Think on These Things
This Matter of Culture Chapter 18
HAVE YOU EVER paid any attention to the ringing of the temple bells? Now, what do you listen to? To the notes, or to the silence between the notes? If there were no silence, would there be notes? And if you listened to the silence, would not the notes be more penetrating, of a different quality? But you see, we rarely pay real attention to anything; and I think it is important to find out what it means to pay attention. When your teacher is explaining a problem in mathematics, or when you are reading history, or when a friend is talking, telling you a story, or when you are near the river and hear the lapping of the water on the bank, you generally pay very little attention; and if we could find out what it means to pay attention, perhaps learning would then have quite a different significance and become much easier.
When your teacher tells you to pay attention in class, what does he mean? He means that you must not look out of the window, that you must withdraw your attention from everything else and concentrate wholly on what you are supposed to be studying. Or, when you are absorbed in a novel, your whole mind is so concentrated on it that for the moment you have lost interest in everything else. That is another form of attention. So, in the ordinary sense, paying attention is a narrowing-down process, is it not?
Now, I think there is a different kind of attention altogether. The attention which is generally advocated, practised or indulged in is a narrowing-down of the mind to a point, which is a process of exclusion. When you make an effort to pay attention, you are really resisting something - the desire to look out of the window, to see who is coming in, and so on. part of your energy has already gone in resistance. You build a wall around your mind to make it concentrate completely on a particular thing, and you call this the disciplining of the mind to pay attention. You try to exclude from the mind every thought but the one on which you want it to be wholly concentrated. That is what most people mean by paying attention. But I think there is a different kind of attention, a state of mind which is not exclusive, which does not shut out anything; and because there is no resistance, the mind is capable of much greater attention. But attention without resistance does not mean the attention of absorption.
The kind of attention which I would like to discuss is entirely different from what we usually mean by attention, and it has immense possibilities because it is not exclusive. When you concentrate on a subject, on a talk, on a conversation, consciously or unconsciously you build a wall of resistance against the intrusion of other thoughts, and so your mind is not wholly there; it is only partially there, however much attention you pay, because part of your mind is resisting any intrusion, any deviation or distraction.
Let us begin the other way round. Do you know what distraction is? You want to pay attention to what you are reading, but your mind is distracted by some noise outside and you look out of the window. When you want to concentrate on something and your mind wanders off, the wandering off is called distraction, then part of your mind resists the so-called distraction, and there is a waste of energy in that resistance. Whereas, if you are aware of every movement of the mind from moment to moment, then there is no such thing as distraction at any time and the energy of the mind is not wasted in resisting something. So it is important to find out what attention really is.
If you listen both to the sound of the bell and to the silence between its strokes, the whole of that listening is attention. Similarly, when someone is speaking, attention is the giving of your mind not only to the words but also to the silence between the words. If you experiment with this you will find that your mind can pay complete attention without distraction and without resistance. When you discipline your mind by saying, "I must not look out of the window, I must not watch the people coming in, I must pay attention even though I want to do something else", it creates a division which is very destructive because it dissipates the energy of the mind. But if you listen comprehensively so that there is no division and therefore no form of resistance then you will find that the mind can pay complete attention to anything without effort. Do you see it? Am I making myself clear?
Surely, to discipline the mind to pay attention is to bring about its deterioration - which does not mean that the mind must restlessly wander all over the place like a monkey. But, apart from the attention of absorption, these two states are all we know. Either we try to discipline the mind so tightly that it cannot deviate, or we just let it wander from one thing to another. Now, what I am describing is not a compromise between the two; on the contrary, it has nothing to do with either. It is an entirely different approach; it is to be totally aware so that your mind is all the time attentive without being caught in the process of exclusion.
Try what I am saying, and you will see how quickly your mind can learn. You can hear a song or a sound and let the mind be so completely full of it that there is not the effort of learning. After all, if you know how to listen to what your teacher is telling you about some historical fact, if you can listen without any resistance because your mind has space and silence and is therefore not distracted, you will be aware not only of the historical fact but also of the prejudice with which he may be translating it, and of your own inward response.
