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1933, The Art of Listening

2nd Public Talk. Adyar, India; 30th December, 1933

As I was saying yesterday, thought is crippled, stultified, when it is bound by belief, yet most of our thinking is a reaction based on belief, on a particular belief or an ideal. So our thinking is never true, flowing, creative. It is always held in check by a particular belief, tradition or an ideal. One can realize truth, that enduring understanding, only when thought is continuously in movement, unfettered by a past or by a future. This is so simple that we often do not perceive it. A great scientist has no objective in his research; if he were merely seeking a result, then he would cease to be a great scientist. So it must be with our thinking. But our thought is crippled, bound, hedged in by a belief, by a dogma, by an ideal, and so there is no creative thinking.

Please apply what I say to yourselves; then you can easily follow my meaning. If you merely listen to it as an entertainment, then what I say is wholly futile, and there will be only further confusion.

On what is our belief based? On what are most of our ideals founded? If you consider, you will find that belief has for its motive either the idea of gain, reward, or that it serves as an enticement, a guide, a pattern. You say, "I shall pursue virtue, I shall act in this or in that way, in order to obtain happiness; I shall find out what truth is, in order to overcome confusion, misery; I shall serve in order to have the blessings of heaven." But this attitude towards action as a means to future acquisition is constantly crippling your thought.

Or again, belief is based on the result of the past. Either you have external, imposed principles, or you have developed inner ideals by which you are living. External principles are imposed by society, by tradition, by authority, all of which are based on fear. These are the principles that you are constantly using as your standard: "What will my neighbour think?" "What does public opinion maintain?", "What do the sacred books or the teachers say?" Or you develop an inner law, which is nothing more than a reaction to the outward; that is, you develop an inner belief, an inner principle, based on the memory of experience, on reaction, in order to guide yourself in the movement of life.

So belief is either of the past or of the future. That is, when there is a want, desire creates the future; but when you are guiding yourself in the present according to an experience that you have had, that standard is in the past; it is already dead. So we develop resistance against the present, which we call will. Now to me, will exists only where there is lack of understanding. Why do we want will? When I understand and live in an experience, I do not have to combat it; I do not have to resist it. When I understand an experience completely there is no longer a spirit of imitation, of adjustment, or the desire to resist it. I understand it completely, and hence I am free from the burden of it. You will have to think over what I am saying; my words are not as confusing as they may sound.

Belief is based on the idea of acquisition, and the desire to obtain results through action. You are seeking gain; you are being moulded by sets of beliefs based on the idea of gain, on the search for reward, and your action is the result of that search. If you were in the movement of thought, not seeking an end, a goal, a reward, then there would be results, but you would not be concerned with them. As I have said, a scientist who is seeking results is not a true scientist; and a true scientist who is profoundly seeking, is not concerned with the results he attains, even though these results may be useful to the world. So be concerned with the movement of action itself, and in that there is the ecstasy of truth. But you must become aware that your thought is bound by belief, that you are merely acting according to certain sets of beliefs, that your action is crippled by tradition. In this freedom of awareness there is completeness of action.

Suppose, for instance, that I am a teacher in a school. If I try to mould the pupil's intelligence toward a particular action, then it is no longer intelligence. How the pupil shall employ his intelligence is his own affair. If he is intelligent he will act truly, because he is not acting from motives of gain, of reward, of enticement, of power.

To understand this movement of thought, this completeness of action, which can never be static as a standard, as an ideal, mind must be free from belief; for action that seeks reward cannot understand its own completeness, its own fulfillment. Yet most of your actions are based on belief. You believe in the guidance of a Mas- ter, you believe in an ideal, you believe in religious dogmas, you believe in the established traditions of society. But with that background of belief you will never understand, you will never fathom the experience with which you are confronted, because belief prevents you from living that experience wholly, with all your being. Only when you are no longer bound by belief will you know the completeness of action. Now you are unconscious of this burden which is perverting the mind. Become fully aware in action of this burden, and that awareness alone shall free the mind from all perversions.

