Madras 5th Public Talk 1st February 1956
It seems to me that one of the most difficult and arduous things in life is to look at something as a whole, to have a feeling for the totality of things; and I think it is very important to understand why the mind so invariably breaks up the immediate action into patterns, into details, why it is seemingly incapable of grasping the total significance of existence at one glance. I don't know if you have thought about it at all from this point of view. Most of us approach all the complexities, the problems, the miseries and struggles of life, with a detailed outlook, with a mind that is very small, a mind that is conditioned, shaped by the culture, the society in which we live. We never seem able to grasp immediately the full significance of anything. Instead of seeing the whole tree at once, it is as if we looked at only the leaf, and from there gradually began to see the whole tree. So I think it is important to find out why the mind is apparently not capable of seeing the truth of something immediately, and letting that truth operate, instead of itself operating on the truth. After all, reality, God, or what you will, is not to be approached little by little, it cannot be put together piece by piece, as a wheel is; it must be seen immediately, or one does not see it at all.
Most of us have been trained, I think, to approach this problem through the accumulation of knowledge, through analysis, or the cultivation of virtue. If one observes the everyday activities of one's own mind, all the ways of its operation, one sees how it is always gathering, learning, acquiring, putting things together little by little, hoping thereby to capture something which is beyond this process of accumulation; and this may be the gravest mistake.
What is it that most of us are seeking? Whether we are Hindus, Christians, or what you will, we are trying to find something beyond the mere process of the mind, are we not? It is this search that we call religion. We practise various disciplines, we meditate according to certain systems, always in the hope of coming upon that which is not merely the result of a cultivated mind. But surely, to understand or to experience what is beyond the mind, there must be, not a carefully-nurtured letting go of the self, of the `me' and the `mine', but the complete abandonment of it without cultivation. I don't know if I am making myself clear on this point. Though we see it is important that the self, the `me', the ego, should go, yet all our activities, our thoughts, our practices, our religious disciplines, are actually encouraging the self. And seeing the futility of the analyzer and the analyzed, perceiving that the various forms of substitution, the various disciplines, are only strengthening the `me' in a subtle way and are therefore an impediment, can the mind abandon the whole of that process?
To put it differently, our minds are conditioned, are they not? The culture, the society in which we are brought up, and various other influences, shape our minds from childhood as Hindus, as communists, and so on. And can the totality of the mind, the unconscious as well as the conscious, be unconditioned, not by degrees, not little by little, but immediately? Surely, that is one of our problems. Our minds are shaped, conditioned, held within a frame; and however much the mind may try to break the frame in which it is held, that very effort is the outcome of its conditioning, because the thinker is not separate from the thought; the maker of the effort to escape from the prison of the self, is also part of the self, is he not? And when we see that, when we realize the truth of it, can the mind abandon completely this conditioned way of thinking?
I think we should consider here the problem of what it means to listen to something. When we listen to what is being said, how do we listen? If we listen with the intention, the desire to find something, to discover, to learn, then obviously there is no listening at all, because we are concerned with acquiring. Listening then becomes merely a superficial hearing without much significance. But if we can listen with that attention which has no object of attainment, then I think something revolutionary, the unexpected, the unpremeditated, takes place.
You know, sirs, as I was saying the other day, all of us are in search of something; and most of us don't know what it is we are really seeking. To seek, to inquire, there must first be freedom; but we are obviously not free, therefore our search has no meaning at all. Our search is only for greater comfort, greater security, and so we are prisoners of our own desire. What we seek is the fulfillment of our own longing and so our search is no longer true search. If we observe ourselves we will see that there is this constant desire to find some peace, to have a permanent state of comfort, complete security; and this desire makes us prisoners at the very beginning.
So it seems to me that what is important is not whether there is a reality, God, this or that, but to understand the process of one's own mind. Without self-knowledge, without knowing oneself, all search is obviously vain. And is it very difficult to know oneself? The self is made up of one's desires, greeds, ambitions, motives, envies, and the beliefs that the mind clings to; and to know that whole process, the conscious as well as the unconscious, is surely essential before one can discover anything new. And yet we are not concerned with that. We are not concerned with self-knowledge, with knowing the ways of our own minds. On the contrary, we are always escaping from that, and imposing on the mind certain patterns according to which we try to live.
