce that clear, fresh, innocent mind, we say the practice of a system is necessary; but we see that, that in the very practice of a system, the mind gets warped, limited, twisted. So it is very clear that systems do not free the mind, and I think this fact must be thoroughly understood before we can go further into what I want to discuss this evening.
Most of us think that a method, a system, a practice, is going to free the mind, or help the mind to think clearly. But does a system of any kind help the mind to think very clearly, without bias, without the centre of the `me', the self? Does not the practice of a system encourage the self? Though the system is supposed to help you to get rid of the self, the `me', the ego, or whatever term one may use for that self-centred activity of the mind, does not the very practice of a system accentuate self-centredness, only along a different line?
So the mind can never be made free by a system. Yet most minds are caught in a system, which is the way of tradition, and it invariably breeds mediocrity. That is what has happened to almost all of us, is it not? Functioning in habits, in tradition, ancient or modern, which we call knowledge, the mind is confronted with an immense problem, a problem which is always changing. Whether it is personal or impersonal, collective or individual, no problem is static. But the mind is static, because it is caught in a groove of tradition, of habits, it is addicted to a certain way of thinking; so there is always a contradiction between the static condition of the mind, and the problem which is constantly changing, moving. Such a mind is incapable of meeting and resolving the problem - which I think is fairly obvious.
After all, you are meeting problems as a Hindu, that is, with the tradition of Hindu culture, just as the Catholic or the communist meets any issue according to his particular conditioning. Yet most of us agree that the mind must be cleansed, purified, in order to meet life, to find God, truth, or what you will.
Now, desiring to meet that challenge, to discover that new thing, we say the mind must be purified through the practice of a system; and yet when we look at it very closely, we see that a system cripples the mind, it does not set the mind free. So what is one to do? This is a problem we are all facing, is it not? The challenge, which is the world as it is today, is totally new, with new demands, and we cannot possibly respond to the new with the deteriorating traditions, ideas, memories and knowledge of the old. One sees that in the very practice of a method, the mind is crippled, that in the very process of cultivating virtue, the self becomes strengthened. There must be virtue, because virtue brings order; yet virtue that is cultivated, practised day after day, ceases to be virtue. Seeing this, what is the mind to do?
One can see very well that to meet the challenge, to meet this extraordinary world with its multiplying sorrows, with its vast contradictions and frustrations, the mind must be made new, fresh, pure, innocent; and how is this state of the mind to be brought about? Can time do it? That is, by pursuing the ideal of purity, innocence, clarity, can the mind which is dull, stupid, mediocre, achieve that other state through time? Can what is be transformed into what should be through the pursuit of the ideal? When the mind says, `I am here, and it will take time to reach the ideal state, which is over there', what has the mind done? It has invented the ideal apart from the fact, and then time is necessary to bridge the distance between them - at least that is what we say. So we have convenient theories concerning the inevitability of time: evolution, development through growth, and so on. But if you look very closely into the notion that time is a means of achieving the ideal, you will find that it is born of an extremely lazy and subtle attitude of postponement.
From childhood we are raised on this concept of the ideal, the example, the ultimate perfection, for the achievement of which we say time is necessary. But will time dissolve the self-centred activity of the `me', of the self, which is the cause of all mischief, of all misery? Time implies practice, progress towards something which should be; but that something is the projection of a mind caught in its own misery, in its own conditioning. So the ideal, the what should be, is the outcome of a conditioned mind, it is the projection of a mind which is in sorrow, which is ignorant, which is full of self-centred activity; therefore the ideal contains the seed of the present; and if you look into it very carefully, consider it deeply, you will see that time does not bring about the purgation of the self. Then what is the mind to do?
Do you understand? No system will solve this problem. Even if you were to practise a system for a thousand years, the self would remain, because the very practice of a system strengthens the self. Nor will the ideal ever solve this problem, because the ideal demands time in which to progress from what is which is the fact, to what should be; and this pursuit of what should be interferes with the understanding of what is. The what is can be understood only when the mind is completely free from the ideal, from the idea of progress through time. Yet these are the only two means you have, are they not? You use the ideal as a lever to get rid of what is, or you practise a system, which inevitably breeds mediocrity; and the mediocre mind cannot possibly respond to a challenge that is extraordinarily dynamic, that demands your complete attention. So what is the mind to do?
