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1933, The Art of Listening

2nd Public Talk. Frognerseteren, Norway; 8th September, 1933

Friends, today I want to explain that there is a way of living naturally, spontaneously, without the constant friction of self-discipline, the constant battle of adjustment. But to understand what I am going to say, please consider it not only intellectually, but also emotionally. You must feel it; for you can bring about fulfillment of life only when your emotions as well as your thoughts are acting harmoniously. When you live completely in the harmony of your mind and heart, then your action is natural, spontaneous, effortless.

Most minds are seeking security. We want to be sure. We set up in authority those who offer us that security, and we worship them as our authority because we ourselves are seeking a certainty to which the mind can cling, in which the mind can feel safe, secure.

If you consider the matter, you will find that most of you come to listen to me because you are seeking certainty - certainty of knowledge, certainty of an end, certainty of truth, certainty of an idea - in order that you may act with that certainty, choose through that certainty. Your minds and hearts desire to act with the background of that certainty. Your choice and your actions do not awaken true discernment or true perception, because you are constantly engaged in the gathering in of knowledge, in the accumulation of experiences, in searching out various kinds of gain, in seeking authorities that give you security and comfort, in striving for the development of character. Through all these attempts at accumulation you hope to have the assurance of certainty; certainty that takes away all doubt and anxiety; certainty that gives you - at least you hope that it will give you - surety of choice. With the thought of certainty, you choose in the hope of gaining further understanding. Thus, in the search for certainty there is born fear of gain and fear of loss.

So you make life into a school where you learn to be certain. Isn't that what your life is? A school where you learn, not to live, but how to be sure. To you life is a process of accumulation, not a matter of living. Now I differentiate between living and accumulation. A man who is really living has no sense of accumulation. But the man who is seeking certainty and security, who is seeking a shelter from which he can act - the shelter of character, of virtue - that man thinks of life as accumulation, and hence to him life becomes a process of learning, of gain, of struggle.

Where there is the idea of accumulation and of gain, there must be a sense of time, and hence incompleteness in action. If we are constantly looking to a future gain, to a future from which we shall derive advantage, development, greater strength for acquisition, then our action in the present must be incomplete. If our minds and hearts are continually seeking gain, achievement, success, then our action, whatever it be, has no true significance; our eyes are fixed on the future, our minds are concerned only with the future. Hence, all action in the present creates incompleteness.

From this incompleteness there arises conflict, which we hope to overcome through self-discipline. We make a distinction in our minds between the things that we wish to gain, which we call the essential, and the things that we do not wish to acquire, which we call the unessential. Thus, there is a constant battle, a constant struggle; conflict and suffering result from this distinction.

I shall explain this point in another way, because unless you see and really understand it, you will not fully comprehend what I shall have to say later.

We have made life into a school of continual learning. But to me life is not a school; it is not a process of gathering in. Life is to be lived naturally, fully, without this constant battle of conflicts, this distinction between the essential and the unessential. From this idea of life as a school, there arises the constant desire for achievement, success, and therefore the search for an end, the desire to find the ultimate truth, God, the final perfection which will give us - at least, we hope it will give us - certainty, and hence our attempts at the continual adjustment to certain social conditions, to ethical and moral demands, to the development of character and the cultivation of virtues. These standards and demands, if you really think about them, are but shelters from which we act, shelters developed through resistance.

This is the life that most people are living - a life of constant search for gain, for accumulation, and therefore a life of incompleteness in action. The idea of gain, which divides action into past, present and future, is always in our minds; therefore there is never complete understanding in action itself. The mind is continually thinking of gain, and hence it finds no meaning in the action with which it is occupied.

So this is the state in which you are living. Now to me that state is utterly false. Life is not a process of gathering in, a school in which you must learn, in which you must discipline yourself, in which there is constant resistance and struggle. Where there is this constant gathering in, this desire for accumulation, there must exist incompleteness which creates want; if you do not want, you do not gather. And where there is want there is no discernment, even though you may go through the process of choice.

Now you say to me, "How am I to get rid of this want? How am I to free my mind from this process of gathering in? How am I to conquer these hindrances? You say that life is not a school In which to learn, but how am I to live naturally? Tell me the path on which I must walk, the method that I must practise every day to live fully."

