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1933, The Art of Listening

3rd Public Talk. Frognerseteren, Norway; 9th September, 1933

This morning I am going to answer questions only.

Question: Do you believe in the efficacy of prayer, and the value of prayer that is directed out of whole-hearted sympathy to the misfortune and suffering of others? Cannot prayer, in the right sense, ever bring about the freedom of which you speak?

Krishnamurti: When we use the word "prayer", I think we use it with a very definite meaning. As it is generally understood, it means praying to someone outside of ourselves to give us strength, understanding, and so on. That is, we are looking for help from an external source. When you are suffering and you look to another to relieve you from that suffering, you are but creating in your mind, and therefore in your action, incompleteness, duality. So from my point of view, prayer, as it is commonly understood, has no value. You may forget your suffering in your prayer, but you have not understood the cause of suffering. You have merely lost yourself in prayer; you have suggested to yourself certain modes of living. So prayer in the ordinary sense of the word, that is, looking to another for relief from suffering, has to me no value.

But if I may use the word with a different meaning, I think there is prayer which is not a looking to another for help; it is a continued alertness of mind, an awakened state in which you understand for yourself. In that state of prayer you know the cause of suffering, the cause of confusion, the cause of a problem. Most of us, when we have a problem, immediately seek a solution. When we find a solution we think that we have solved the problem, but we have not. We have only escaped from it. Prayer, in the conventional meaning of the word, is thus an escape. But real prayer, I feel, is action with awakened interest in life.

Comment from the audience: Do you think that the prayer of a mother for her children may be good for them?

Krishnamurti: What do you think?

Comment: I hope it will be good for them.

Krishnamurti: What do you mean by its being good for them? Is there not something else one can do to help? What can one do for another when that person is suffering? One can give sympathy and affection. Suppose that I am suffering because I love someone who does not love me in return, and that I happen to be your son. Your prayer will not relieve my suffering. What happens? You discuss the matter with me, but the pain still remains because I want that love. What do you want to do when you see someone suffer whom you love? You want to help; you want to take away the suffering from him. But you cannot, because that suffering is his prison. It is the prison that he himself has created, a prison that you cannot take away - but that does not mean that your attitude should be one of indifference.

Now when one whom you love is suffering, and you can do nothing for him, you turn to prayer, hoping that some miracle will happen to alleviate his sorrow; but if you once understand that the suffering is caused by the ignorance created by that person himself, then you will realize that you can give him sympathy and affection, but you cannot remove his suffering.

Comment: But we want to relieve our own suffering.

Krishnamurti: That is different.

Question: You say, "Meet all experiences as they come." What about such terrible misfortunes as being condemned to lifelong imprisonment, or being burnt alive for holding certain political or religious opinions - misfortunes that have actually been the lot of human beings? Would you ask such people to submit themselves to their misfortunes and not try to overcome them?

Krishnamurti: Suppose that I commit murder; then society puts me in prison because I have done something that is inherently wrong. Or suppose that some force from the outside impels me to do something of which you disapprove, and you in return do me harm. What am I to do? Suppose that some years hence you, in this country, decide that you do not want me here because of what I say. What can I do? I cannot come here. Now, isn't it after all the mind that gives value to these terms "fortune" and "misfortune"?

If I hold a certain belief and am imprisoned for holding it, I do not consider that imprisonment as suffering, because the belief is really mine. Suppose I believe in something - something not external, something that is real to me; if I am punished for holding that belief, I will not consider that punishment as suffering, for the belief I am being punished for is to me not merely a belief, but a reality.

Question: You have spoken against the spirit of acquisition, both spiritual and material. Does not contemplation help us to understand and meet life completely?

Krishnamurti: Is not contemplation the very essence of action? In India there are people who withdraw from life, from daily contact with others, and retire into the woods to contemplate, to find God. Do you call that contemplation? I wouldn't call it contemplation - it is but an escape from life. Out of meeting life fully comes contemplation. Contemplation is action.

Thought, when it is complete, is action. The man who, in order to think, withdraws from the daily contact with life, makes his life unnatural; for him life is confusion. Our very seeking for God or truth is an escape. We seek because we find that the life we live is ugly, monstrous. You say, "If I can understand who created this thing, I shall understand the creation; I shall withdraw from this and go to that." But if, instead of withdrawing, you tried to understand the cause of confusion in the very confusion itself, then your finding out, your discovery, would destroy the thing that is false.

Unless you have experienced truth, you cannot know what it is. Not pages of description nor the clever wit of man can tell you what it is. You can only know truth for yourself, and you can know it only when you have freed your mind from illusion. If the mind is not free, you but create opposites, and these opposites become your ideals, as God or truth.

If I am caught in suffering, in pain, I create the idea of peace, the idea of tranquillity. I create the idea of truth according to my like and dislike, and therefore that idea cannot be true. Yet that is what we are constantly doing. When we contemplate as we generally do, we are merely trying to escape from confusion. "But", you say, "when I am caught in confusion I cannot understand; I must escape from it in order to understand." That is, you are trying to learn from suffering.

But as I see it, you can learn nothing from suffering, though you should not withdraw from it. The function of suffering is to give you a tremendous shock; the awakening caused by that shock gives you pain, and then you say, "Let me find out what I can learn from it." Now if, instead of saying this, you keep awake during the shock of suffering, then that experience will yield understanding. Understanding lies in suffering itself, not away from it; suffering itself gives freedom from suffering.

Comment: You said the other day that self-analysis is destructive, but I think that analyzing the cause of suffering gives one wisdom.

