Madras 3rd Public Talk 19th December 1956
It seems to me that one of the most difficult things to do is to separate individual thinking and action from the collective thought and activity; yet to free the mind, the whole process of thinking, from the collective is absolutely essential, especially now when the collective is playing such a part in our daily existence. Throughout the world every means is being used to get hold of the mind of the individual. Not only the Communists, but also every type of religious person, is anxious to shape the mind of man; and as governmental efficiency grows, as so-called education becomes universal and technological improvements spread in every direction, thought will be increasingly shaped according to the collective pattern of a given culture.
Most of us are the result of the collective. There is no individual thinking. I am not using the word `individual' in opposition to the collective. I think individuality is entirely different from and is not a reaction to the collective; but as we are now constituted, individuality as something wholly apart from the collective does not exist. What we call individuality is merely a reaction, and reaction is not total action. A reaction produces its own further limitation; it only further conditions the mind.
So I am not using the word `individuality' in the sense of opposition to the collective; I am referring to a state of mind that is totally disengaged, dissociated from the collective process of thinking. Thinking as we know it now is almost entirely a response of the collective; and it seems to me that in the face of the present crisis, of this immense challenge with its innumerable problems of starvation, misery, war and appalling brutality, the collective response has no value. The collective can only respond according to the old conditioning, the old pattern of thought; and what is important, surely, is that there should be the emergence of individuality which is outside the present social structure, not part of the collective pattern of thinking with its dogmas and beliefs, whether Communistic or of so-called religion.
I do not know if you are aware of this extraordinary challenge which confronts each one of us and which demands a new approach, a new way of acting towards it. We can see that the old collective response has not been adequate, and this inadequacy of response inevitably creates further problems - which is what is actually happening in the world at the present time. So our problem is, can the mind, which is a result of the collective, free itself and become individual? - but not in the sense of a reaction, a revolt against the collective, for such a revolt is obviously a process of further conditioning according to a different pattern. Can the mind, by understanding the collective, by investigating, inquiring into the whole process of it, dissociate itself from the collective, and out of the depth of this understanding, not intellectually but actually, bring about immediate action? Can the mind, which is a result of the collective, free itself and act as a total individuality? I am not using the word `individuality' in the sense that we ordinarily accept, which means an individual who is opposed to the collective, who is self-centred who is only concerned with his own activity, his own enjoyment, his own success.
This is your problem, is it not? I am not foisting it on you. If you are at all aware of world events, aware of your own social compulsions and pressures, this question must inevitably arise. Can the mind free itself from the collective, which is its own conditioning? To be free of the collective is not just a matter of throwing away your passport or of verbally renouncing a certain state of mind; it means being free of the whole emotional content of such words as `Hindu', `Buddhist', `Christian', `Communist', `Indian', `Russian', `American', and so on. You may strip the mind of the verbal label, but there remains an inward content, the deep feeling of being something in a particular culture or society. You know what I mean. One reacts as a Christian, as a Communist, as a Hindu, because one has been brought up in a particular environment, with a superficial, limited outlook; and this reaction of the collective is what we call our thinking.
Since you are listening to me, may I suggest that you listen without any idea of refuting, defending, agreeing or disagreeing. We are trying to uncover the problem together. The problem being immense, to understand it we have to think clearly and with great depth of feeling. So please do not merely listen to my description, but, if you can, through my description watch the operation of your own mind. You will then see how extraordinarily difficult it is to think totally anew, that is, not to think in terms of Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, or what you will. And if you revolt against the pattern of Hinduism only to fall into another cage which you call Buddhism, this or that, then the mind is still held within the field of conditioning.
So your mind is obviously the result of the collective. It responds, not as an individual in the sense in which I am using that word, but as an expression of the collective, which means that it is bound by tradition, by the whole process of conditioning. Your mind is burdened with certain dogmas, beliefs, rituals, which you call religion, and with that background it tries to respond to something which is unpresendently new and vital. But only the mind that is free of its background can respond totally to the challenge, and it is only such a mind that is capable of creating a new world, a new civilization, a wholly new manner of living.