To me, this is not the way to look at the problem. The question is not how you are to live fully, but rather, what urges you to this constant accumulation; the question is not how you shall get rid of the idea of gathering, of accumulation, but rather, what creates in you this desire to accumulate. I hope you see the distinction.

Now you look at the problem from the point of view of getting rid of something, of acquiring non-acquisition, which is essentially the same thing as desiring to acquire something, since all opposites are the same. So, what prevents you from living naturally, harmoniously? I say that it is this process of gathering, this searching for certainty.

Then you want to know how to be free from the search for certainty. I say, do not approach the problem in this way. The futility of gain will have a meaning for you only when you are really in conflict, only when you are fully conscious of the disharmony of your actions. If you are not caught up in conflict, then continue in your present way; if you are absolutely unconscious of struggle and suffering, if you are unaware of your own disharmony, then go on living as you are. Then do not try to be spiritual, for you do not know what that signifies at all. The ecstasy of understanding comes only when there is great discontent, when all false values about you are destroyed. If you are not discontented, if you are not aware of intense disharmony in and about you, then what I tell you of the futility of accumulation can have no meaning to you.

But if there is this divine revolt in you, then you will understand when I say that life is not a school in which to learn; life is not a process of constant accumulation, a process in which there is continual want which is blinding. Then that very revolt in which you are caught up, that very suffering, gives you understanding, because it awakens in you the flame of awareness. And when you are fully aware that want is blinding, then you will see its full significance, which dissipates want. Then you will have freedom from want, from gathering in. But if you are unconscious of such a struggle, of such a revolt, you can but continue your life as you are living it, in a half-awakened state. When people suffer, when they are caught up in conflict, that very suffering and conflict should keep them intensely aware; but most of them only ask how to get rid of want. When you understand the full significance of not desiring to gain, to accumulate, then there is no longer the struggle to get rid of something.

To put it differently, why do you go through the process of self-discipline? You do it because of fear. Why are you afraid? Because you want surety, the surety that a social standard, a religious belief, or the idea of acquiring virtue gives you. So you set about disciplining yourself. That is, when the mind is enslaved by the idea of gain or conformity, there is self-discipline. That you are awakened to suffering is but the indication that mind is trying to free itself from all standards; but when you suffer you immediately try to quieten that suffering by drugging the mind with what you call comfort, security, certainty. So you continue this process of seeking certainty, which is but an opiate. But if you understand the illusion of certainty - and you can understand it only in the intensity of conflict from which alone all inquiry can truly begin - then want, which creates certainty, disappears.

So the question is not how to get rid of want; it is rather this: Are you fully aware when there is suffering? Are you fully conscious of conflict, of the disharmonious life about you and within you? If you are, then in that flame of awareness there is true perception, without this constant battle of adjustment, of self-discipline. However, seeing the falsity of self-discipline does not mean that one can indulge in rash, impetuous action. On the contrary, then action is born out of completeness. Question: Can there be happiness when there is no longer any "I" consciousness? Is one able to feel anything at all if the "I" consciousness is extinguished?

Krishnamurti: First of all, what does one mean by the "I" consciousness? When are you aware of this "I"? When are you conscious of yourself? You are conscious of yourself as "I", as an entity, when you are in pain, when you experience discomfiture, conflict, struggle.

You say, "If that 'I' does not exist, what is there?" I say you will find out only when your mind is free of that "I", so do not inquire now. When your mind and heart are harmonious, when they are no longer caught up in conflict, then you will know. Then you will not ask what it is that feels, that thinks. As long as this "I" consciousness exists there must be the conflict of choice, from which arises the sensation of happiness and unhappiness. That is, this conflict gives you the sense of limited consciousness, the "I", with which the mind becomes identified. I say that you will find out that life which is not identified with the "you" or the "me", that life which is eternal, infinite, only when this limited consciousness dissolves itself. You do not dissolve that limited consciousness; it dissolves itself.

Question: The other day you spoke of memory as a hindrance to true understanding. I have recently had the misfortune of losing my brother. Should I try to forget that loss?

Krishnamurti: I explained the other day what I mean by memory. I shall try to explain it again.

