Saanen 3rd Public Talk 26th July 1962
We were talking the other day about the significance of knowledge, and how knowledge impedes clarity of perception. I think we went into that matter fairly deeply, and this morning I would like, if I may, to discuss what is virtue. To inquire into this question one has to consider the influence of society, the social significance of virtue and authority, and the state of aloneness. All these factors are implied in that word `virtue'.
There is, first of all, this whole question of social influence, how we are shaped by the sociological as well as by the psychological structure of society. The way we think, the way we act, our sense of responsibility, if I may use that word which we talked about the other day - all this is the result of social influence. Psychologically we are not separate from society. Our reactions, our thoughts are the result of our conditioning, which is determined by the psychological structure of society. Though we are educated in schools and colleges and acquire a certain amount of technical knowledge in various fields in order to earn a good living, most of us are left at the mercy of society. Our character is shaped by society. Our religious ideas are conditioned by society, by the culture in which we are born. The influence of society shapes our whole being. We are Catholics, Protestants, jews, Hindus, this or that, with a corresponding set of dogmas, beliefs and superstitions. Within that pattern we cultivate what we call our own values, but in this also we are consciously or unconsciously influenced by many things - by the food we eat, by the climate we live in, by the clothes we wear, by the newspapers, magazines and books we read, by radio and television. Without understanding all these influences, which are quite imminent, penetrating and constant, without being totally aware of influence from moment to moment, virtue loses its meaning. When there is no understanding of influence we merely follow a pattern which has become respectable, and respectability is not virtue. On the contrary, respectability is a horror, it has nothing whatever to do with that which may be called virtue, and into which I shall go presently.
So, if one really wants to understand the extraordinary virility, the vitality and the strength of virtue, one has first to be aware of influence - not only of the influence that we receive consciously, but also of the unconscious influence to which most of us are so receptive and of which it is much more difficult to be aware.
Now, is it at all possible to lie free of influence - the influence of one's wife or husband, of one's children, of society, of everything about us? Is it possible to be free of that extraordinarily insistent influence which is going on all the time in the form of propaganda through newspapers and books? If we say it is not possible to be free of influence, then obviously the matter ends there. Then there is no need for further inquiry, and all virtue becomes mere imitation, conformity to a pattern. Society, with its code of ethics, its responsibilities, its traditional values, is insistent in its demand that the individual shall conform to the established pattern, and this conformity it calls morality; and an immoral person is he who deviates from the pattern. But surely one has to be totally free of the pattern, one has to break away completely from the psychological structure of society - which means that one has to be aware of this whole structure in oneself in the unconscious as well as in the conscious mind. And it's very difficult to be aware of one's unconscious conditioning. Consciously one may reject the moral structure of society, and many people do they shrug their shoulders and put it aside. But the influence of society is not limited to the present century, it includes also the immense past with all its propaganda, its tradition, and this pattern is deeply embedded in the unconscious; and to be aware of the unconscious pattern demands a certain quality of negation. Please, I hope you are not merely listening to the words and agreeing or disagreeing, but are actually experimenting to see how deeply you can go into yourself, into the unconscious. These gatherings will be utterly useless, they will have no meaning at all if you casually listen to a few talks and go away. And don`t say, "I can't do this", because nobody else can do it for you. Each one of us has to do it for himself
The unconscious is the hidden storehouse of the past, both individual and collective. It is the repository of centuries of propaganda, of all the experience and knowledge, the traditions and complexities of the race. Now, however clever you or the analyst may be, the conscious mind cannot approach the unconscious by way of analysis. Through analysis you can only scratch on the surface of the unconscious, you cannot go into it very deeply - as I think most analysts and psychologists would now agree. The conscious mind has been educated, trained in a particular direction, it has acquired technical knowledge along certain lines so that one may gain a livelihood, which is called the positive approach to life; but such an approach to the unconscious is not possible.
I hope I am making myself clear. If not, please ask questions afterwards and we shall discuss the matter further.
