Madras 2nd Public Talk 25th November 1959
This evening I would like to talk over with you the rather complex problem of sorrow. Sorrow is not just a matter of wanting something which one cannot get. It is deeper and much more subtle than that, and to understand it requires a great deal of inquiry, penetration. As I was saying the other day, understanding is not the result of intellectual perception. Understanding does not come by thinking things over. I want to understand this whole process of sorrow, with all the pain, the anxiety, the fear, the extraordinary heaviness and despair involved in it. I want to understand it; and merely thinking about it, reasoning about it, seeing different aspects of it, and coming to a conclusion, will never bring about the total understanding that liberates the mind from sorrow. It is only when your whole being, as it were, invites sorrow, when it is open to the significance, the inwardness, the subtleties, the purity, the extraordinary movement of sorrow - only then, I feel, is there total understanding. If one is capable of this total understanding, which means that one is listening to sorrow, learning about sorrow, then I think the miracle takes place. To be free of sorrow is to give one's heart totally and entirely to the problem. But we very rarely give our hearts to a problem; we give only our minds, our thoughts. Thought alone will never resolve any vital human problem. We can think about the problem, and we must. We can also play with words, indulge in arguments, come to conclusions, and quote authorities, which is what most of us do; but this will not help us to open the door to understanding and thereby free the mind from the turmoil and entanglements of sorrow.
I do feel that sorrow can be ended. There is an ending to all sorrow; but the ending of sorrow begins with the understanding of sorrow. In the beginning is the end, not in thinking it over and then having sorrow come to an end eventually. At the very beginning is the ending, because the end and the beginning are one; they are not two different things.
Most of us are held in some kind of sorrow, whether it be the petty little sorrow of a schoolboy, or the equally petty sorrow of an adult who is caught in the conflict of his wants, his anxieties, his hates, his fears, his ambitions, his frustrations and fulfilments. Being caught in all this, we think in terms of a beginning and an ending; we do not see that in the very beginning of the understanding of sorrow, is the ending of sorrow. I think this fact must be grasped, not just intellectually or verbally, but with love, with a sense of completely seeing the truth of it - which is not acceptance. The moment you merely accept something, there is its opposite, the denial of it. That is one of our difficulties: we either accept or reject, or play in between. But if we actually see that in the beginning is the ending, if we perceive it as a fact, feel the truth of it totally, with all our being, then we shall understand sorrow and not merely escape from sorrow.
After all, sorrow is the state of a mind which is in contradiction with itself - `I want' and `I don't want'. The mind is driven by compulsions, desires, it struggles in the grip of ambition, with its fulfilments and frustrations. There are innumerable contradictions in our life, both inward and outward. In our speech, in our behaviour, in our thoughts and feelings, there is a constant state of self-contradiction; and the tension, the pain, the turmoil of this self-contradiction is what we call sorrow. I do not know if we are at all aware of this state of contradiction in ourselves. I think most of us are aware of it only when it reaches a crisis. Then we are thoroughly upset, and we want to find a way out of it, so we seek a method, a system, an escape. But we are not aware of our everyday state of self-contradiction. We do, or are forced to do, a certain job, and we really want to do something else. The life we lead, socially and economically, is not the life we would like to lead. In our relationships there is an element of compulsion, and we are subject to innumerable self-contradictions. I do not know if we are aware of all this. If we are aware of it, we bring it all to a head, and act. But if we are not aware of this state of contradiction in ourselves, it goes on quietly smoldering until a tension is built up which eventually bursts into flame and either drives us into a neurotic state, or forces us to find a temporary solution. Or there is a total understanding of all the hidden wants, a grasping of the whole significance of self-contradiction, and hence the ending of it.
Now, I do not know which it is you actually do, or whether you are even aware of your self-contradictions. Your tradition of centuries as a Hindu, which requires you to put ashes on your forehead and all the rest of it, meeting the pressure of the modern world, creates a contradiction in you. You want to lead a spiritual life, whatever that may mean, and at the same time there are the demands of your daily life, and you are inwardly torn by innumerable desires. I wonder if you are aware of these contradictions in yourself. I think you should be; because the moment you begin to be aware of yourself, it stirs up all the hidden corners of the mind, which most of us do not know - and do not wish to know, because we do not want to be disturbed. We want to carry on with our traditions, and we also want to lead very modern lives. We go to a modern office and function there, and when we return home we are orthodox Hindus, Moslems, or whatever it is we are. We never face in ourselves this contradiction - the contradiction of authority and freedom, of leadership and the deep urge not to obey, but to find out for oneself.
We must all have tasted this extraordinary contradiction in our lives, we must be somewhat aware of it, but unfortunately we never bring it to a crisis, and for a very simple reason: because a crisis would mean action, something would have to be done about it. We are not willing to bring our self-contradiction to that boiling point when we have to act, and so we lead tortuous, contradictory lives, pining away for some haven where we hope we shall be at peace.