After you have seen a beautiful sunset, you return to your home or office and begin again to live in that sunset, as your home or office is not as you would have it, it is not beautiful; so to escape from that ugliness you return in memory to that sunset. Thus you create in your mind a distinction between your home, which does not give you joy, and the thing that gives you great delight, the sunset. So, when you are confronted by circumstances which are not pleasant, you turn to the memory of that which is joyous. But if, instead of turning to a dead memory, you would try to alter the circumstances that are unpleasant, then you would be living intensely in the present and not in the dead past. So when one loses someone whom one loves greatly, why is there this constant looking back, this constant holding on to that which gave us pleasure, this longing to have that person back again? This is what everyone goes through when he experiences such a loss. He escapes from the sorrow of that loss by turning to the remembrance of the person who is gone, by living in a future, or by belief in the hereafter - which is also a kind of memory. It is because our minds are perverted through escape, because they are incapable of meeting suffering openly, freshly, that we have to revert to memory, and thus the past encroaches upon the present.

So the question is not whether you should or should not remember your brother or your husband, your wife or your children; rather, it is a matter of living completely, wholly, in the present, though that does not imply that you are indifferent to those who are about you. When you live completely, wholly, there is in that intensity, the flame of living, which is not the mere imprint of an incident.

How is one to live completely in the present, so that mind is not perverted with past memories and future longings - which are also memory? Again, the question is not how you should live completely, but what prevents you from living completely. For when you ask how, you are looking for a method, a means, and to me, a method destroys understanding. If you know what prevents you from living completely, then out of yourself, out of your own awareness and understanding, you will free yourself from that hindrance. What prevents you from freeing yourself is your search for certainty, your continual longing for gain, for accumulation, for achievement. But do not ask, "How am I to conquer these hindrances?" for all conquering is but a process of further gain, further accumulation. If this loss is really creating suffering in you, if it is really giving you intense - not superficial - sorrow, then you will not ask how; then you will see immediately the futility of looking back or forward for consolation.

When most people say that they suffer, their suffering is but superficial. They suffer, but at the same time they want other things: they want comfort, they are afraid, they search out ways and means of escape. Superficial sorrow is always accompanied by the desire for comfort. Superficial suffering is like shallow ploughing of the soil; it achieves nothing. Only when you till the soil deeply, to the full depth of the ploughshare, is there richness. In the state of complete suffering there is complete under- standing, in which hindrances as memories both of the present and of the future cease to exist. Then you are living in the eternal present.

You know, to understand a thought or an idea does not mean merely to agree with it intellectually.

There are various kinds of memories: there is the memory that forces itself upon you in the present, the memory to which you turn actively, and the memory of looking forward to the future. All these prevent your living completely. But do not begin to analyze your memories. Do not ask, "Which memory is preventing my complete living?" When you question in that way, you do not act; you merely examine memory intellectually, and such an examination has no value because it deals with a dead thing. From a dead thing there is no understanding. But if you are truly aware in the present, in the moment of action, then all these memories come into activity. Then you need not go through the process of analyzing them.

Question: Do you think it is right to bring up children with religious training?

Krishnamurti: I shall answer this question indirectly, for when you understand what I am going to say, you can answer it specifically for yourselves.

You know, we are influenced not only by external conditions, but also by an inner condition which we develop. In bringing up a child, parents subject him to many influences and limiting circumstances, one of which is religious training. Now, if they let the child grow up without such hindering, limiting influences, either from within or from without, then the child will begin to question as he grows older, and he will intelligently find out for himself. Then, if he wants religion, he will have it, whether you prohibit or encourage the religious attitude. In other words, if his mind and heart are not influenced, not hindered, either by external or by inner standards, then he will truly discover what is true. This requires great perception, great understanding.

Now parents want to influence the child one way or another. If you are very religious, you want to influence the child toward religion; if you are not, you try to turn him away from religion. Help the child to be intelligent, then he will find out for himself the true significance of life.

Question: You spoke of harmony of mind and heart in action. What is this action? Does this action imply physical movement, or can action take place when one is quite still and alone?

Krishnamurti: Does not action imply thought? Is not action thought itself? You cannot act without thinking. I know that most people do, but their action is not intelligent, not harmonious. Thought is action, which is also movement. Again, we think apart from our feeling, thus setting up another entity separate from our action. So we divide our lives into three distinct parts, thinking, feeling, acting. Therefore you ask, "Is action purely physical? Is action purely mental or emotional?"