The unconscious, which is the hidden, must be approached negatively. Do you understand what I mean by the negative and the positive approach? When we have a problem, most of us approach it positively, which means that we try to change what is according to a certain pattern. Being so-called positive people, our approach to the unconscious is equally positive. Actually we are not positive people at all, because our positive approach is a reaction to the negative. I hope you understand all this.
To be aware of something negatively - of the flapping of that curtain, or the noise of that stream - is to look and to listen without resistance, without condemnation, without denial. in the same way, it is possible to be choicelessly aware of the totality of the unconscious, which is negative perception. But this state of negation is not the opposite of the positive; it has nothing whatever to do with the positive because it is not a reaction.
If you would understand something, your mind must be in a state of negation; and it is not in a state of negation when you deny or condemn what you see. The state of negation is not blankness. On the contrary, you are aware of everything, you see and hear with the totality of your being - which means there is no resistance, no denying, no comparing, no judging. And I think it is possible to listen in the same way to all the responses of the unconscious, which is to be negatively aware of the unconscious. If you can do this - and this is really the only way to approach the unconscious - , then the unconscious reveals itself totally, immediately. Of course, you can go step by step, analyzing every form of conditioning, every tradition, every value as it comes up, which is a very long and tedious affair; and in that way your approach can never be total.
Now through this negative or choiceless awareness you can completely break through the conditioning of the unconscious. Your conditioning of nationality, of traditional values, of racial inheritance, the conditioning imposed upon you by the present society - you can break through all that immediately, and then you begin to understand the significance, the truth or the falseness of influence.
Most of us have divided influence into good and bad. We consider that there is such a thing as good influence, and that it is right to have good influence. But to me, all influence is the same: it perverts, it distorts. A mind that is influenced in any direction cannot see clearly, it is incapable of direct perception. If one understands this, not just intellectually or verbally, but totally, with one's whole being, then one is no longer a slave to any form of influence.
Please don't regard what is being said as something theoretical, or as something not applicable to you because you are too old, or too young, or too conditioned, or because you have too many responsibilities. All that is sheer nonsense, it is merely an escape from the fact that you don't really want to understand this whole process of influence. And it is very important to understand the process of influence, because it is influence that makes us conform to respectable morality, which has behind it the authority of tradition, the authority of society, the authority of a job; and so authority becomes very dominant in our life. Society demands obedience, the obedience which a mother expects of her child, and because we are slaves to influence we instinctively accept the authority of society, the authority of the priest, the authority of the symbol, the authority of tradition. In matters like keeping to the right of the road, paying taxes, and so on, one must naturally accept the authority of the law, but we are not talking about. that. We are talking about the psychological urge to obey, which implies slavery to influence.
You know, I am not just making a speech for you to listen to. We are doing something together - at least I hope we are doing it together - , which is this: we are going into the whole question of virtue. If we understand virtue rightly, it releases an enormous vitality, and it is this vitality, this energy that is needed to bring about the complete transformation of which we were talking at our first meeting. So, in listening to what is being said, it should be you yourself who are working, and not I working for you. Most of us are content to go to a tennis match and watch the players; we never take part in a game, we just watch, listen and enjoy the playing of others. I am afraid, here, it is not at all like that. Here you have to work as hard as the speaker, otherwise it has no value at all. By work I mean listening to what is being said and finding out if it applies to you - which means seeing for yourself the fact, the truth or the falseness of what is being said. To see the fact is neither to accept nor to deny what is being said, but to be so vitally aware that, if it is true, you capture and apply every nuance of every word by digging into yourself. That is what I mean by work. If you do that, when you leave this tent you will be virtuous, and I really mean it: you will be virtuous.
So one has to understand the acceptance of authority, which is really the psychological demand to be secure, to be certain, to be assured that one is following the right path. Most of us hate to be uncertain about anything, especially about ourselves. But you see, we have to be uncertain to find out what is true. One has to free oneself from all authority, from all following, from all obedience, and that is a very difficult thing to do, because freedom is not a reaction to the fact that you are a prisoner. It is only when you understand for yourself your own bondage to words, to influence, to authority - understand it, not react against it - , that there is freedom.
