Rajghat, Benares 1st Talk with Students 17th November 1981
K: Is it my turn to sing also? What would you like me to talk about? Tell me.
Q: The process of learning.
K: All right. You want to talk about learning?
K: Yes? Does it mean yes, or no?
K: Have you learnt how many birds there are in this campus? Have you learnt about that? Have you watched all those birds? As it gets colder they come down from the Himalayas, and beyond the Himalayas from Russia, quantities of birds come here. Have you learnt, watched them? Some of you have watched them? Do you know the names of the birds? See how many species of birds there are in this campus? Do you hurt them?
K: You don't kill them?
K: Thank goodness! Have you learnt the various kinds of trees, and plants and flowers that grow in this compound? Have you? No. Have you seen the poor people around here?
K: What have you learnt from them? By watching them, carrying that heavy burden, and the people on a bicycle carrying heavy loads of milk and other things - have you watched them? Yes?
K: What have you learnt from it? Tell me, go on. What have you learnt? You asked, let's talk about learning. Right? Have you learnt by watching those poor people day after day going into town with heavy loads and coming back with very little money, have you watched all that? And what do you feel about it? What's your reaction to it? Tell me, please.
Q: Everybody behaves roughly with them.
K: You behave roughly with them? You are rude to them? You don't care for them? One day, many years ago, a woman was carrying a heavy burden, very heavy. She put it on that pillar there to rest. As I was passing by I helped to lift the thing on to her head. It really weighed an enormous amount, it was difficult to lift it. Have you helped anybody like that?
K: Good! So you are learning by watching the birds, what kind of species there are, and how many kinds there are. You have watched the trees, the plants, the flowers, the grass, the creepers, have you learnt from them? Not to hurt them, not to tear off their leaves - have you done it? So will you learn about it? And also you have watched all those poor people going by every day, taking a very long walk to Benares, four or five miles, with heavy burdens, coming back after they have sold their few things with a few coins, and going back to the village. Have you watched that? Have you learnt from it? That if you have a little, to share that little with them. You understand what I am saying? That is, if you have ten coins, to give them one coin, not keep it all to yourself.
I think about five years ago I was walking along there, one of the villagers - he didn't know me, I didn't know him - gathered a few leaves and sticks and all that, set it on fire and put a pot with a little rice, an onion in it, two or three drops of oil and was cooking it. I watched him. I watched what he did, gathering leaves, gathering sticks, putting fire to them, and putting the pot with a little rice in it, oil, a large onion, and he cooked it. When it was properly cooked he looked at me and he said, 'Will you share this with me. Take a little'. I couldn't because he said, 'This is my whole meal for the day.' You understand what I am saying?
K: The whole meal for the day and he was willing to share that little bit of rice with me. You understand how generous that is, what an extraordinary feeling that he would like to give you something. He didn't know me. Have you got that feeling? Feeling of sharing something with another. Or do you want to keep it all to yourself?
So you learn. Please listen. You learn by watching, watching the trees, the birds, the flowers. You learn from watching the poor people, watching their burden, how they are laughing, chattering. And learn to share a little bit of what you have, give a little bit of that to somebody, as that man tried to give me a little bit of his rice, his only meal for the whole day. And you learn by listening. Have you ever listened to the birds?
K: Have you really listened?
K: Have you listened to music?
A: Yes, a little.
K: Have you listened to your mother? Careful, here! Have you listened to your father? Casually, with one ear, and forgetting it the next minute. Have you listened to your teacher?
A: Yes. (Laughter)
K: He wants to tell you something. He wants to tell you, perhaps kindly, perhaps rather irritated, but he wants to tell you something. And you are looking out of the window, seeing the lizard on the wall, or seeing a boat going by, or a bird on that branch; you are looking out there on the wall, out of the window, or listening to somebody next to you who wants to tell you something, and the teacher says to you, pay attention, look at your book, don't look out of the window. Right? Does this happen?
K: Of course it does. That is, you want to look out of the window, which is much more fun, and the poor teacher says, look at your book, concentrate on your book. Now what happens? Suppose I am your teacher - I am not fortunately - I am your teacher, and you are looking out of that window, or looking at that lizard. And I say to you, pay attention to your book. Right? What has happened? You want to look at that lizard, or out of the window, and I, the teacher, says, look at your book because I want to tell you about it. So what has happened? Tell me.
