Saanen 2nd Public Talk 25th July 1962
It is such an enchanting day, nd perhaps it is part of that enchantment to talk about serious things.
This morning I would like to begin by considering with you how very superficial most of us are. And behind this superficiality of our existence, behind the everyday routine of work, marriage, sex, children, there is a deep sense of despair and anguish. I think most of us are consciously or unconsciously aware of this. Though we may have a little property, position, prestige, behind all this superficiality there is for most of us a sense of anxiety which is not caused by anything in particular; but when we are not busily occupied with the immediate activities of life, there it is, deeply penetrating into our thoughts and feelings. This anxiety, this sense of despair is not restricted to those who are growing old, but is experienced also, I think, by the young, by those who have still to make their way in the world, who are concerned with their future, with making a success of their life, concerned with marriage, sex, children, housekeeping. For most of us there is this underlying sense of utter hopelessness, the feeling: what is the use of it
This is especially so now that the world is haunted by the spectre of impending catastrophe. I think it is important to talk about this because, being very superficial, we turn to various forms of escape, or we try to find ways and means of deepening the significance of life.
Life embraces both the outer and the inner and can the significance of life be deepened? I don't mean `deepened' by going into church, by believing or disbelieving in God, by doing social work or by being interested in paintings and music, all of which is actually very superficial. But a mind which is superficial by its own nature, by its own conditioning, by its education and the influences of society - can such a mind go really deeply within itself? I don't know whether you have ever asked yourself this question.
Most of us seem to think that going very deeply within oneself is an extraordinarily difficult problem, and probably not worth it. Even though we may be utterly dissatisfied with the superficiality of our existence, we feel that we haven't got the necessary technique, the modus operandi to enter very deeply into that vast, extraordinary world - if such a world exists - which is not made up of mere words and symbols, of emotional ideas and the imaginative creations of intellection.
Now, I think we ought to try to find out together what it is that brings about a depth of insight, a clarity of perception in which there is no confusion, no striving after fulfilment, an existence which is not an escape from life. In this modern world the widening of knowledge is proceeding very swiftly. Through an everexpanding technology more and more things are being done by machines. There are electronic brains that can translate, paint, write poems and solve extremely complex mathematical problems. Knowledge has become extraordinarily important and in a world where knowledge is given supreme importance, is not knowledge itself a source of despair? Please, I am going to expand it, and don't reject or accept what is said; just listen to it.
Superficially clever minds all over the world, with their capacity to write and to express themselves, influence vast numbers of people to give increasing significance to information or knowledge, thereby making them more and more dependent on external things. Though useful and necessary at certain levels of existence, knowledge is not an end in itself,and when given undue anxiety, a source of guilt, a source of despair.
The mind has been trained in knowledge, and it has been through many troubles, many experiences, subject to innumerable influences; and can such a mind free itself of that whole background and be innocent? Surely, it is only the innocent mind that has no anxiety, no fear, no despair. But in the modern world we are enclosed in fear, in despair, in a vast sense of uncertainty.
Now, knowledge is obviously essential, otherwise we couldn't function at all. In very big, complicated things like building a jet plane, and in small, everyday things like knowing where one lives, we must have knowledge. Knowledge technological knowledge of various kinds it all has its place. But knowledge also impedes clarity of perception. Whether you are an artist, a writer, it is only in the intervals when your mind is free from what it has known that there is a creative moment, The interval may be very brief or it may be vast and extensive, but in that interval there is no knowing, if I may use that word, no impingement of the past as knowledge. The things you have learnt, the mistakes you have made, your successes and failures, your hopes and despairs - it is only when your mind is free of this whole burden of the past that there is a sense of the new; and that sense of the new can then be expressed in composing, if you are a musician, or in painting, if you are an artist, and so on.
I think it is very important to understand this, because for most of us experience is the way of life. The more experience we have accumulated, the wiser we think we are; but I question that wisdom. Experience is really a response to challenge, whether superficial or very deep, and when that experience is accumulated as knowledge or memory, it conditions the next response.
Please follow this a little bit. I am not a schoolteacher, but since you have taken the trouble to come here, perhaps you will also take a journey with me into this extraordinarily complex problem of experience or knowledge. What I am talking about is not a philosophy, it is not a theory or system of ideas. It is related to your daily existence, which is so full of routine and habit; it is related to the day that you spend at the office, the day that you spend with your wife and children in a relationship of conflict or pleasure. We are dealing directly and deeply with life itself with our everyday actions, with our thinking and feeling, with our hopes and fears.