Now I shall answer some of the questions that have been put to me.

Question: By the sanction of the scriptures and the concurrence of many teachers, doubt has been regarded throughout the ages as a fetter to be destroyed before truth can dawn upon the soul. You, on the contrary, seem to look upon doubt in quite a different light. You have even called it a precious ointment. Which of these contradictory views is the right one?

Krishnamurti: Let us leave the scriptures out of this discussion; for when you begin to quote scripture in support of your opinions, be sure the Devil can also find texts in scripture to support quite the opposite view! In the Upanishads, in the Vedas, I am sure there can be found quite the opposite of what you say the scriptures teach: I am sure there can be found texts saying that one should doubt. So let us not quote scripture at each other; that is like hurling bricks at each other's heads.

As I have said, your actions are based on beliefs, ideals, which you have inherited or acquired. They have no reality. No belief is ever a living reality. To the man who is living, beliefs are unnecessary.

Now since the mind is crippled by many beliefs, many principles, many traditions, false values and illusions, you must begin to question them, to doubt them. You are not children. You cannot accept whatever is offered to you or forced upon you. You must begin to question the very foundation of authority, for that is the beginning of true criticism; you must question so as to discover for yourselves the true significance of traditional values. This doubt, born of intense conflict, alone will free the mind and give you the ecstasy of freedom, an ecstasy liberated from illusion.

So the first thing is to doubt, not cherish your beliefs. But it is the delight of exploiters to urge you not to doubt, to consider doubt a fetter. Why should you fear doubt? If you are satisfied with things as they are, then continue living as you are. Say that you are satisfied with your ceremonies; you may have rejected the old and accepted the new, but both amount to the same thing in the end. If you are satisfied with them, what I say will not disturb you in your stagnant tranquillity. But we are not here to be bound, to be fettered; we are here to live intelligently, and if you desire so to live, the first thing you must do is to question.

Now our so-called education ruthlessly destroys creative intelligence. Religious education which authoritatively holds before you the idea of fear in various forms, keeps you from questioning, from doubting. You may have discarded the old religion of Mylapore, but you have taken on a new religion which has many "Don't's" and "Do's". Society, through the force of public opinion which is strong, vital, also prevents you from doubting; and you say that if you stood up against this public opinion, it would crush you. Thus, on all sides, doubt is discouraged, destroyed, put aside. Yet you can find truth only when you begin to question, to doubt the values by which society and religion, ancient and modern, have surrounded you.

So don't compare what I am saying with what is said in the scriptures; in that way we shall never understand. Comparison does not lead to understanding. Only when we take an idea by itself and examine it profoundly, not comparatively or relatively, but with the purpose of finding out its intrinsic value, only then shall we understand.

Let us take an example. You know it is the custom here to marry very young, and it has become almost sacred. Now, must you not question that custom? You question this traditional habit if you really love your children. But public opinion is so strongly in favour of early marriage that you dare not go against it and so you never honestly inquire into this superstition.

Again, you have discarded certain ceremonies and have taken up new ones. Now why did you give up the old ceremonies? You gave them up because they did not satisfy you; and you have taken up new ceremonies because they are more promising, more enticing, they offer greater hope. You have never said, "I am going to find out the intrinsic value of ceremonies, whether they are Hindu, Christian, or of any other creed." To discover their intrinsic value, you must put aside the hopes, enticements, they offer, and critically examine the whole question. There cannot be this attitude of acceptance. You accept only when you desire to gain, when you are seeking comfort, shelter, security, and in that search for security, comfort, you make of doubt a fetter, an illusion to be banished and destroyed.

A person who would live truly, understand life completely, must know doubt. Don't say, "Will there ever be an end to doubt?" Doubt will exist as long as you suffer, as long as you have not found out true values. To understand true values, you must begin to doubt, to be critical of the traditions, the authority, in which your mind has been trained. But this does not mean that your attitude must be one of unintelligent opposition. To me, doubt is a precious ointment. It heals the wounds of the sufferer. It has a benign influence. Understanding comes only when you doubt, not for the purpose of further acquisition or substitution, but to understand. Where there is the desire for gain, there is no longer doubt. Where there is the desire for gain, there is the acceptance of authority - whether it be the authority of one, of five, or of a million. Such authority encourages acceptance and calls doubt a fetter. Because you are continually seeking comfort, security, you find exploiters who assure you that doubt is a fetter, a thing to be banished.