Q: Part of you wants to look out of the window and part to look at the book.
K: So what happens? You want to look at the lizard and I want you to look at the book.
Q: There are two forces working.
K: Yes, two forces are working against each other. Right? So what will you do? Come on, answer it.
Q: Look at the book but think of the lizard outside.
K: You keep looking at the book but your mind is on the lizard. Right? So what happens? Your mind is on the lizard, but you are looking at the book. What takes place in your mind? Come on.
Q: We will not understand anything.
K: You will not understand anything. Right? And also what happens? Go on, further, examine it.
Q: I become angry with the teacher.
K: You become angry with the teacher - why?
Q: Because he is making me do something I don't want to.
K: That's it. He is making you do something which you don't want to do. You want to look at the lizard or out of the window, and I am forcing you to look at the book. Right? So you get angry with me. Or you daren't show your anger to me because I'll slap you. So you keep the anger, but your mind isn't on the book, your mind is on the lizard, or on the window, looking out at those trees. So what is happening to your mind? Aren't you in conflict?
K: Right? Have you understood that? You are in conflict: I want you, as a teacher, to look at the book and you are looking out of the window. You like to look out of the window much more than looking at the book, so you are in conflict with me, and you are in conflict with yourself, aren't you? Do you understand this?
K: No, if you don't understand, don't say, yes, I'll explain it more. That is, I want to look at the book, as a teacher, I want you to look at the book, but you are not looking at the book, your mind is on that. So there is conflict, there is struggle, there is annoyance, there is anger. Right? Now, wait a minute, listen to this. I am your teacher, you have to study mathematics, geography, whatever you study, what shall I do? Tell me, what shall I do? You are interested in looking out of the window at the lizard, or talking amongst yourselves, and I want you to look at the book, so what shall I do? You understand my question? Tell me.
Q: If the teacher scolds we can't learn anything, but if he says politely, look at the book, we look.
K: If the teacher scolds you, the boy says, you won't learn anything; but if the teacher gently reminds you politely, without scolding, perhaps - perhaps - you might look at the book. Right?
Now I don't want you to look at the book, I am your teacher, but I want to teach you something entirely different: not the book, not to look out of the window, but I want to teach you something else. Right? Now listen, I'll tell you. I have a book in front of me which you must look at also, but your eyes, your ears, are outside with the lizard, or listening to that bird. Right? You get this? So my concern is to make you aware, attentive. That's my concern. I wonder if you understand this. Have you understood this? I am not interested in you looking at the book, but I am interested that you should pay attention, that you should listen - listen to that bird, listen to the noise in the trees, perhaps listen to that lizard making a peculiar sound. I want you to learn how to attend, how to pay attention. That's all I am concerned with. Have you understood that? So I would say to you, look at that lizard, don't bother about the book, look at that lizard very carefully, see how many legs it has, what kind of colour it is, so that you pay attention to what you are looking at. Then there is that attention, which is that you look at that lizard, listen to those birds, look at the leaf, the sunshine on the leave very attentively, then you can pay attention to the book without conflict. Have you understood this? Be careful, don't say, yes, be quite clear. What is more important: to look at the book, or look at the lizard? What is important in that?
Q: Paying attention and look at the lizard and the book.
K: So what is important to you? To learn to pay attention. Right? That is, to learn how to listen. If you know how to listen carefully then you will listen to the teacher. Right? I wonder if you understand this? You have understood?
K: Will you do that?
K: You asked me to talk about learning, learning from books, learning by watching, watching the poor people, watching the birds, watching the trees, listening to the song of birds. You begin to be alert, you begin to be sensitive. You understand? Then if the teacher says nicely - and also remember the teacher is tired, probably he has quarrelled with his wife, probably he hasn't had enough rest, so he himself is disturbed, irritated, and you are there not paying attention, so he scolds you. So it is a mutual relationship. You understand? Do you understand that? Now, just a minute. You and I have a mutual relationship. That is, I am telling you something, you are polite enough to listen to what I am saying. Right? So there is a mutual communication. But if I am angry and you are bored there is no communication. Whereas if both of us are learning how to look at a bird, how to look at a tree, how to watch those poor people, then we have a common communication, and you learn from each other. Right? Is this clear?