As I said, for most of us experience is the way of life, and the more experiences we have been through, the more we want; or we want some ultimate experience, an experience of something immeasurable that will give a deeper, wider significance to life. For most of us there is no end to experience. But when one looks at experience one sees that it is accumulative, and that the background of accumulated experience conditions our further response to challenge. Whether one is a mathematician, a housewife, or whatever one is, the response of the past as accumulated knowledge or experience, is further experience, which in turn strengthens the past.
So we have this accumulative burden of past experience, both individual and collective. In whatever particular society we may live, it is there; it is our background, it is our tradition, it is our knowledge, it is our culture. This background is always dictating our further experiences, shaping our thoughts, and so there is no ending to experience. We do not see how there can be such an ending for we say to ourselves, "What would life be without experience?" But it is the background of experience that breeds anxiety, the sense of despair, the fear of not arriving not achieving. There is always the feeling of incompleteness, insufficiency, and so we look to more and more knowledge or experience as a means of giving us greater depth. But knowledge or experience - if you will not misunderstand what I am saying - has to come to an end if one is to inquire into the whole question of despair.
We have various forms of despair: the despair of not being able to fulfil ourselves, of not achieving a goal, of not being somebody in this world, and so on. There is also the despair of loneliness, and the despair of neverending confusion. Not knowing what to do, we look to somebody - a political leader, a religious leader, or a scientific leader - to tell us what to do, and sooner or later we know the utter futility of merely being told what to do. Being uncertain and in despair, we pile up experience as knowledge; but knowledge doesn't wipe away despair, experience doesn't dispel the sense of anxiety in life.
So, what is the significance of experience, not only of the little, everyday experiences, but also of the deep experiences that we have? An orthodox Christian who has been brought up with certain beliefs and dogmas may see a vision of the Christ, and to him that is an astonishing thing; but it is fairly obvious psychologically that such experiences are a projection of his own background, his own conditioning. When a Hindu ha; visions, he sees his own gods, not the Christ.
Now, is it possible to live without experience? To me, the background of knowledge or experience, with its ceaseless demand for yet more experience, is the source of despair, because there is no innocency in this conditioned state. It is only the fresh, innocent mind that has no despair. But you see, most of us would go to sleep if there were no outward challenge. If we did not have to earn a livelihood, to compete with our neighbour, to get along with our boss, if there were not the urgings of propaganda, the magazine articles telling us how to make a success, how a bootblack can become a millionaire, a president, or whatever it is - if there were not these outward spurs, demands and challenges, most of us would have a dull, stagnant, stupid life. Not that we haven't got it now - it is there; but this constant pressure from the-outside keeps us going.
If one sees all that is implied in this response to outward pressure, one rejects it - and that is not a very easy thing to do. It is difficult not to respond to the stupidities of propaganda and to the psychological demands of the social structure; but if one is able to put all that aside, then one creates one's own challenges and responses. I do not know if you have observed this fact. When you are all the time questioning, asking, doubting, that becomes your own challenge - a challenge which is much more strict and vital than the outward demands of society.
But this constant questioning, this constant inquiry, this doubting and tearing things to pieces, is still the outcome of discontent, is it not? It is still the outcome of the desire to know, the desire to find out what is the purpose of life, whether it is this or whether it is that. So, though one has rejected the outward challenges, one is still a slave to experience, to challenge and response. There is a state of inward conflict, and that also keeps one alive - much more alive than the outward conflict does.
Please, I am not saying anything outrageous. This is what actually takes place with all of is. The more intellectual and subtle you are, the more you will reject the obvious propaganda of religions and politicians. But then you have your own challenge, your own demands and standards, your own vitality to find out; and this indicates, surely, that you are still dependent on the stimulus of asking a question and demanding an answer. Both the inward and the outward challenges, with their responses, indicate a conditioned mind that is still seeking an answer, still hoping to find out, and therefore still within the field of will, which is the realm of despair.
Now, when one has deeply understood and therefore rejected both the outer and the inner challenges, then experience has very little meaning, because then the mind is intensely awake; and a mind that is intensely awake does not need experience. It is only the dull mind that seeks experience, that depends on the stimulus of challenge and response. Being caught in its own conflicts and confusion, such a mind depends on the acquisition of knowledge, and in depending it becomes more and more dull.