I will tell you something. You know what space is. There is space in this room. The distance between here and your hostel, between the bridge and your home, between this bank of the river and the other - all that is space. Now, is there also space in your mind? Or is it so crowded that there is no space in it at all? If your mind has space, then in that space there is silence - and from that silence everything else comes, for then you can listen, you can pay attention without resistance. That is why it is very important to have space in the mind. If the mind is not overcrowded, not ceaselessly occupied, then it can listen to that dog barking, to the sound of a train crossing the distant bridge, and also be fully aware of what is being said by a person talking here. Then the mind is a living thing, it is not dead.
Questioner: Yesterday after the meeting we saw you watching two peasant children, typically poor, playing by the roadside. We would like to know what sentiments arose in your mind while you were looking at them.
Krishnamurti: Yesterday afternoon several of the students met me on the road, and soon after I left them I saw the gardener's two children playing. The questioner wants to know what feelings I had while I was watching those two children.
Now, what feelings do you have when you observe poor children? That is more important to find out than what I may have felt. Or are you always so busy going to your hostel or to your class that you never observe them at all?
Now, when you observe those poor women carrying a heavy load to the market, or watch the peasant children playing in the mud with very little else to play with, who will not have the education that you are getting, who have no proper home, no cleanliness, insufficient clothing, inadequate food - when you observe all that, what is your reaction? It is very important to find out for yourself what your reaction is. I will tell you what mine was.
Those children have no proper place to sleep; the father and the mother are occupied all day long, with never a holiday; the children never know what it is to be loved, to be cared for; the parents never sit down with them and tell them stories about the beauty of the earth and the heavens. And what kind of society is it that has produced these circumstances - where there are immensely rich people who have everything on earth they want, and at the same time there are boys and girls who have nothing? What kind of society is it, and how has it come into being? You may revolutionize, break the pattern of this society, but in the very breaking of it a new one is born which is again the same thing in another form - the commissars with their special houses in the country, the privileges, the uniforms, and so on down the line. This has happened after every revolution, the French, the Russian and the Chinese. And is it possible to create a society in which all this corruption and misery does not exist? It can be created only when you and I as individuals break away from the collective, when we are free of ambition and know what it means to love. That was my whole reaction, in a flash.
But did you listen to what I said?
Questioner: How can the mind listen to several things at the same time?
Krishnamurti: That is not what I was talking about. There are people who can concentrate on many things at the same time - which is merely a matter of training the mind. I am not talking about that at all. I am talking about a mind that has no resistance, that can listen because it has the space, the silence from which all thought can spring.
Questioner: Why do we like to be lazy?
Krishnamurti: What is wrong with laziness? What is wrong with just sitting still and listening to a distant sound come nearer and nearer? Or lying in bed of a morning and watching the birds in a nearby tree, or a single leaf dancing in the breeze when all the other leaves are very still? What is wrong with that? We condemn laziness because we think it is wrong to be lazy; so let us find out what we mean by laziness. If you are feeling well and yet stay in bed after a certain hour, some people may call you lazy. If you don't want to play or study because you lack energy, or for other health reasons, that again may be called laziness by somebody. But what really is laziness?
When the mind is unaware of its reactions, of its own subtle movements, such a mind is lazy, ignorant. If you can't pass examinations, if you haven't read many books and have very little information, that is not ignorance. Real ignorance is having no knowledge of yourself, no perception of how your mind works, of what your motives, your responses are. Similarly, there is laziness when the mind is asleep. And most people's minds are asleep. They are drugged by knowledge, by the Scriptures, by what Shankara or somebody else has said. They follow a philosophy, practise a discipline, so their minds - which should be rich, full, overflowing like the river - are made narrow, dull, weary. Such a mind is lazy. And a mind that is ambitious, that pursues a result, is not active in the true sense of the word; though it may be superficially active, pushing, working all day to get what it wants, underneath it is heavy with despair, with frustration.
So one must be very watchful to find out if one is really lazy, Don't just accept it if people tell you that you are lazy. Find out for yourself what laziness is. The man who merely accepts, rejects or imitates, the man who, being afraid, digs a little rut for himself - such a man is lazy and therefore his mind deteriorates, goes to pieces. But a man who is watchful is not lazy, even though he may often sit very quietly and observe the trees, the birds, the people, the stars and the silent river.
Questioner: You say that we should revolt against society, and at the same time you say that we should not have ambition. Is not the desire to improve society an ambition?