K: Right. Now there is also learning from a book. Right? Most of you learn from a book, don't you. Now what does that mean? Tell me. Go on, tell me. You are reading history about the kings, wars, and all that nonsense, and you are learning. The teacher says - what's your king here, not Henry VIII? You are learning from a book. Now when you learn what takes place? Come on! I am a teacher of geography - oh, no, I don't like geography. All right, I am a teacher of history - which I don't like very much either but I'll take that! So I am a teacher of history. I tell you first chapter, how India, three thousand years ago had that king, that prime minster, and the wars. Right? And you read that and what do you do when you read it, and when you listen, what happens to you?
Q: We imagine.
K: You imagine. Then what else? Go on.
Q: We compare.
K: Yes, go on, explain more. Go on. Think, think, don't go to sleep, use your brains. What happens?
Q: We try to imagine ourselves in that place.
K: That girl said that. You imagine to be the king. Naturally, it's much more fun than being an ordinary human being. What is happening when you read a book, when you listen to the teacher, what takes place? You are going to have an examination, aren't you, at the end of the term. What takes place? You memorize, don't you?
K: That's what takes place, doesn't it. That is, I tell you all about the Indian history, you listen, you read, and memorize. Right. Don't you?
K: So your learning is to memorize. You follow that? And that's what you call learning. You have a lot of facts about Indian history, or a lot of prejudice in Indian history, and you memorize that, at the end of the term you have an examination about history. Right? Your answers depend on your good memory. Right?
So when you listen, when you read about history, of which you don't know, you memorize. Right? I wonder, shall I make it difficult for you? I think you'll understand. Memorize. From that memory you respond. I ask you as an examination paper, I ask you what happened in the 7th century. Who was the king, who was his minister, how many wars did he have. What happens? You, who have memorized, reply. Right? You reply by recalling what you have learnt from your memory. Right? Or when I ask you a question about the 15th century, who was the king, you have forgotten it. Right? But you try to remember, try to say, what happened, because you have heard it so often but you have forgotten it. So you say, I don't know. You are following all this? So you can't answer that question. Or - I want to make it a little more difficult - your memory is part of your thinking, isn't it? Right? You are clear? You think, your memory, then out of that memory you begin to think. Now, look, you know where you live in Benares. Right? It takes so much time to get there. Right? So your memory, thought tells you the direction, the house, the number of the house, the street you live in. Right? Are you following all this? You aren't asleep, are you? You can go to sleep, have a good sleep. It's all right. I don't mind.
So you learn from a book, from the teacher, store it up in your brain as memory, then when you are asked a question you reply. Or you don't remember. Right? So memory, thought, reply. You get this? This is how we operate all our life. We learn something, store it in the brain, in the brain is the memory, and that memory responds when asked. You have got it? This is what we do from childhood until we die - gather a lot of information, which is memory, which is knowledge, that knowledge is stored in the brain as memory, that memory is part of thought, and then thought says, yes, I live in such-and-such-a-place. You have got this? You are quite clear? Good.
Now this is what you do all your life. Don't you? Right? This is called learning. Accumulate a lot of knowledge, a lot of information about your king of the 6th century, and then reply. You keep this machinery going from the moment you are born until you die. This is what is called learning. Right, sir? Have you got this?
There is a different kind of learning - I won't go into that, it's too difficult for you. The more you have memory, knowledge, the more you think you are a very clever person, better job, better this, better that. Right? So knowledge has become very important to people. You understand? Do you understand? So I had better stop there because I don't want to talk about something that is very, very complicated and rather subtle. You are too young for that. I hope you don't mind my saying that you are young.
What else would you like to talk about? Do any of you write poems?
K: I'm glad. Do any of you read English poems?
K: Yes? Which do you like? Who is the poet you like most?
K: Wordsworth. Which poem do you know of Wordsworth? I am not cross examining you, this is not an examination. Have you read Wordsworth's poem on Immortality?
Q: The Daffodils.
K: Oh, the thousands daffodils by the lake side. Good. Whom else do you know?
Q: Robert Louis Stevenson.
K: Have you read his Treasure Island?
K: I read that book three times. Have you read Huckleberry Finn?
K: Do you like it?