I am not advocating ignorance. To me, ignorance is not the lack of book knowledge. If you haven't read the latest novels, if you are unfamiliar with the philosophy of the dialectic materialists and all the rest of it, that in itself doesn't mean that you are ignorant. To me, ignorance is unawareness of the operations of one's own mind. The lack of self-knowledge is the essence of ignorance. I am not saying that we must throw away all book knowledge. We can't. I am pointing out that a mind that is awake does not need the stimulus of challenge and response. Because it is awake it is not demanding any experience. It is a light unto itself. And such a mind, surely, can live in this world of guilt without anxiety and without despair. It is the unawakened, dependent mind, the mind ignorant of itself, that is in a state of conflict and misery.
Now that you have listened to all this, don't say, "How am I to have a mind that is so completely awake? How am I to get it?" You can't get it. It isn't something you buy, it isn't a thing to be acquired through practice. You can't seek it out. There is no method, no system that will give it to you. What is important is just to listen without wanting, without seeking, for such listening is a state of mind when there is no impingement of knowledge, no activity of thought; and in that silence of the mind there is creation, which is understanding.
If you have really listened in that sense of the word, then you will be out of this conflict, this misery and despair. For there is a miracle in listening - and that is the only real miracle.
You see, we are all growing old, even the young are growing old, and the older we get the more rigidly fixed we become in our conditioning. Our habits of thought become heavier, our days become more and more routine, and anything that threatens the habitual, the routine, breeds anxiety and fear. And inevitably, at the end of it all, there is death - which becomes another tremendous horror. So it is not the clever mind, not the informed mind, not the mind that has become philosophical, rationalizing everything away in order not to be disturbed - it is none of these, but only the innocent mind that can understand, that can know or be aware of that extraordinary something which may be called the nameless, the immeasurable, or what you will.
I think one can live in this world with that innocency. You can have a family, read the ugly newspapers, or not read them, listen to concerts, go every day to the office - you can do all this in that state of innocency. You can live a full life, and it will have much greater significance. And I have talked about it this morning because most of us obviously spend our lives in varying degrees of shallowness. The question really is whether it is possible by effort to make the shallow mind deep. I don't think it is possible. The shallow mind may try to be deep by making an effort to dig into itself but it is still a shallow mind. Whereas, if one understands this whole process of experience, of challenge and response, both the outer and the inner, then one is immediately out of it. Then one's mind is young, though one may have an old body; the mind is clear, sharp, fresh, and it is only in that state of innocency that the real can be. Shall we discuss what I have been talking about this morning?
Questioner: It seems to me that there can be no feeling of having had experience unless there is a storing up of experience, which creates a sense of time as past and future.
Krishnamurti: I think that is what I was saying. The past is knowledge, is it not? What you were yesterday, your aspirations, your demands, your jealousies, your vanities - that is the past, that is time in the psychological sense, and without the past, without that psychological yesterday, is there a psychological tomorrow? If I deny all yesterdays, die to them cut them off as if by a surgical operation - which is absolutely essential - , can there be a tomorrow,? And can there be experience for a man who is living completely? Surely, you cannot live completely if you are looking back to the past and forward to the future. But when there is complete awareness in the sense of living totally from moment to moment, is there experience?
Please, this is a factual, not a rhetorical or an ideological, question. If I actually don't care what happened yesterday, whether I was hurt, or jealous, or insulted, if I have cut it away completely, then is there a sense of time, a sense of past and future?
You see, time is experience. The memory of the pleasure and pain we have had, the demand to fulfil, to achieve, to become somebody - all this implies time. And it is really a complex question, because to most of us time is very important. I am not talking of chronological time, time by the watch, but of the time-structure built by the psyche, by thought; and this implies the whole question of cultivating memory.
As that gentleman's question suggests, there must be time as long as there is a centre from which you are experiencing. As long as there is that centre - a conditioned centre which responds to every challenge, conscious or unconscious - there is no moment in which creation can take place. Whether you are a musician, a painter, a scientist, a chemist, or just a person without any particular skill or training, I wonder if you have ever observed a strange thing in yourself: that when your mind is completely quiet, when all thought has ceased, when there is no sense of going or coming, no looking to the past or the future, in that moment of quietness you know something totally new.
But that newness is not to be recognized as the new. The moment you recognize the new, it is already the old, it is no longer the new. One has to remain - not `remain', that is the wrong word - one has to be in that moment without going backward or forward, without having any sense of time. Try it sometime - no, not `try', that again is the wrong word. To try implies `in the meantime', which is absurd. You can't try, for there is no `in the meantime'. Either the new is there, or it is not. And it is there with an extraordinary vitality, an astonishing potency, the moment you understand this whole process of experience, knowledge, seeking.