So, can one free the mind from its background, which is the collective, not as a reaction, not in opposition, but through seeing the imperative necessity of a mind that is not merely a repetitive machine? I hope I am making the problem clear. At present we are the result of what we have been told, are we not? That is so obvious. From childhood we have been told to believe or not to believe in certain things, and we repeat it; and if it is not the repetition of the old in which we are caught, then it is a repetition of essentially the same thing in a new form. Whether it lives in the Communist world, the Socialist world, or the Hindu world, that centre which we call the `I', the self, is the repetitive, accumulative process of the collective.
The problem is, then, can that centre be exploded so that no new centre is formed and an action takes place which is total and not an activity of the self? After all, the mind is at present a process of self-centred activity, of tradition, is it not? You are a Hindu, a Moslem, a Christian, or a Buddhist, or you may belong to the very latest sect; but the centre of your thinking is an accumulative process, either in terms of tradition, or in reaction to the collective, or it is further shaped by experiences based upon its own conditioning. Sirs, all this sounds very difficult, but it is not. If you watch your own mind, you will see how simple it actually is.
What is this centre of thinking, the `I'? Or rather, I won't call it the `I', the ego, the higher self or the lower self. There is only the centre. This centre is a mechanism of thinking based on tradition, and it obviously reacts to any challenge in terms of its own conditioning, which is based on security, fear, greed, envy, and all the rest of it. If you are a politician you think in terms of nationality, you act for various profitable reasons, and this is your response to a world situation that demands, not action in terms of a particular segment of the world, but a total action, a completely human outlook of love, of deep thought. All this is denied when you think as a nationalist, when your mind is bound by tradition.
So, can the mind free itself from tradition? And if it can, how is it to set about it? I don't know if you have thought about this problem at all. If you have, you have probably thought about it in the traditional terms of struggling to get rid of the ego by sublimation, by discipline, by control, by various forms of fulfilment, and so on. But perhaps there is another way of looking at it, which is: can the mind know directly the nature of that centre which has subdivided itself into the higher and the lower, the Atman and the personal self? That centre places itself at different levels and calls itself by different names, thinking there is a permanent entity above and beyond the impermanent; but for the impermanent centre to think of a permanent entity, is false, because that which is impermanent obviously cannot create a permanent state. You may conceive of a permanent state and build all your theories, your whole way of thinking around it; but that idea of permanency is also impermanent, it is a mere reaction to the impermanence of life.
You may be gone tomorrow. Your thinking, your house, your bank account, your virtues - they are all impermanent. Your relationship with nature, with your family, with ideas, is in a state of flux, of constant movement; everything is transient, and the mind, being aware of that, creates something which it calls permanent. But the very thought which creates the `permanent' is itself impermanent; therefore what it creates is also impermanent. This is not just logical, sequential; it is an indisputable fact, as clear as that microphone. But a mind which has been brought up, which has been trained to escape from life into the so-called permanent, is incapable of thinking afresh, and therefore it is always in battle with anything new.
I am talking of that centre which thinks of a state which is permanent, of God or truth, and which also knows the daily activity of pain and pleasure, of ambition, greed, envy, and the desire for power, prestige. All that is the centre, whether you extend it widely or limit it to a little family in Mylapore. And is it possible for that centre to come to an end? Please see that unless it does come to an end you will always know impermanence and sorrow, however much you may pretend to know there is a permanency because some book says so. The books may be mistaken and probably are, including the Gita, the Bible, and the whole lot of them. So you as an individual have to think out this problem as though you were investigating it for the first time, and nobody had ever told you a thing about it. Because what is the actual fact, what is the reality as far as you know it? There is this centre which is greedy, envious, vain, which is seeking power, position, prestige, and which constitutes the whole of human existence. That is all you know. Occasionally there is a flash of joy, a movement of something which is not of your making. but the functioning of that centre is the primary activity of most human beings.
Now, you and I are going to take a journey into that centre, not knowing where it is going to lead. If you already know where it is going to lead, you have preconceived it, and therefore it will not be real. A petty mind, however learned and capable of erudite discussion it may be, is incapable of seeking something totally new. All it can do is to project its own ideas, or induce a devotional or ecstatic state. So we are entering upon an uncharted sea, and each one has to be his own captain, pilot and sailor. He has to be everything himself. There is no guide, and that is the beauty of existence. If you have companions and guides, you never take the journey alone, therefore you are not taking the journey at all. The journey is a process of self-discovery, and as you begin to understand it you will see what an immense relationship it has to your present existence.