So authority has to be understood, whether it is the authority of the priest, of the politician, of the book, of the specialist, of your next door neighbour, or the authority of your own experience. And, as we have seen, to understand something the mind must be in a state of negation. To understand your child you must watch him while he is playing, crying, eating, sleeping; and when you compare him with another child, you are not watching him. In the same way, one has to observe the instinctual desire to obey, to follow, to conform, to imitate one has to go into it very deeply within oneself. Conformity is obviously necessary in certain things. The language that one uses in speaking is based on conformity to an established linguistic pattern, and to reject that pattern would be absurd for there would then be no way of communicating with each other. I am not talking of conformity in the sense of accepting certain obvious and necessary facts to which we all agree; I am talking of the psychological conformity, acceptance, or imitation which is essentially the desire. to be secure.
Most of us are afraid of going wrong, we are always seeking success in the world, or psychologically we want to arrive somewhere; therefore obedience, which means accepting the psychological structure of society, becomes extraordinarily important. If you understand the whole significance of this, then you will find that the very essence of virtue is aloneness. If you are not completely alone, you are not virtuous. The mind is alone only when it has understood influence and is not affected, not captured by it. Such a mind is no longer seeking position or power, and therefore it is free of authority, obedience, following. The state of aloneness is not a reaction, it is not an escape from the crowd; it does not mean withdrawing, becoming a hermit, living in isolation, all of which is a reaction. And by that word `aloneness, I mean something entirely different from loneliness.
It is very difficult to communicate to another the significance or the quality of being alone. Most of us are never alone. You may withdraw into the mountains and live as a recluse, but when you are physically by yourself you still have with you all your ideas, your experiences, your traditions, your knowledge of what has been. The Christian monk in a monastery cell is not alone; he is with his conceptual Jesus, with his theology, with the beliefs and dogmas of his particular conditioning. Similarly, the sannyasi in India who withdraws from the world and lives in isolation, is not alone, for he too lives with his memories.
I am talking of an aloneness in which the mind is totally free from the past; and only such a mind is virtuous, for only in this aloneness is there innocence. Perhaps you will say, "That is too much to ask. One cannot live like that in this chaotic world, where one has to go to the office every day, earn a livelihood, bear children, endure the nagging of one's wife or husband, and all the rest of it". But I think what is being said is directly related to everyday life and action, otherwise it has no value at all. You see, out of this aloneness comes a virtue which is virile and which brings an extraordinary sense of purity and gentleness. It doesn't matter if one makes mistakes, that is of very little importance. What matters is to have this feeling of being completely alone, uncontaminated, for it is only such a mind that can know or be aware of that which is beyond the word, beyond the name, beyond all the projections of imagination.
Perhaps you will ask questions about this particular thing that we have been considering together this morning.
Questioner:If in the very act of listening there is no experiencing, then listening remains at the verbal level, which is of little or no value. But to experience, one needs great sensitivity; and how is one to have this sensitivity?
Krishnamurti: Sir, listening is not an act of experiencing. I will explain what I mean. If you listen in the way I have been attempting to make clear, then there is no entity or centre which experiences. You just listen with all your being - and your being has no limits, it is not confined to the words of Krishnamurti. But in listening to the speaker, to that river, to the birds, to the wind among the trees, or in looking at the mountains, if you hear and see from a centre, then you are experiencing, and that experience is added to your past experiences and only further conditions the mind. Whereas, in listening and looking without the centre, without verbally translating what is heard and seen, the idea of experiencing ceases completely; there is only the fact, not you who are experiencing the fact. Perhaps this requires a little further explanation.
You know, you can look at a flower in two different ways. You can look at it botanically, that is, with knowledge, with all the information about flowers that you have gathered from books, and so on. You look at the flower through your knowledge, and therefore experience through that knowledge the peculiar quality or state of being of the flower. That is one way. The other way is to look at the flower non-botanically, to look at it without knowledge - if you understand what I mean by looking at something without knowledge. To look at your wife, at your children, at the facts of relationship without knowledge, is to see them without all the previous hurts, enmities, cruelties, insults, impositions. All that, which is part of knowledge, has dropped away, and you look directly at what is. That very looking, in which there is no new experiencing, is the highest form of sensitivity.