Please really listen to what I am saying, and do not take it as a lecture which you attend, and then go home and carry on as before. I am describing the state of your own mind. If you do not wish to listen, then do not come here, and that is the end of it. But since you are here, you are being driven to listen, even though the mind obviously resists listening. It wants to find an answer, a way out; but there is no answer, there is no way out of contradiction. Any way out of contradiction is the creation of another contradiction. One has to understand contradiction totally, go into it deeply and feel one's way through it.
I have said that sorrow is a state of contradiction which becomes acute when something vital happens in your life - when your son dies, when your wife or husband turns away from you. It becomes acute when, seeking fulfilment, you find that in the shadow of fulfilment there is always frustration. You love, and you are not loved in return. You want to be good, and you are not. You pursue the outer, hoping to find the inner; or, in pursuing the inner, you struggle to reject the outer. This is your actual state, is it not? In your life there is a ceaseless contradiction.
Now, why does this contradiction exist? Please do not give me an answer, a verbal explanation or definition, because that is not going to solve the problem. You know all the definitions, all the answers, but you are still in sorrow. So mere explanation does not dissolve sorrow. Yet how easily we are satisfied with explanations, and that is the curious part of it. I wonder if you have noticed how quickly words, explanations, satisfy most of us. This indicates a peculiarly shallow mind, does it not? But we are now considering a problem which has no answer of that kind. There is no answer to sorrow. There is no way out of sorrow. Do what you will - go to church, mesmerize yourself with mantras, stand on your head, run away - nothing will free you from sorrow. What will put an end to sorrow is the understanding of sorrow.
So, why does contradiction exist in us? I want something, and I cannot get it. I want to become a great man, and on the way to becoming great I find many temptations, many trials, many despairs, frustrations. In fulfilment there is the constant shadow of pain. So I ask myself - and may I suggest that you also should ask yourself - why is there this inner contradiction? Don't you think contradiction exists because the mind is capable of choice? I choose to go to the right instead of to the left. That very choice implies an attraction towards the left. If there were no attraction, I should not have to choose. Choice exists, surely, between two ways of action, two ways of thinking, living. That is fairly simple. The way of action I choose is for the purpose of fulfilment. I have a compulsion to fulfil myself in a certain direction - as a minister, as a writer, as a poet, as a singer, or through the family, begetting children. In that very process of choosing, there is the opposite.
Have you ever noticed yourself acting without choice? Has it ever happened to you that you have performed an action in which there is no choice at all? Surely it must have happened. You do something totally, completely, without thought, without the distraction of the intellect; your whole being, emotionally and intellectually, is there. Has this not happened to you? Perhaps rarely; but it does happen. At such moments you know action in which there is no choice, hence no contradiction, and therefore no sorrow. Do not ask, "How am I to know that action? How am I to reach that choiceless state?" The very question "How?" creates a contradiction.
I think the mind that seeks a system by which to understand something, is a most stupid mind. It is all right to use a system as an engineer, as a mechanic, as a technician or a scientist, because you are dealing with mechanical things. But life is not mechanical; it is an imponderable thing, limitless, fathomless. Only a very superficial mind wants an answer to a problem that has no answer. When such a mind finds an answer, the answer reflects its own superficiality, and with that it is satisfied.
I am certainly not complaining, I am not irritated, I am just pointing out that there is no answer to sorrow; and this, I think, is an extraordinary thing to realize. What matters is to perceive the ways of sorrow. Out of choice there is contradiction, conflict, and therefore sorrow. After all, if we did not have to choose, if there were no conflict, we should not have the problem of sorrow. But this does not mean that one must be contented, satisfied, and lead a comfortably bovine life. One has to grasp the inward significance of this. Where there is contradiction, there is effort; and where there is, effort, there is choice. Choice implies the lack of totality of action. I only when you give to something your mind, your heart, your whole being - it is only then that there is no sorrow, because there is no contradiction. It is not a state to be arrived at by meditation, or through awareness, or through self-knowledge, or through quoting various texts. The whole process of sorrow has to be understood.
What do we mean by understanding? What do we mean by perception? Surely, perception is a timeless state. As long as the mind is as it is now - the result of time, the residue of many thousands of yesterdays in relation to the present - sorrow cannot be understood, The mind is the result of time, it is the instrument of time, and with that instrument we are trying to understand or to dispel a problem which is itself the product of time.
Look, sirs, there is sorrow. We all feel the shadow of sorrow, so we find ways and means to get rid of it, to escape from it. We say "Let us reason about it, let us bring together all the facts", and so on. This is the process of the mind, the intellect, which is obviously the result of time - time in the sense of what has happened, what one has learnt, experienced. With this instrument, we are trying to dispel sorrow. But sorrow itself is the product of time. I do not know if I am making this thing clearer, or more obscure.