So you can only take that journey when you begin to understand yourself, when you begin to understand the nature of your own mind, going into it step by step. And you cannot go far if you condemn, if you evaluate what you discover. The moment you condemn anything, you have put an end to thinking, have you not? If I say you are a wise man, or a fool, I have obviously stopped thinking. To inquire, to go into the depths of a thought or an emotion, to unroll it, there must be no sense of judgment, evaluation. One has to move with it; and this inquiry into the self, into the centre, is meditation. The practice of going into a corner and looking at a picture, which you call meditation, is phony, it is not meditation at all. That is self-hypnosis. Real meditation is this inquiry into the extraordinary process of thinking to find out how far thinking goes, and whether there is an ending to thought.
If I were to tell you that thought can be ended, you would say, "How am I to arrive at that ending of thought?", which is an immature question. What matters is to find out the nature of the centre, to go into it and uncover the whole process of thinking for yourself, not according to somebody else; and you can have no companion on this journey. Neither wife, nor husband, nor child, nor guru, nor any book can help you. This journey must be undertaken entirely alone, and there is no religious organization of any kind that can help you. Though such organizations call themselves spiritual, they are exploiters. I am not on my favourite subject. Don't brush it off so easily. Religious organizations merely condition man further, therefore they are essentially exploiters, though they operate in the name of God, truth, and all the rest of it.
So, to undertake this journey you must free yourself at the very beginning from all religious organizations, from all tradition. And I assure you, it is very hard work, because it demands, not mere revolt, but a great deal of attention, thought and inquiry. In the process of inquiry you will find that every form of difficulty comes into being - fear, insecurity, uncertainty - , and because we are not capable of facing it, we run away and talk about God and truth. But for a man who is really in earnest, the very undertaking of this journey brings solitude - which is not isolation, because he will know a far greater relationship than the relationship which exists now, which is no relationship at all. Because it has understood the centre and is not transposing that centre to a different level of consciousness, the mind in that state of aloneness is capable of total individual action - individual in the sense that it is not related to a particular society or culture. Such a mind becomes silent, completely still, and in that very stillness there is an extraordinary movement, a movement which is not put together by the mind. That movement without any centre, without any direction or objective, is creation; that movement is the real, beyond the measure of time and man.
Now, sirs, as I explained the other day, there are only questions in life, and no answers; and it is really important to understand this. A mind that seeks an answer is not concerned with the question. It is only when your mind is wholly concerned with the problem - which means it is not distracted by the desire for an answer, or by reacting to the problem in its own way - that you give complete attention to it; and when you give your complete attention to the problem, you will find that the problem undergoes a fundamental change. It is no longer a problem, it has quite another quality. But this demands a mind that can pursue the problem to its end; and you cannot pursue a problem to its end if you are seeking an answer, or if the mind is in any way translating the problem in terms of its own desire.
Question: Is not a certain amount of disciplinary training necessary to understand what you are teaching?
Krishnamurti: Is it? What do we mean by discipline? You know the ordinary meaning of that word: to control, to subjugate, to force thought by the exercise of will to conform to a nobler pattern. Discipline implies resistance, a shaping of the mind, holding thought to a certain line, and so on. All that and more is implied in discipline. In discipline there is the division of the one who disciplines and that which is disciplined, so conflict is everlastingly going on, and we accept this conflict as normal, as a sane way of life. To me it is utter nonsense, and I mean it.