Surely the beginning of wisdom is self-knowledge. Without knowing oneself, which is a very complex entity, all thinking has very little meaning. If the mind does not know its own prejudices, vanities, fears, ambitions, greeds, how can it be capable of discovering what is true? All it can do is to speculate about what is true, have beliefs, dogmas, put restrictions on itself, think mechanically, follow tradition, and thereby create more and more problems. So what is important is to understand the ways of the self; and to understand the self is not to alter it, not to deny or control it, but to observe it. If I want to understand something, I cannot condemn it, can I? If I want to understand a child, I must neither condemn nor compare him with another child; I must study, watch him, be aware of all his ways. Similarly, if I want to understand the total process of my mind, I must be observant, watchful, passively aware of the way I talk, of my gestures, of the underlying motives; and that is not possible if I condemn or compare. I think that to understand the totality of one's own mind is really the most important thing in life; and one can watch the operations of the mind only in relationship, because nothing exists in isolation. We exist only in relationship; and relationship is the mirror in which to observe the mind's activities.
So, the mind is conditioned, it is the result of the past, all our thinking is the process of the past; and the problem is, can such a mind comprehend that which is timeless, beyond itself? As I was pointing out the other day, what is necessary is a religious revolution; and a religious revolution can come about only when each one of us frees himself from all dogmas, beliefs, and rituals. Surely, it is only then that the mind is capable of understanding itself, and thereby coming to that state in which there is no thinking - thinking being the movement of the past.
We now try to solve our problems through thought - and it is thought that has created the problems, because thought is the result, the process of the past. All thinking is conditioned. If you observe, you will see that there is no free thinking, because thinking is the movement of the past, it is the reaction of memory; and we have used thought as a means of discovering what is true. But what is true can be discovered only when the mind is completely still, not made still, not disciplined, coerced. Stillness comes into being only when through self-knowledge the totality of the mind is understood. Self-knowledge comes through awareness, through watchfulness of thought, in which there is no entity who is observing thought. The observer of thought arises only when there is condemnation, when there is a desire to direct thought. After all, the thinker is part of thought, is he not? There is no thinker if there is no thought; but we have divided the thinker from the thought for reasons of our own security. We have created this division out of our desire to have a permanent entity, which we call the spiritual; but if you observe very closely, you will see that there is no permanency at all. There is only thinking, and thinking is a movement of the past, of experience, of knowledge.
Now, as long as there is the thinker separate from thought, there must be conflict, the process of duality, there must be this gap between action and idea. But cannot the mind actually experience that extraordinary state when there is only thinking, and not the thinker, when there is only an awareness in which there is no condemnation or comparison? The condemnatory and comparative process is the way of the thinker separate from thought. There is only thinking, and thinking is impermanent. Realizing the impermanency of thinking, the mind creates the permanent as the Atman, the higher self, and all the rest of it; but it is still the process of thinking. Thinking is conditioned, it is the result of the past, of accumulated experience, knowledge, so it can never lead to the unknown, the timeless. After all, the self, the `me', is nothing but a bundle of memories; and even though you give it a spiritual quality, a permanent value, it is still within the area of thought, and therefore impermanent.
The difficulty for most people is to let go of this `permanent' quality of the mind, which is its own invention. Most of us want permanency in one form or another, and so the mind has given a quality of permanency to what it calls reality, God. Surely, there is nothing permanent. Reality is not continuous, not permanent, but something to be discovered from moment to moment. When the mind has a momentary experience of something real, it desires to make that reality permanent, and the permanent becomes the past, it is held within the field of time; but the new can exist only when the past is dead. That is why one must die to every experience. It is only when the mind is simple, fresh, innocent, unburdened with knowledge, that it is capable of immediate perception.
Every form of experience becomes the means of further recognition, does it not? Having met you yesterday, I recognize you today. The mind is a process of recognition, and with that process of recognition we try to experience the real; but the real cannot be so experienced, for it cannot be recognized. If you can recognize it, it is out of the past, it is held in memory, it has already been known; therefore it is not the real. So the mind must be in that state when there is no experiencer at all, which means that the process of recognition must cease. You will find that this is not as fantastic as it sounds. When you see a beautiful sunset, what happens? There is an immediate reaction to that beauty, and then you begin to compare; the sunset which you saw a week ago was much more beautiful. So you have established a connection, the new experience is already related to the past. This process of comparison is the action of recognition which prevents the mind from constantly experiencing something new.
After all, the mind is the result of the known, and it is always trying to capture the unknown in terms of the known. The coming into being of the unknown is possible only when there is freedom from the known. The known is the `me', and whether you place it at the highest or the lowest level, it is still the `me', which is accumulated experience, the process of recognition. The `me' is incapable of seeing the totality of this extraordinary thing that we call life, and that is why we have broken up the world as Christian and Hindu, Buddhist and Moslem, and why we are breaking up India into little linguistic pieces. All that is the process of the petty mind held within the field of the known. There must be freedom from the known for the unknown to be. That is a fact, it is obviously so; because reality, God, or what you will, cannot be known, cannot be recognized. Knowledge, recognition, is the result of the past, and a mind that is looking for the unknown through the known, can never find it. It is only when the mind is free from the known that the other is.