A person who `experiences' a sunset is not sensitive. He may say, "How lovely, how marvellous it is!", and go into an ecstasy over it, but he is not sensitive. To be sensitive implies a state of mind in which there is only the fact, and not all your memories about that fact. Such perception, such seeing, such listening at every moment has an extraordinary action in life. Please don't be carried away by the speaker's intensity or enthusiasm. Don't get mesmerized, but watch, listen and find out for yourself.
Questioner: Even without your becoming an authority to us, are you not influencing us through your words, through your manner, though your gestures and so on?
Krishnamurti: I have been saying that every form of influence, including the influence of the speaker, is destructive. If you are influenced you are destroyed, you become a soldier, a follower an automaton. But if - without comparing, judging, evaluating - you listen to discover for yourself what the actual fact is, whether what is being said is true or false, then you are beyond all authority, beyond all influence, it doesn't matter whose it is.
Sir, when I talk of influence I am talking of all kinds of influence, and not of one particular influence. In listening one has to be intensely aware not to be influenced, pushed around. Here there is no form of propaganda. I am not trying to convert you to something, which would be a terrible thing to do. I am only pointing out what seem to me to be psychological facts, and you can take it or leave it. If they are facts, surely, you have to listen to them, not because I say so, but simply because they are facts. But it is tremendously important how you listen to a fact. It's a fact, for example, that a train is going by. What is important is to listen to the noise and the rattle of the train without resisting it, because the moment you resist it you are being influenced. But if you can be aware of that noise as you are aware of the murmuring of a stream, or of the wind among the leaves; if you can listen to a fact without resistance, whether it is spoken by your wife, by your child, by the porter, or by the present speaker, then you will find out for yourself that you can go beyond all influence, you can step completely out of this destructive influence of society.
Questioner: When there is total integration of one's mind, emotions and body in that state is there not love?
Krishnamurti: What does that word `integration' imply? It implies bringing about unification or harmony by putting together the different parts. Now, you cannot integrate the body, the mind and the feelings because they are always broken up. Nothing can be brought together which is broken up by conflict within itself.
Please do listen to this a little bit. We are all very fond of that word `integration'. Politicians use it, psychologists use it, and we also rattle along, spinning out that word in various ways. `To integrate' implies an entity who is bringing the various parts together - an outsider, or an insider, who is placing the fragments in harmonious juxtaposition. As long as there is an entity who is making an effort to integrate, there can be no integration, because there is a contradiction, a division between the entity and the parts that are separate, between the idea and the fact. There is a conflict created by the effort to bring together the various fragments, and any such `integration' has no meaning. However much we may talk about it, the fact of integration is not possible. But if you have gone deeply into this question and have understood the impossibility of integration as long as there is an entity who is trying to bring the fragments together - if you have understood this completely, then you will find that there is a totally different operation taking place. There is then no entity at all, therefore there is no contradiction, and therefore there is harmony. And only in this effortless state, when there are no fragments to be brought together, when there is total, sensitive awareness - only then is there a possibility of that which may be called love.
Questioner: Technique implies effort conformity discipline, achievement, and what you are talking about seems to deny all that. Is this so?
Krishnamurti: Please, this is an immense question, and I don't want to go into it now. We will discuss it another time. But to understand, one must really be free of effort, of all techniques, methods, systems, and not just say, "Well, I will go and live effortlessly", which doesn't mean a thing.
Before concluding I would like to go back to what I was talking about earlier this morning.
You know, to be alone without withdrawing from society, without becoming a hermit, is an extraordinary state. One is alone because one has understood influence, authority. One has understood the whole question of memory, conditioning, and out of this understanding there is an aloneness which can never be touched by influence. And you have no idea what an astonishing beauty there is in it, what a tremendous sense of virtue, which is vitality, virility and strength. But that requires an immense understanding of all our conditioning.
July 26, 1962
Saanen 3rd Public Talk 26th July 1962
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