The questioner asks, "Is not a certain amount of disciplinary training necessary to understand what you are teaching?" If you love to do something, is it necessary to discipline yourself to do it? If you are really interested in what I am saying, do you need discipline? Must you train your mind to pay complete attention, to listen with deep feeling? That very listening is the act of understanding - but you are not interested. That is the real problem: you are not interested. Not that you should be. But fundamentally you are superficial; you want an easy way of existence, you want to get on. It is too much of a bother to think very deeply; and besides, you might have to act deeply, you might find yourself in total revolt against this rotten society. So you play with it, you keep one foot here and one foot there, tottering and asking, "Should I discipline myself in order to understand? Whereas, if you really inquired into what I am teaching, you would find it very simple; and you can do it yourself, you need no assistance from anybody, including myself. All that you have to do is to understand the operation of your own mind - and a marvellous thing it is, the mind; the most beautiful thing on earth.
But we are not interested in that. We are interested in what the mind can get for us in the way of security, passion, power, position, knowledge, which are the various centres of self-interest. And I say, look at the operation of your own mind, go into it, understand it, all of which you can do by yourself; watch your everyday relationship with people, the way you talk, the way you gesticulate, your pursuit of power, how you behave in front of the important man and in front of the servant. If you observe this whole process of yourself in the mirror of relationship, that is the one necessary action. You don't have to do anything about it, but merely observe it. If you observe, go into the whole process of yourself without condemnation, you will find that the mind becomes extraordinarily sharp, clear and fearless; therefore the mind is capable of understanding such human problems as death, meditation, dreams, and the many other things that confront it.
So you don't need any special training. What you need is to pay attention, not to what I say, but to your own mind; you must see for yourself how it is caught in words, in explanations without any basis, without any reality. Perhaps it is the reality of someone else, but if you make that the basis of your life, then it is not reality; it is merely a supposition, a speculation an imagination, and therefore it is without validity, it has no reality behind it. To find reality you have to work as hard as you work for your daily living, and much harder, because all this is much more subtle, requiring greater attention; for every movement of thought indicates a state of the mind, of the conscious as well as the unconscious. As you cannot observe the operation of your mind all the time, you pick it up, observe it, and let it go. If you watch yourself in this manner you will find that attention has quite a different significance, and that you can free the mind from the collective. As long as the mind is merely a record of the collective, it is of no more value than a machine. The new computers are extraordinarily capable along certain lines, but human beings are something more than that. They have the possibility of that extraordinary creativity which is not just the writing of poems or books, but the creativity of a mind that has no centre.
Question: Most of us seem to be after so many things - sex, position, power, and so on - which promise a sense of happiness and fulfilment, but which bring with them all kinds of frustration and suffering. Is this inevitable?
Krishnamurti: What is it that we are all after? Not what we should be after, which is just idealistic nonsense, but what is it we are all pursuing in fact? And what is it that is making us go after certain things? As the questioner says, we are all after something: sex, position, money, power, prestige, or we want to be near the biggest man, and so on. We all want something, if not in this world, then in the other world, whatever the other world is; and in the pursuit of what we want we meet with frustration, misery.
Now, what is it we are after, and what is driving us to go after it? Do you understand, sirs? What are we seeking, and what is it that is making us seek? I am not answering you, so don't wait for an answer from me. I am exploring it. Together we are going to find out. We all know we are after something: happiness, beauty, comfort, the flowering of goodness, the continuity of satisfaction, and so on and on. We are after something, call it x. And what is making us go after x? Is it discontent - not divine discontent, but plain, everyday discontent? That is, we get something, we are dissatisfied with it, and we want something mote. As a boy I want amusement; when I am a little more mature I want sex, then a house and family; and in a few more years I want position, prestige.
So discontent drives me till I find something which will give me contentment: love, knowledge, a person to idolize, a country or an ideology to serve, a Master to whom I can give everything, all in return for my contentment. This may sound cynical, but it is not. I am merely stating an obvious fact, and if you dismiss it as cynicism, that is your affair. So discontent is driving most of us. We want a little more money, a little more knowledge, more happiness. Perhaps we have momentarily felt the goodness, the beauty, the extra ordinary depth and width of life, or someone has described it, and we are after that; but the basis of our search is still this discontent. We are being urged by discontent to find a means of overcoming it. Surely that is a fact, it is the mind's actual response. My wife has died, my son is gone, or my husband has run away with some woman, and I am unhappy; so I go to a guru, or turn to some book, hoping to find something which will assuage my agony, my suffering; and when I have found it, I dare not question its reality, because it has given me comfort. So, whatever it is, I hold on to it till the next push comes, till again there is the drive of discontent. If a particular guru satisfies me, there I am permanently stuck; if he does not, I move on to the next. It is the same with ideas, with houses, with everything. From the clerk to the highest governmental official, in so-called spiritual as well as in worldly affairs, we are all driven by this burning discontent, which is an actuality in our lives.