Krishnamurti: I have very carefully explained what I mean by revolt, but I shall use two different words to make it much clearer. To revolt within society in order to make it a little better, to bring about certain reforms, is like the revolt of prisoners to improve their life within the prison walls; and such revolt is no revolt at all, it is just mutiny. Do you see the difference? Revolt within society is like the mutiny of prisoners who want better food, better treatment within the prison; but revolt born of understanding is an individual breaking away from society, and that is creative revolution.
Now, if you as an individual break away from society, is that action motivated by ambition? If it is, then you have not broken away at all, you are still within the prison, because the very basis of society is ambition, acquisitiveness, greed. But if you understand all that and bring about a revolution in your own heart and mind, then you are no longer ambitious, you are no longer motivated by envy, greed, acquisitiveness, and therefore you will be entirely outside of a society which is based on those things. Then you are a creative individual and in your action there will be the seed of a different culture.
So there is a vast difference between the action of creative revolution, and the action of revolt or mutiny within society. As long as you are concerned with mere reform, with decorating the bars and walls of the prison, you are not creative. Reformation always needs further reform, it only brings more misery, more destruction. Whereas, the mind that understands this whole structure of acquisitiveness, of greed, of ambition and breaks away from it - such a mind is in constant revolution. It is an expansive, a creative mind; therefore, like a stone thrown into a pool of still water, its action produces waves, and those waves will form a different civilization altogether.
Questioner: Why do I hate myself when I don't study?
Krishnamurti: Listen to the question. Why do I hate myself when I don't study as I am supposed to? Why do I hate myself when I am not nice, as I should be? In other words, why don't I live up to my ideals?
Now, would it not be much simpler not to have ideals at all? If you had no ideals, would you then have any reason to hate yourself? So why do you say, "I must be kind, I must be generous, I must pay attention, I must study"? If you can find out why, and be free of ideals, then perhaps you will act quite differently - which I shall presently go into.
So, why do you have ideals? First of all, because people have always told you that if you don't have ideals you are a worthless boy. Society, whether it is according to the communist pattern or the capitalist pattern, says, "This is the ideal", and you accept it, you try to live up to it, do you not? Now, before you try to live up to any ideal, should you not find out whether it is necessary to have ideals at all? Surely, that would make far more sense. You have the ideal of Rama and Sita, and so many other ideals which society has given you or which you have invented for yourself. Do you know why you have them? Because you are afraid to be what you are. Let us keep it simple, don't let us complicate it. You are afraid to be what you are - which means that you have no confidence in yourself. That is why you try to be what society, what your parents and your religion tell you that you should be.
Now, why are you afraid to be what you are? Why don't you start with what you are and not with what you should be? Without understanding what you are, merely to try to change it into what you think you should be has no meaning. Therefore scrap all ideals. I know the older people won't like this, but it doesn't matter. Scrap all ideals, drown them in the river, throw them into the wastepaper basket, and start with what you are - which is what?
You are lazy, you don't want to study, you want to play games, you want to have a good time, like all young people. Start with, that. Use your mind to examine what you mean when you talk about having a good time - find out what is actually involved in it, don't go by what your parents or your ideals say. Use your mind to discover why you don't want to study. Use your mind to find out what you want to do in life - what you want to do, not what society or some ideal tells you to do. If you give your whole being to this inquiry, then you are a revolutionary; then you have the confidence to create, to be what you are, and in that there is an everrenewing vitality. But the other way you are dissipating your energy in trying to be like somebody else.
Don't you see, it is really an extraordinary thing that you are so afraid to be what you are; because beauty lies in being what you are. If you see that you are lazy, that you are stupid, and if you understand laziness and come face to face with stupidity without trying to change it into something else, then in that state you will find there is an enormous release, there is great beauty, great intelligence.
Questioner: Even if we do create a new society by revolting against the present one, isn't this creation of a new society still another form of ambition.J
Krishnamurti: I am afraid you did not listen to what I said. When the mind revolts within the pattern of society, such a revolt is like a mutiny in a prison, and it is merely another form of ambition. But when the mind understands this whole destructive process of the present society and steps out of it, then its action is not ambitious. Such action may create a new culture, a better social order, a different world, but the mind is not concerned with that creation. Its only concern is to discover what is true; and it is the movement of truth that creates a new world, not the mind which is in revolt against society.
Think on These Things
This Matter of Culture Chapter 18
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