Now, when you listen to that statement, which is an obvious fact, what happens? If you give your whole attention to it, you do not ask how to be free from the known. The mind can never make itself free from the known; if it does, it merely creates another known. But if you give your whole attention to that fact, then you will see that the very fact itself begins to operate, just like the life in the seed begins to push up through the soil. Then the mind has to do nothing. If the mind operates on the fact, it can only operate in detail, putting many little parts together to find the whole; but the putting together of many parts does not make the whole. The whole must be perceived instantaneously. That is why it is important to understand the ways of the mind, not through books, not through reading the Gita or the Upanishads, but by watching yourself in relationship with your wife, with your children, with your neighbour, with your boss, by observing the way you talk to your servant, to the bus-man. Then you will begin to discover to what depths the mind is conditioned; and in that very discovery of the mind's conditioning, there is freedom. What is important is to discover, not merely to repeat. Through this constant discovery of the ways of the self, the mind becomes very quiet without suppression, without restriction, without being put in a frame; and for such a mind, because it is free from the known, there is a possibility of the coming into being of the unknown.
Question: In India we have been told for centuries to be spiritual, and our daily life is an endless round of rituals and ceremonies. Is this spirituality? If not, then what is it to be spiritual?
Krishnamurti: Sir, let us find out what it means to be spiritual - not the definition of that word, which you can look up in a dictionary, but as we are sitting here together let us really experience that state, if there is such a state at all.
A mind which is crippled by authority, whether it be the authority of a book, of a guru, of a belief, or of an experience, is obviously incapable of discovering what is true, is it not? And can the mind be free from all authority? That is, can the mind stop seeking security in authority? Surely, only a mind that is not afraid of being insecure, uncertain, is capable of finding out what it is to be spiritual. The man who merely accepts a belief, a dogma, who performs rituals and ceremonies, is not capable of discovering what is true, or what it is to be spiritual, because his mind is held within the pattern of tradition, of fear, of greed.
Now, can the mind which has been held in ceremonies, drop them immediately? Surely that is the only test, because in dropping them, you will discover all the implications involved; the fears, the antagonisms, the quarrels, all the things which the mind has been unwilling to face, will come out. But we never do that. We merely talk about being spiritual. We read the Upanishads, the Gita, repeat some mantrams, play around with ceremonies, and call this religion.
Surely, that which is spiritual must be timeless. But the mind is the result of time, of innumerable influences, ideas, impositions; it is the product of the past, which is time. And can such a mind ever perceive that which is timeless? Obviously not. It can speculate, it can vainly grope after, or repeat, some experiences which others may have had; but being the result of the past, the mind can never find that which is beyond time. So all that the mind can do is to be completely quiet, without any movement of thought, and only then is there a possibility of the coming into being of that state which is timeless; then the mind itself is timeless.
So ceremonies are not spiritual, nor are dogmas, nor beliefs, nor the practising of a particular system of meditation; for all these things are the outcome of a mind which is seeking security. The state of spirituality can be experienced only by a mind that has no motive, a mind that is no longer seeking; for all search is based on motive. The mind that is capable of not asking, of not seeking, of being completely nothing - only such a mind can understand that which is timeless.
Question: I have attended the recent morning discussions. Do you want us not to think at all? And if we have to think, how are we to think?
Krishnamurti: Sir, not to think at all would be a state of amnesia, a state of idiocy. If you did not know where you lived, if you could not remember the way to your home, something would be wrong, would it not? We have to think. We have to think clearly, sanely, purposefully and directly. The mind is the only instrument we possess, and we have to think in order to learn a technique, which will enable us to get a job and earn a livelihood; but beyond that, our thinking becomes ambition, greed, envy, and our society is built on these things. In our education we are everlastingly concerned with helping those who are being educated to fit into society; so our thinking, and the thinking of the generation to come, is concerned with fitting into a society which is based on greed, envy, and acquisitiveness. But the function of education, surely, is not to help the young to conform to this rotten society, but to be free of its influences, so that they may create a new society, a different world.
Thinking is essential; but when the mind is occupied with greed, with envy, with the whole process of the `me', then thinking is obviously corrupt, and any society based on that thinking inevitably degenerates. Thinking in which the self is cultivated as virtue, as respectability, as conformity, becomes an impediment to the discovery of what is real. That is why it is important that a revolution should take place in the mind, a religious revolution; and that can come about only when you and I no longer belong to society. This does not mean putting on a loincloth and having little or no shelter, it means cutting oneself away completely, inwardly, from all acquisitiveness. It means not being greedy, not being ambitious, not pursuing power, so that there is no `me' becoming something, either worldly or spiritual. The only revolution is this religious revolution, which has nothing to do with any church, with any organization, with any dogma or belief. It must take place in each one of us, and only then is there a possibility of creating a new world.
Madras 5th Public Talk 1st February 1956
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