So there is this movement of discontent; and the moment you find contentment, which is the opposite of discontent, you go to sleep. This is so, is it not? Have you not noticed people who have found what they call God, or who are encased in a belief? They may be afire with devotion, but they are held in a prison of ideas, their own or those of another, which is their own projection.
That is the way of life as we know it. Driven by discontent, we move from one satisfaction to another; life for most of us is a continuous burning, wanting, pursuing, and that process seems inevitable. But is it inevitable? If you begin to question and to understand the whole process of discontent, out of that understanding there may come a movement which has no fulfilment. Do you understand, sirs?
What is it we are seeking? We are seeking an object that will give us a feeling of fulfilment, are we not? I am forever fulfilling myself in my wife, in my child, in my property, in ideas, in a country, in following somebody, and so on and on; and in the wake of fulfilment there is always frustration, obviously.
There can never be self-fulfilment, because the self is partial, fragmentary, it is never total. It is always broken up. Self-fulfilment must inevitably be incomplete and is therefore frustrating. If my mind sees the truth of that, then my question is not whether there is an ultimate fulfilment, but whether there is a movement totally different from that which we know.
To put it differently, is there a search without a motive? Do you understand, sirs? We are now seeking because we are discontented. We know that very well. We are thoroughly familiar with that process. I am unhappy and I want happiness. The motive is very simple and very clear. But I see that as long as there is a motive in search there must be frustration. That is very clear too, not verbally but actually. So the mind says, "Is there a movement which is not the turning of this wheel of content and discontent?" In other words, is there a search, an inquiry which has no causation at all? Because the moment your search has a cause, a motive, you are obviously no longer seeking. Do you understand, sirs? No?
I seek because I have a motive. The motive is, I want to be happy. I already know what happiness is, because I know what unhappiness is. So my search for happiness is not search at all. It is merely an effort to find some means of being what I call happy, which is the opposite of what I am. We know that process very well.
Now, please put yourself the next question, which is: is there a movement, a search, without any causation, without any pressure, without any motive? Don't say there is or there is not, because it would be mere speculation. The fact is that you don't know. And to find out if there is a movement which has no causation, you cannot translate it in terms of what you have read in books. But what you can do is to say, "I know the way of life which moves from discontentment through fulfilment to discontentment, and I see there is no end to that process". Then you can ask yourself the question, "Is there a movement of life which is not a reaction to the ordinary movement and which has no centre as causation, as motive?" But do not ask me, do not say, "Please tell us about it". It is for you to find out. I say there is such a movement, a movement in which there is no causation, no stimulation, and which is not a mere remembrance of things past. If you can find it you will see that that movement is completely dissociated from the movement of contentment and discontentment, from this drive towards fulfilment with its shadow of frustration.
But to find that other movement you must go into this whole question of discontentment, you must think it out, feel it out, grapple with it, and then come to the other, which is to discover it for yourself. To discover it you must be free from contentment and discontent; you must be free, and not ask how to be free. You will be free only when you understand this whole process of contentment, in which there is frustration, fear, and all the rest of it; and then you will come naturally and easily upon that movement which has no time or causation. It is not metaphysical, mystical, or anything of that kind, but it is an actual fact which the mind can directly experience when it is free of this movement of contentment and discontentment.
So you cannot possibly find out if there is a movement of life in which there is no motive till you have understood the whole problem of causation and the movement arising from that causation. It requires hard work, sirs, and no book, no temple, no god, no guru can reveal it to you. You can just as well throw them all overboard and begin to inquire for yourself. Wisdom lies in the understanding of discontentment, and then you will find that there is an experiencing which is not based upon previous experience. That experiencing has no motive, no ending, therefore it is timelessly creative.
December 19, 1956
Madras 3rd Public Talk 19th December 1956
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