Krishnamurti: Wisdom is not in analysis. You suffer, and by analysis you try to find the cause; that is, you are analyzing a dead event, the cause that is already in the past. What you must do is find the cause of suffering in the very moment of suffering. By analyzing suffering you do not find the cause; you analyze only the cause of a particular act. Then you say, "I have understood the cause of that suffering." But in reality you have only learned to avoid the suffering; you have not freed your mind from it. This process of accumulation, of learning through the analysis of a particular act, does not give wisdom. Wisdom arises only when the "I" consciousness, which is the creator, the cause of suffering, is dissolved. Am I making this difficult?

What happens when we suffer? We want immediate relief, and so we take anything that is offered. We examine it superficially for the moment, and we say that we have learned. When that drug proves insufficient in providing relief, we take another, but the suffering continues. Isn't that so? But when you suffer completely, wholly, not superficially, then something happens; when all the avenues of escape which the mind has invented have been understood and blocked, there remains only suffering, and then you will understand it. There is no cessation through an intellectual drug. As I said the other day, life to me is not a process of learning; yet we treat life as though it were merely a school for learning things, merely a suffering in order to learn; as though everything served only as a means to something else. You say that if you can learn to contemplate you will meet life fully, whereas I say that if your action is complete, that is, if your mind and heart are in full harmony, then that very action is contemplation, effortlessness.

Question: Can a minister who has freed himself from the doctrines still be a minister in the Lutheran Church?

Krishnamurti: I think that he will not remain in the ministry. What do you mean by a minister? One who gives you what you want spiritually, that is, comfort? Surely the question has been already answered. You are looking to mediators to help you. You are making me also into a minister - a minister without doctrines, but still you think of me as a minister. But I am afraid I am not. I can give you nothing. One of the conventionally accepted doctrines is that others can lead you to truth, that through the suffering of another you can understand it; but I say that no one can lead you to truth.

Question: Suppose that the minister is married and dependent upon his position for his living?

Krishnamurti: You say that if the minister gave up his work, his wife and children would suffer, which is real suffering for him, as well as for his wife and children. Should he give it up? Suppose that I am a minister; that I no longer believe in churches, and feel the necessity of freeing myself from them. Do I consider my wife and children? No. That decision needs great understanding.

Question: You have said that memory represents an experience that has not been understood. Does that mean that our experiences are of no value to us? And why does a fully understood experience leave no memory?

Krishnamurti: I am afraid that most of the experiences that one has are of no value. You are repeating the same thing over and over again, whereas to me an experience really understood frees the mind from all search for experience. You confront an incident from which you hope, to learn, from which you hope to profit, and you multiply experiences, one after another. With that idea of sensation, of learning, of gaining, you meet various experiences; you meet them with a prejudiced mind. Thus you are using the experiences that confront you merely as a means to get something else - to get rich emotionally or mentally, to enjoy. You think that these experiences have no inherent value; you look to them only to get something else through them.

Where there is want there must be memory, which creates time. And most minds, being caught in time, meet life with that limitation. That is, bound by this limitation they try to understand something that has no limit. Therefore there is conflict. In other words, the experiences from which we try to learn are born of reaction. There is no such thing as learning from experience or through experience.

The questioner wants to know why a fully understood experience leaves no memory. We are lonely, empty; being conscious of that emptiness, that loneliness, we turn to experience to fill it. We say, "I shall learn from experience; let me fill my mind with experience which destroys loneliness." Experience does destroy loneliness, but it makes us very superficial. That is what we are always doing; but if we realize that this very want creates loneliness, then loneliness will disappear.

Question: I feel the entanglement and confusion of attachment in the thought and feeling that make up the richness and variety of my life. How can I learn to be detached from experience from which I seem unable to escape?

Krishnamurti: Why do you want to be detached? Because attachment gives you pain. Possession is a conflict in which there is jealousy, continual watchfulness, neverending struggle. Attachment gives you pain; therefore you say, "Let me be detached." That is, your detachment is merely a running away from pain. You say, "Let me find a way, a means, by which I shall not suffer." In attachment there is conflict which awakens you, stirs you, and in order not to be awakened you long for detachment. You go through life wanting the exact opposite of that which gives you pain, and that very wanting is but an escape from the thing in which you are caught.

It is not a matter of learning detachment, but of keeping awake. Attachment gives you pain. But if, instead of trying to escape, you try to keep awake, you will meet openly and understand every experience. If you are attached and are satisfied with your state, you experience no disturbance. Only in time of pain and suffering do you want the opposite, which you think will give you relief. If you are attached to a person, and there is peace and quiet, everything moves smoothly for a while; then something happens that gives you pain. Take, for example, a husband and wife; in their possession, in their love, there is complete blindness, happiness. Life goes smoothly until something happens - he may leave, or she may fall in love with another. Then there is pain. In such a situation you say to yourself, "I must learn detachment." But if you love again you repeat the same thing. Again, when you experience pain in attachment, you desire the opposite. That is human nature; that is what every human being wants.

So it is not a matter of acquiring detachment. It is a matter of seeing the foolishness of attachment when you suffer in attachment; then you do not go to the opposite. Now, what happens? You want to be attached and at the same time you want to be detached, and in this conflict there is pain. If in pain itself you realize the finality of pain, if you do not try to escape to the opposite, then that very pain will free you from both attachment and detachment.

1933, The Art of Listening

3rd Public Talk. Frognerseteren, Norway; 9th September, 1933

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

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