K: So do I. Have you read Keats?
K: Which poems do you like of Keats?
Q: Ode to a Nightingale.
K: Ode to a Nightingale. My heart aches, drowsy numbness - do you know it? If you have read it you must know it. All right. What else have you read? Do you read any novels?
K: Which ones?
Q: Enid Blyton.
K: I don't. Have you read the old Bible? I am not a Christian, I read books, I read the Old Testament, it is beautiful language, very simple, very clear, beautiful words they used. You should read that, the Old Testament. What else?
All right, what would you like to talk about?
K: The old people are asking, or the young people are asking? Go ahead, sir.
Q: Let's talk about sorrow.
K: Do you feel sorrow when a bird falls to the ground?
K: Do you feel sorrow when a tree is cut down?
K: Do you feel sorrow when all those poor people go off day after day, day after day, up and down that road carrying burdens, buying a little oil in a small bottle - do you feel sorrow?
K: Do you feel sorrow when you sit comfortably with clean clothes, and those people never have clean clothes, do you feel sorrow? Silence!
So what is sorrow? My son dies, I feel sorrow, I shed tears, I feel terrible about it. But I don't feel terrible about it, I don't shed tears, when I see those poor people going by. Right? Why?
Q: It is a sort of sympathy one feels for them.
K: All right. Is sympathy for others and sorrow different?
Q: We only feel sorrow when it happens to ourselves.
K: Quite right! We feel sorrow only when it happens to us. Right? But if happens to you I don't care. Right? So is sorrow personal? This is too difficult. Is sorrow universal, global? You know how many wars there have been from historical times - you know what historical times are. Historical times are those time in which history has been kept. You understand? Written history. Written history has been kept about five thousand years. That is, four thousand five hundred BC the Egyptians, the ancient Egyptians had the calendar, the first calendar, and before that, that's about five thousand years, there have been wars practically every year. You understand? People killing each other, maiming each other, burning their house, doing terrible things. That has been going on for five thousand years, practically a war a year. Right? Do you feel sorrow for all those people who have been killed? No, of course you don't. But you only feel sorrow if my brother gets killed in the war. Is that it? If my wife dies. So you think there is only sorrow if it affects you. But five thousand years of war has affected humanity. Right? Millions and millions have cried. Their brothers have come home with one leg or one arm, blind. You understand? This is war. And don't you feel sorry for all those people? Sorrow for all those people who have one arm? I was taken to a hospital where very, very few people were allowed to come in, I knew the doctor and he took me in. I have never seen a more horrible sight in my life. People only - I won't go into it - it's terrible. They are the result of war, without leg, without arms, without eyes. You understand? So don't you feel enormously sorrowful for all those people? Or only when it affects me? Don't you feel sorrow when you go to Benares, see all dirt, the noise, don't you feel sorrowful? Or have you got used to it?
Q: We don't have a direct contact with what happened five thousand years ago.
K: Do you see war films?
K: Then you are directly in contact.
Q: It doesn't touch our heart.
K: So you really don't care. You really don't care what happens to others. Right? Be honest. You really don't care what happens to those poor people.
Q: We do care but we don't know what to do about it.
K: You do care but you say you don't know what to do. Right? Is that it? What do you want to do?
Q: I want to help them in some way.
K: You want to help them in some way. How? Sitting here and talking about helping them?
Q: We aren't the culprits.
K: Aren't you culprits? You support war when you buy a stamp, when you pay tax. When you father pays tax and still has enough money to send you here - we are all involved in war. It's not just the politicians who are doing it, they are horrible people, they are, but we are all involved in it.
What time is it? How long have I talked?
Q: Fifty minutes.
K: I have talked fifty minutes. Is that enough?
Will you do something? Do you know what meditation is? That is, to sit quietly for two or three minutes. Shall we do it? Would you like to do it?
K: Then sit quietly. Comfortably, don't sit like that, sit comfortably. And shut your eyes - just listen to what I have to say first - sit quietly, shut your eyes, when you shut your eyes don't let your eyes move. You understand? They move because they are looking at something else. So sit quietly, don't move your eyes and find out what you are thinking, what you are thinking about. That's all.
All right, sirs. We meet again the day after tomorrow.
Rajghat, Benares 1st Talk with Students 17th November 1981
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