Question: You say that one cannot work for nationalism and at the same time for brotherhood. Do you mean to suggest that (1) we who are a subject nation and firmly believe in brotherhood should cease striving to become self-governing, or that (2) as long as we are attempting to rid ourselves of the foreign yoke we should cease to work for brotherhood?

Krishnamurti: Do not let us look at this question from the point of view of a subject nation or of an exploiting nation. When we call ourselves a subject nation, we are creating an exploiter. Let us not look at the question in this way for the moment. To me, the solution of an immediate problem is not the point, for if we fully understand the ultimate purpose toward which we are working, then in working for that purpose we solve the immediate problem without great difficulty.

Now please follow what I am going to say; it may be new to you, but don't reject it for that reason. I know that most of you are nationalists and that at the same time you are supposed to be for brotherhood. I know that you are trying to maintain the spirit of nationalism and the spirit of brotherhood at the same time. But please put this nationalistic attitude aside for the moment, and look at the question from another point of view.

The ultimate solution of the problem of employment and of starvation, is world or human unity. You say that there are millions of people starving and suffering in India, and that if you can get rid of the English, you will find ways and means to satisfy the starving people. But I say, don't tackle the problem from this point of view. Don't consider the immediate sufferings of India, but consider the whole question of the starving millions in the world. Millions of Chinese are dying from lack of food. Why don't you think of these? "No, no", you say, "my first duty is at home." That is also what the Chinese say, "My first duty is at home." It is what the English, the Germans, the Italians proclaim; it is what every nationalist maintains. But I say, don't look at the problem from this point of view - I won't call it either a narrow or a broad point of view. I say, consider the whole cause of starvation throughout the world, not why a particular people have not sufficient food.

What causes starvation? Lack of organized planning for the whole of mankind. Isn't that so? There is enough food. There are some excellent methods which can be used for the distribution of food and clothes, and for the employment of man. There is enough of all things. Then what prevents our making intelligent use of these things? Class distinctions, national distinctions, religious and sectarian distinctions - all these prevent intelligent co-operation. At heart each one of you is striving for gain; each is ruled by the possessive instinct. That is why you ruthlessly accumulate, you bequeath your possessions to your families, and this has become a bane to the world.

As long as this spirit exists, no intelligent system will work satisfactorily because there are not enough intelligent people to use it wisely. When you talk of nationalism you mean, "My country, my family, and myself first." Through nationalism you can never come to human unity, to world unity. The absurdity and cruelty of nationalism is beyond doubt, but the exploiters use nationalism to their own ends.

Those of you who talk of brotherhood are generally nationalistic at heart. What does brotherhood mean as an idea or a reality? How can you really have the feeling of brotherly love in your hearts when you hold a certain set of dogmatic beliefs, when you have religious distinctions? And that is what you are doing in your various societies, in your various groups. Are you acting in accord with the spirit of brotherhood when there are these distinctions? How can you know that spirit when you are class-minded? How can there be unity or brotherhood when you think only in terms of your family, of your nationality, of your God?

As long as you are trying to solve merely the immediate problem - here, the problem of starvation in India - you are faced with insurmountable difficulties. There is no process, no system, no revolution that can alter that condition at once. Getting rid of the English immediately, or substituting a brown bureaucracy for a white bureaucracy, will not feed the starving millions in India. Starvation will exist as long as there is exploitation. And you, individually, are involved in this exploitation, in your craving for power, which creates distinctions, in your desire for individual security, spiritual as well as physical. I say that as long as the spirit of exploitation exists, there will ever be starvation.