You say: "To understand sorrow, I need time to think about it. I must grow in understanding. To be free of sorrow, I must practise a system until I arrive at a state in which my mind will no longer be disturbed". These are all steps in time, are they not? And through this process you are trying to dispel sorrow, the product of time - which is impossible. You need a totally new factor, a different quality, another dimension, and that is perception - perception in which there is no time at all. You see it instantaneously. But that requires astonishing attention, it requires all your vitality. The mind, being totally gathered, precipitates itself upon the problem and sees the depth, the width, the beauty of the problem. But unfortunately, your mind is not really attentive, because you have been to the office, you have your quarrels, you have a miserable existence, you are driven as a slave by society, which grinds you down. So when you listen, you are tired out; and how can you give complete attention? I do not think you have ever given complete attention to anything. If you had, you would not be doing what you are actually doing. You would not be a clerk wanting to become the manager, or a politician wanting to be the governor, or some other glorified person. You would not belong to any group, to any nationality, to any party, to any organized religion.
So I would suggest that the ending of sorrow is not a matter of evolution, a matter of growth, a matter of development. The truth about sorrow is to be perceived in the immediate. Surely, you have on occasions perceived something which has struck you so forcibly that it has altered your whole way of thinking. That something you have seen is the truth - and the truth brings its own action, its own revolution. You do not have to do a thing about it. That is why it is very important to perceive the truth of any problem.
Our problem is not sorrow and the ending of sorrow, so much as it is the fact that the mind is caught up in tradition, in the ways of mechanical think- ing. That is really our problem. When the mind is free from all that, then one can look at sorrow. I wonder if we are at all aware of how tradition surrounds us, of how the mind is bound by tradition? Social tradition is very superficial, and one can throw it off as one throws off an old garment; but there is also tradition of a different kind, which is much stronger, much more profound, and that is the tradition of experience. I do not know if you are aware of how experience shapes the mind. Experience does shape the mind, does it not, sirs? And what is this experience? Surely, it is the reaction of the past to the present. The present is a challenge, and I respond according to my conditioning, according to my culture, according to my education - all of which is the past. This response of the past to the challenge of the present, is experience; therefore experience can obviously never be new, and that experience only strengthens the past. Experience, which is the response of the past to the present, only strengthens the past; so experience is never a liberating factor. On the contrary, it is a binding factor. I hope I am making myself somewhat clear.
We are all familiar with the idea that experience is necessary. Experience is necessary in dealing with mechanical things. I need experience to drive a car; I need experience to run a factory, to be a foreman, to work at a technical job. I can't do these things without experience. But is experience necessary for a mind that wants to perceive? Take a simple example. One wants to know what is reality, God, or truth, that something which is not measurable by the mind. Everybody fundamentally wants to know this, it does not matter who they are or what they call themselves. The Atheists, the Communists, the Catholics, the Hindus, the Moslems - everybody wants to find out this one thing, because without it, life is empty. All the prayers, rituals, ideologies, ambitions, family quarrels, mean nothing without it. And everybody repeats what their gurus, or the saints, or their leaders have said. In this matter they have said, "You must grow in experience; you must practise this discipline, follow these teachings, and ultimately, in the long distance of time, you will attain the truth". I do not believe all that, to me it is all nonsense, because through time you are hoping to capture the timeless, which is an impossibility. You have to go beyond and find out how to liberate the mind from the enslavement of experience.
Do listen; this is very important. And it is quite difficult to understand, because you have never thought about it at all. Great seers have always told us to acquire experience. They have said that experience gives us understanding. But it is only the innocent mind, the mind unclouded by experience, totally free from the past - it is only such a mind that can perceive what is reality. If you see the truth of that, if you perceive it for a split second, you will know the extraordinary clarity of a mind that is innocent. This means the falling away of all the encrustations of memory, which is the discarding of the past. But to perceive it, there can be no question of `how'. Your mind must not be distracted by the `how', by the desire for an answer. Such a mind is not an attentive mind. As I said earlier in this talk, in the beginning is the end. In the beginning is the seed of the ending of that which we call sorrow. The ending of sorrow is realized in sorrow itself, not away from sorrow. To move away from sorrow is merely to find an answer, a conclusion, an escape; but sorrow continues. Whereas, if you give it your complete attention, which is to be attentive with your whole being, then you will see that there is an immediate perception in which no time is involved, in which there is no effort, no conflict; and it is this immediate perception, this choiceless awareness, that puts an end to sorrow.
November 25, 1959.
Madras 2nd Public Talk 25th November 1959
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