I hope you are working as hard as I am!
Questioner: Is this energy you speak of limited by physical health?
Krishnamurti: Somewhat, bit not entirely. You obviously need good physical health. If you are in constant, agonizing pain, naturally your energy is dissipated by that. Having had pain, one knows how to dissociate oneself from pain, not by escaping from it,-but by being completely with pain. When we say to ourselves, "I wish the pain would stop; when will it be over?', - that is, when thought is operating on pain - , it increases and sustains pain. But it is possible to be completely with pain - unless,of course,one becomes unconscious, which is quite a different matter. I know what I am talking about, so don't think, `Oh, you don't know what pain is". We all have pain.If you live with pain completely, and don't resist it, if you are totally aware of it, then you will find that in spite of the pain and however severe it may be, you have a different sense of vitality. But again, you see, pain becomes a problem of time because you are comparing pain with your memory of freedom from pain.
You know, to live with something is as extraordinary thing. I have been living with the noise of that stream all morning; I have been listening to it while I was talking, and not resisting it, not wanting to push it away. Then the stream with its noise and its beauty, and your own talking, are all part of the awareness which we are discussing.
Questioner: What about our responsibilities and our mistakes of yesterday?
Krishnamurti: We all have certain responsibilities, and there are the mistakes of yesterday; but why do we carry over those mistakes to today? That is one question. And what do we mean by responsibility? It is an ugly thing to feel responsible. Please don't misunderstand me. I am not saying that you must become irresponsible. I am not talking about irresponsibility - to do so is a cheap way of avoiding the issue. Do you feel responsible if you love somebody?
Questioner: If one has children one feels responsible for them.
Krishnamurti: First of all, we are trying to understand what we mean by responsibility. Don't immediately say, "Am I not to feel responsible for my children?" That is such a futile way of discussing. Besides children we have husbands, wives, grandmothers, mothers-in-law, houses, property, jobs and all this makes us feel very responsible. But what do we mean by that word `responsibility'? The soldier says, "I am responsible for maintaining peace". What nonsense! The police say they are responsible for upholding the proper conduct of society. So we must examine the meaning, the deep significance of that word.
When I love somebody, do I feel `responsible'? What do I mean by love? Is love a matter of attachment? You see, that is just it. When I am attached to somebody I feel responsible for that person, and my attachment I call love. Please don't agree or disagree. This is a very difficult issue. Let us go further into the meaning of that word `responsibility'. I think we use words like `duty' and `responsibility' when we have no love.
You are silent!
Questioner: We are trying to understand you.
Krishnamurti: No, sir, you are not trying to understand me. I am only saying, look at yourself, go into yourself and all these things are revealed.
Please, let us remain with that word `responsibility', because we are all so weighed down by it. We say, "I have got to go to the office every day, whether I like it or not, because I have a family to maintain and it is my responsibility to earn the money; or, "It is my responsibility to educate my children", or "It is my responsibility to be a good citizen, to become a soldier", and so on and so on and so on. Why do we feel responsible? When do we use that word?
Questioner: When we give importance to the self
Krishnamurti: If I may suggest it, please look at yourself. When do you use that word `responsibility'?
Questioner: When there is a sense of obligation.
Krishnamurti: Yes, sir, a sense of obligation. When you feel that you are obliged, that you have got to do something. You may not like it, but you feel that you have got to do it. Go behind the word and look at the feeling - look at it as a father, as a mother, as a husband, as a wife. Surely, you talk about responsibility only when you feel that you have got to do something; you say it is your duty, that everything depends on you, and so on.
Now, can one live in this world without the feeling of responsibility - that is, without feeling that what one is doing is a burden? Look, sir, I came here this morning to talk. I didn't feel it to be a burden, a responsibility. There was no saying to myself that I must talk because so many people have come to listen. It is not my duty to talk. I wouldn't do it on that basis. It would be terribly boring to me. I never use that phrase, `I am responsible - it is too hideous. What am I doing I love to do - which doesn't mean that I get a satisfaction out of it, or that I fulfil myself in talking. That is all utterly immature and childish. But if one loves, then the words `responsibility' and `duty' disappear altogether. If one loves, there is no country, there are no priests and no soldiers, no gods and no wars.
July 25, 1962
Saanen 2nd Public Talk 25th July 1962
Texts and talks of Jiddu Krishnamurti. Krishnamurti quotes. Books about
J Krishnamurti. Philosophy.