To me the three are one: to think, to feel, to act, there is no distinction. Therefore you may be alone and quiet for a while, or you may be working, moving, acting: both states can be action. When you understand this, you will not make a separation between thinking, feeling and acting.

To most people, thinking is but a reaction. If it is merely a reaction, it is no longer thinking, for then it is uncreative. Most people who say that they think are but blindly following their reactions; they have certain standards, certain ideas, according to which they act. These they have memorized, and when they say that they think, they are but following these memories. Such imitation is not thinking; it is but a reaction, a reflection. True thinking exists only when you discover the true significance of these standards, these preconceptions, these securities.

To put it differently, what is mind? Mind is speech, thought, consideration, understanding; it is all these, and it is also feeling. You cannot separate feeling from thinking; the mind and heart are in themselves complete. But because we have created innumerable escapes through conflict, there arises the idea of thought as apart from feeling, as apart from action, and hence our life is broken up, incomplete.

Question: Among your listeners are people old and feeble in mind and body. Also, there may be those who are addicts to drugs, drink or smoking. What can they do to change themselves, when they find that they cannot change even when they long to?

Krishnamurti: Remain as you are. If you really long to change, you will change. You see, that is just it: intellectually you want to change, but emotionally you are still enticed by the pleasure of smoking or the comfort of a drug. So you ask, "What am I to do? I want to give this up, but at the same time I don't want to give it up. Please tell me how I can do both." That sounds amusing, but that is really what you are asking.

Now if you approach the problem wholly, not with the idea of wanting or non-wanting, giving up or not giving up, you will find out whether or not you really want to smoke. If you find that you do want to, then smoke. In that way you will find out the worth of that habit without constantly calling it futile and yet continuing it. If you approach the act completely, wholly, then you will not say, "Shall I give up smoking or not?" But now you want to smoke because it gives you a pleasant sensation, and at the same time you don't want to because mentally you see the absurdity of it. So you begin to discipline yourself, saying, "I must sacrifice myself; I must give this up."

Question: Do you not agree that man shall gain the kingdom of heaven through a life, like that of Jesus, wholly dedicated to service?

Krishnamurti: I hope you will not be shocked when I say that man will not gain the kingdom of heaven in this way.

Now see what you are saying: "Through service I shall obtain something that I want." Your statement implies that you do not serve completely; you are looking for a reward through service. You say, "Through righteous behaviour I shall know God." That is, you are really interested, not in righteous behaviour but in knowing God, thus divorcing righteousness from God. But neither through service, nor love, nor worship, nor prayer, but only in the very action of these, is there truth, God. Do you understand? When you ask, "Shall I gain the kingdom of heaven through service?" your service has no meaning because you are primarily interested in the kingdom of heaven; you are interested in getting something in return; it is a kind of barter, as much of your life is. So when you say, "Through righteousness, through love, I shall attain, I shall realize", you are interested in the realization, which is but an escape, a form of imitation. Therefore your love or your righteous act has no meaning. If you are kind to me because I can give you something in return, what significance has your kindness?

That is the whole process of our life. We are afraid to live. Only when someone dangles a reward before our eyes do we act, and then we act not for the sake of action itself, but in order to obtain that reward. In other words, we act for what we can get out of action. It is the same in your prayers. That is, because for us action has no significance in itself, because we think that we need encouragement in order to act rightly, we have placed before us a reward, something we desire, and we hope that enticement, that toy, will give us satisfaction. But when we act with that hope of reward, then action itself has no significance.

That is why I say that you are caught up in this process of reward and gain, this hindrance born of fear, which results in conflict. When you see this, when you become aware of this, then you will understand that life, behaviour, service, everything, has significance in itself; then you do not go through life with the purpose of getting something else, because you know that action itself has intrinsic value. Then you are not merely a reformer; you are a human being; you know that life which is pliable and therefore eternal.

1933, The Art of Listening

2nd Public Talk. Frognerseteren, Norway; 8th September, 1933

Jiddu Krishnamurti. The Art of Listening. The collected works of J.Krishnamurti, 1933.

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