I don't know if you have thought of this matter at all. We have problems at every level of our existence, economic, social, emotional, intellectual, and we have always approached these problems with a traditional or idealistic point of view. We meet facts with theories; and one can see very well that a mind which is caught in formulations, in conclusions, which spins a theory about a fact, cannot possibly understand the fact. There is always conflict between the fact and the theory; and our meditation, our sacrifice, our practice, which is the cultivation of virtue, can never solve the problem, because to cultivate virtue is to strengthen the `me'. The `me' becomes respectable, that is all. Seeing this, what is the mind to do? Perhaps this evening we should experiment with something. So far you have followed what I have said, which is fairly clear, and I don't think you will disagree. There is nothing with which to agree or disagree, because these are facts. If you disagree, you are merely denying a fact; and however much you may deny a fact, the fact exists. The difficulty is that most of us are caught in tradition - tradition as inherited or acquired knowledge, experience - and with such a mind we are approaching a fact, denying or translating it according to our conditioning. That is what is actually taking place within each one of us, at different levels and with different degrees of intensity.
As I was saying, can we try something this evening, which is to listen, not with memory, not with tradition, not with the intention of getting something through listening, but with complete attention? If one is capable of listening in that way, there is immediate transformation - whether for a long or a short time, is unimportant. The duration is unimportant, but what is important is the capacity to listen with complete attention. If the mind can remove all the traditions, the opinions, the evaluations, the comparisons, and just listen to what is being said, out of that complete attention you will find that you will be able to tackle any problem; because in that attention there is no problem. The problem is created by inattention. Attention is the good, but the good cannot be cultivated by the mind - the mind that is conditioned by tradition, by environment, by every kind of influence. What matters is to have the capacity of attention without interpretation or evaluation; but you cannot possibly practise this attention. If you do, you reduce it again to mediocrity, it becomes mere tradition. But if the mind can face the problem with complete attention, then you will find that the problem has ceased, because then the mind is a totally different entity, it is no longer the product of time; and such a mind is capable of receiving that which is eternal.
The difficulty with most of us is that we never give our complete attention to anything, even when we are interested. When we are interested in something, it absorbs us, as the toy absorbs the child; and absorption is not attention. But if you can listen completely without interpretation, without comparison, without evaluation, which is to give your whole attention, then all tradition is transcended and the mind is extraordinarily clear, innocent, pure; and such a mind is capable of resolving the problems of life.
Question: Gandhiji had recourse to fasting as a means of changing the hearts of others. His example is being followed by some leaders in India who look upon fasting as a means of purifying themselves and also the society around them. Can self-invited suffering be purifying, and is there vicarious purification?
Krishnamurti: Without accepting or denying anything, let us investigate the matter. It is said that suffering is necessary as a means of purifying the mind. Whole philosophies and religions are built on this idea, that someone suffers for you and purifies you. Can that be done? And what do we mean by suffering? There is the suffering caused by starvation, decay, disease, physical deterioration. A society based on acquisitiveness and envy must inevitably create physical suffering: those who have, and those who have not. That is all very clear. Then there is psychological suffering. If I love you, and you don't love me, I suffer. If I am ambitious, if I want to fulfil myself through having a prominent position, and something happens which prevents me, I am frustrated and I suffer. We say suffering is an inevitable process, and we accept it; we never question it, we never ask if it is necessary to suffer psychologically. And can I suffer for the good of another? Can I change society through my example? When there is an example, what happens? Authority is established; the following of authority breeds fear; and fear breeds the mediocrity of a shallow mind. We are brought up on this idea that the example, the hero, the saint, the leader, the guru, is necessary; so we become followers without any initiative, gramophone records repeating the same old pattern. When we merely follow, we lose all sense of individuality, the fullness of understanding as individuals, and obviously that does not solve our problems.
Besides, if you must fast, why must you fast in public? Why this ballyhoo, this noise, this publicity, this beating of the drum? Because you want to impress people, and people are easily impressed. And then what? Have they changed? Is your intention in fasting to impress people, or to discover your own state of mind? If you are trying to impress people, then it has very little meaning, it is merely political, and therein lies exploitation.