Or, what may happen is this: You may be ruthlessly driven to accept another set of ideas, to adopt a new social order, whether you like it or not. At present it is the custom - and it is recognized as legitimate - to exploit, to possess and to increase your possessions, to hold, to gather, to hoard up, to inherit. The more you have, the greater your power for exploitation. In recognition of your possessions, of your power, the government honours you, conferring titles and monopolies; you are called "Sir", you become a K.C.S.I., Rao Bahadur. This is what is happening in your material existence, and in your so-called spiritual life exactly the same condition exists. You are acquiring spiritual honours, spiritual titles; you enter into the spiritual distinctions of disciples, Masters, gurus. There is the same struggle for power, the same possessiveness, the same appalling cruelty of exploitation through religious systems and their exploiters, the priests. And this is thought to be spiritual, moral. You are slaves to this present existing system.

Now another system is springing up, called communistic. This system is inevitably making its appearance because those who possess are so inhuman, so ruthless in their exploitation, that those who feel the cruelty and the ugliness of it must find some way of resistance. So they are beginning to awake, to revolt, and they will sweep you into their system of thought because you are inhuman. (Laughter)

No, don't laugh. You don't realize the appalling cruelty brought about by your petty systems of possession. A new system is coming, and whether you like it or not, you will be dispossessed; you will be driven like sheep towards non-possession, as you are now being driven towards possession. In that system honour goes to those who are not possessive. You will be slaves to that new system as you are slaves to the old. One forces you to possess, the other not to possess. Perhaps the new system will benefit the multitudes, the masses of people; but if you are forced, individually, to accept it, then creative thought ceases. So I say, act voluntarily, with understanding. Be free from possessiveness as well as its opposite, non-possessiveness.

But you have lost all sense of true feeling. That is why you are struggling for nationalism - yet you are not concerned with the many implications of nationalism. When you are occupied with class distinctions, when you are fighting to keep what you have, you are really being exploited individually and collectively, and this exploitation will inevitably lead to war. Isn't that blatantly obvious in Europe now? Every nation continues the piling up of armaments, and yet talks of peace and attends disarmament conferences. (Laughter)

You are doing exactly the same thing in another way. You talk about brotherhood, and yet you hold to caste distinctions; religious prejudices divide you; social customs have become cruel barriers. By your beliefs, ideals, prejudices, the unity of man is ever being broken up. How can you talk of brotherhood when you do not feel it in your hearts, when your actions are opposed to the unity of man, when you are constantly pursuing your own self-expansion, your own self-glorification? If you were not pursuing your own selfish ends, do you mean to say that you would belong to organizations which promise you spiritual and temporal rewards? That is what your religions, your selective groups, your governments are doing, and you belong to them for your own self-expansion, your own self-glorification.

If you become intelligent about this whole question of national- ism, if you give it real thought and so act truly with regard to it, you can create a world unity which will be the only real solution for the immediate problem of starvation. But it is hard for you to think along these lines because you have been trained for years to think along the nationalistic groove. Your histories, your magazines, your newspapers all emphasize nationalism. You are trained by your political exploiters not to listen to anyone who calls nationalism a disease, anyone who says that it is not a means to world unity. But you must not separate the means from the end; the end is directly connected with the means; it is not distinct from it. The end is world unity, an organized plan for the whole, though this does not mean equalization of individuality. Yet a lifeless, mechanical equalization will come about if you do not act voluntarily, intelligently.

I wonder how many of you feel the urgency, the necessity of these things? The end is human unity, of which you talk so much; but you merely talk without willing and intelligent action; you don't feel, and your actions deny your words. The end is human unity, an organized planning for the whole of man, not the conditioning of man. The purpose is not to force man to think in any one particular direction, but to help him to be intelligent so that he shall live fully, creatively. But there must be organized planning for the well-being of man, and that can be brought about only when nationalism and class distinction, with their exploitation, no longer exist.

Sirs, how many of you feel the great necessity of such action? I am well aware of your attitude. "Millions are starving in India", you say. "Isn't it important to tackle that problem immediately?" But what are you doing even about that? You talk about doing something, but what you really do is to argue and debate as to how your plans shall be organized, what system shall be adopted, and who shall be its leader. That is in your hearts. You are not really concerned with the starving millions throughout the world. That is why you talk of nationalism. If you tackled the problem as a whole, if you really felt for the whole of mankind, you would then see the immense necessity for a complete human action, which can come about only when you cease to talk in terms of nationalities, of classes, of religions.

Question: Are you still inclined flatly to deny that you are the genuine product of Theosophical culture? Krishnamurti: What do you mean by Theosophical culture? You see how this question is connected with the previous one of nationalism. You ask, "Has not our society, our religion, our country brought you up?" And the next question follows, "Why are you ungrateful to us?"

Intelligence is not the product of any society, though I know that societies and groups like to exploit it. If I agreed that I am the"genuine product of Theosophical culture", whatever that may mean, you would say, "See what a marvellous man he is! We have produced him; so follow us and our ideas." (Laughter) I know I am putting this crudely, but that is how many of you think. Don't laugh. You laugh too easily, you laugh superficially, showing that you don't feel vitally. I want you to consider why you ask me this question, not whether I am or am not the result of Theosophical culture.

Culture is universal. True culture is infinite; it does not belong to any one society, to any one nation, to any one religion. A true artist is neither Hindu nor Christian, American nor English, for an artist who is conditioned by tradition or by nationalism is not a true artist. So let us not discuss whether I am the result of Theosophical culture or whether I am not. Let us consider why you ask this question. That is more important.

Because you are clinging to your particular beliefs, you say that your way is the only way, that it is better than all other ways. But I say that there is no way to truth. Only when you are free from this idea of paths which are but temperamental illusions, will you begin to think intelligently and creatively.

Now I am not attacking your society. You have been kind enough to invite me to speak here, and I am not abusing that kindness. Your society is like thousands of other societies throughout the world, each holding to its own beliefs, each thinking, "Ours is the best way; our belief is right, and other beliefs are wrong." In the old days, people whose beliefs differed from the accepted orthodoxy were burned or tortured. Today we have become what we call tolerant; that is, we have become intellectualized. That is what tolerance amounts to.

You ask me this question because you want to convince yourselves that your culture, your belief, is the best; you want to bring others to that belief, to that culture. Today Germany holds that it shall be a country only of Nordic peoples, that there shall be but one culture. You say exactly the same thing in a different way. You say, "Our beliefs will solve the problems of the world." And that is what the Buddhists and Muhammadans say; that is what the Roman Catholics and others say: "Our beliefs are the best; our institution is the most precious." Every sect and group believes in its own superiority, and from such beliefs spring schisms, quarrels and religious wars over things that do not matter a scrap.

For a man who is living fully, completely, for a man who is truly cultured, beliefs are unnecessary. He is creative. He is truly creative, and that creativeness is not the outcome of a reaction to a belief. The truly cultured man is intelligent. In him there is no separation between his thought and his emotion, and therefore his actions are complete, harmonious. True culture is not nationalistic nor is it of any group. When you understand this, there will be the true spirit of brotherhood; you will no longer think in terms of Roman Catholicism or Protestantism, in terms of Hinduism or Theosophy. But you are so conscious of your possessions and your struggle for further acquisition that you cause distinctions, and from this there arise the exploiter and the exploited.

Some of you, I know, have shut your minds against what I am saying and what I am going to say. It is obvious from your faces.

Comment from the audience: We doubt you, that is all.

Krishnamurti: It is perfectly right that you should doubt me. I am glad if you doubt. But you are not doubting. If you were really doubting, how could you ask me a question such as this, whether I am the result of Theosophical culture or not? Thought is not to be conditioned, shaped, yet I know that this is happening; but surely you cannot accept things as they are. You accept only when you are satisfied, contented. You do not accept when you are suffering. When you suffer you begin to question. So why should you not doubt? Have I not invited you from the beginning to examine, to challenge everything that I say, so that you will become intelligent, affectionate, human? Have you arrived at that intelligent understanding of life? I am asking you to question, to doubt, not only what I am saying, but also the past values and those in which you are now caught up.