But if your intention is to bring about self-purification and understanding, then is fasting necessary? What is necessary is an acuteness, a clarity of mind, not at certain periods of the year, but at every moment, which is to be fully aware in your relationships; and it is this awareness that reveals to you what you are. A heavy stomach obviously makes a dull mind; but a dull mind is also a mind which practices a system in order to be clear. The mind is obviously made dull through the practice of virtue; and yet we think suffering, fasting, examples, are necessary to bring a change in society. Surely, example breeds authority, however noble, stupid, or historical it may be; and when there is the tyranny of example, the mind is merely conforming to a pattern. The pattern may be wide or narrow, but it is still a pattern, a frame, and the mind that follows a pattern is inevitably very shallow.
Conformity is obviously a cause. Through conformity can the mind be free? Must the mind be made slavish in order to be free, or must freedom exist from the very beginning? Freedom is not a thing to be gained as a reward at the end of life, it is not the goal of life, because a mind that is incapable of being free now can never discover what is true.
Society is not changed by example. Society may reform itself, it may bring about certain changes through political or economic revolution, but only the religious man can create a fundamental transformation in society; and the religious man is not he who practices starvation as an example to impress society. The religious man is not concerned with society at all, because society is based on acquisitiveness, envy, greed, ambition, fear. That is, mere reformation of the pattern of society only alters the surface, it brings about a more respectable form of ambition. Whereas, the truly religious man is totally outside of society, because he is not ambitious, he has no envy, he is not following any ritual, dogma or belief; and it is only such a man who can fundamentally transform society, not the reformer. The man who sets out to be an example merely breeds conflict, strengthens fear, and brings about various forms of tyranny.
It is very strange how we worship examples, idols. We don't want that which is pure, true in itself; we want interpreters, examples, masters, gurus, as a medium through which to attain something - which is all sheer nonsense, and is used to exploit people. If each one of us could think clearly from the very beginning, or re-educate ourselves to think clearly, then all these examples, masters, gurus, systems, would be absolutely unnecessary, which they are anyhow.
You see, the world is unfortunately too much for most of us; our circumstances are too heavy, our families, our country, our leaders, our jobs, pin us down, hold us on the wheel, and we hope vaguely somehow to find happiness. But this happiness does not come vaguely, it does not come if you are pinned down by society, if you are a slave to environment. It comes only when there is freedom of the mind - which is not freedom of thought. Thought is never free; but the mind can be free, and that freedom comes, not through going into the many layers of the unconscious, analyzing the memory of incidents and experiences, but only when there is complete attention. In the process of self-analysis there must always be the analyzer; but the analyzer is part of the analyzed, as the thinker is part of the thought, and if you don't understand the central issue, you will only increase the problems and bring about further misery.
The mind cannot be made clear, pure, innocent, through any method, through any discipline, through the practice of any virtue. Virtue is essential, but a cultivated virtue is not virtue. Suffering obviously has to be understood. As long as there is the self, the `me', the ego, there must be suffering. Man avoids that suffering, but in the very avoidance of it he strengthens the ego, and all his social activities, his reforms, only create further mischief, further sorrow. Again, this is obvious if you are at all thoughtful.
So, there must be an action totally dissociated from society, a way of thinking that is not contaminated by society, and only then is there a possibility of real revolution - which is not this superficial revolution at merely one level, economic, social, or any other. A total revolution must take place in man himself, and it is only such a mind that can resolve the mounting problems of society.
Now, you have listened to all this, either agreeing or disagreeing; but as I said, there is nothing with which to agree or disagree. These are facts, and knowing these facts, what are you going to do? Surely, that is very important to find out. Will you return to the society of which you are a prisoner, or have you listened with complete attention? If you listen with complete attention, then that very attention brings its own action, you don't have to do anything. It is like love. Love, and it will act; but without love, do what you will - practise, discipline, reform - , the heart can never be clear. And that is what is happening in the world. We have examples, disciplines, marvellous techniques, yet our hearts are empty because they are filled with the things of the mind; and when our hearts are empty, our solutions to the many problems are also empty. Only the mind that is capable of complete attention knows how to love, because that attention is the absence of the self.
Madras 2nd Public Talk 15th January 1956
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