Doubt brings about lasting understanding; doubt is not an end in itself. What is true is revealed only through doubt, through questioning the many illusions, traditional values, ideals. Are you doing that? If you know you are sincerely doing this, then you will also know the enduring significance of doubt. Are the mind and heart freeing themselves from possessiveness? If you are truly awakened to the wisdom of doubt, the instinct of acquisitiveness should be completely destroyed, for that instinct is the cause of much misery. In that there is no love, but only chaos, conflict, sorrow. If you truly doubt, you will perceive the falsity of the instinct of possession.

If you are critical, questioning, why do you cling to ceremonies? Now do not compare one ceremony with another in order to decide which is the better, but find out if ceremonies are worthwhile at all. If you say, "The ceremonies which I perform are very satisfying to me", then I have nothing more to say. Your statement merely shows that you do not know of doubt. You are only concerned with being satisfied. Ceremonies keep people apart, and each believer in them says, "Mine are the best. They have more spiritual power than others." This is what the members of every religion, of every religious sect or society maintain, and over these artificial distinctions there have been quarrels for generations. These ceremonies and such other thoughtless barriers have separated man from man.

May I say something else? If you doubt, that is, if you desire greatly to find out, you must let go of those things which you hold so dearly. There cannot be true understanding by keeping what you have. You cannot say, "I shall hold on to this prejudice, to this belief, to this ceremony, and at the same time I shall examine what you say." How can you? Such an attitude is not one of doubt; it is not one of intelligent criticism. It shows that you are merely looking for a substitute.

I am trying to help you to understand truly the completeness of life. I am not asking you to follow me. If you are satisfied with your life as it is, then continue it. But if you are not, then try what I am saying. Don't accept, but begin to be intelligently critical. To live completely you must be free from the perversions, the illusions in which you are held. To find out the lasting significance of ceremony, you must examine it critically, objectively, and to do this you must not be enticed into it, entangled in it. Surely this is obvious. Examine both the performance and the non-performance of ceremonies. Doubt, question, ponder over this profoundly. When you begin to relinquish the past, you will create conflict in yourself, and out of that conflict there must come action born of understanding. Now you are afraid to let go, because that act of relinquishment will bring turmoil; out of that act might come the decision that ceremonies are of no avail, which would go against your family, your friends, and your past assertions. There is fear behind all this, so you merely doubt intellectually. You are like the man who holds to all his possessions, to his ideas, his beliefs, his family, and yet talks about non-possession. His thought has nothing to do with his action. His life is hypocritical.

Please don't think that I am talking harshly; I am not. But neither am I going to be sentimental or emotional in order to rouse you to action. In fact, I am not interested in rousing you to action; you will rouse yourself to action when you understand. I am interested in showing you what is happening in the world. I want to awaken you to the cruelty, to the appalling oppression, exploitation, that is about you. Religion, politics, society are exploiting you, and you are being conditioned by them; you are being forced in a particular direction. You are not human beings; you are mere cogs in a machine. You suffer patiently, submitting to the cruelties of environment, when you, individually, have the possibilities of changing them.

Sirs, it is time to act. But action cannot take place through mere reasoning and discussions. Action takes place only when you feel intensely. True action takes place only when your thoughts and your feelings are harmoniously linked together. But you have divorced your feelings from your thoughts, because from their harmony, action must create conflict which you are unwilling to face. But I say, free yourself from the false values of society, of traditions; live completely, individually. By this I do not mean individualistically. When I talk about individuality, I mean by that the understanding of true values liberating you from the social, religious machine which is destroying you. To be truly individual, action must be born of creative intelligence, without fear, not caught up in illusion.

You can do this. You can live completely - not only you, but the people about you - when you become creatively intelligent. But now you are out to gain, ever seeking for power. You are driven by enticements, by beliefs, by substitutes. In this there is no happiness, in this there is no creative intelligence, in this there is no truth.

1933, The Art of Listening

2nd Public Talk. Adyar, India; 30th December, 1933

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

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