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1933, The Art of Listening

5th Public Talk. Adyar, India; 2nd January, 1934

This morning I want to explain something that requires very delicate thinking; and I hope you will listen, or rather, try to understand what I am going to say, not with opposition but with intelligent criticism. I am going to talk on a subject which, if understood, if thoroughly gone into, will give you an entirely new outlook on life. Also I would beg you not to think in terms of opposites. When I say that certainty is a barrier, don't think that you must therefore be uncertain; when I speak of the futility of assurance, please do not think that you must seek insecurity.

When you really consider, you will perceive that mind is constantly seeking certainties, assurances; it is seeking the certainty of a goal, of a conclusion, of a purpose in life. You inquire, "Is there a divine plan, is there predetermination, is there not free will? Cannot we, realizing that plan, trying to understand it, guide ourselves by that plan?" In other words, you want assurance, certainty, so that mind and heart can shape themselves after it, can conform to it. And when you inquire for the path to truth, you are really seeking assurance, certainty, security.

When you speak of a path to truth, it implies that truth, this living reality, is not in the present, but somewhere in the distance, somewhere in the future. Now to me, truth is fulfillment, and to fulfillment there can be no path. So it seems, to me at least, that the first illusion in which you are caught is this desire for assurance, this desire for certainty, this inquiry after a path, a way, a mode of living whereby you can attain the desired goal, which is truth. Your conviction that truth exists only in the distant future implies imitation. When you inquire what truth is, you are really asking to be told the path which leads to truth. Then you want to know which system to follow, which mode, which discipline, to help you on the way to truth.

But to me there is no path to truth; truth is not to be understood through any system, through any path. A path implies a goal, a static end, and therefore a conditioning of the mind and the heart by that end, which necessarily demands discipline, control, acquisitiveness. This discipline, this control, becomes a burden; it robs you of freedom and conditions your action in daily life. Inquiry after truth implies a goal, a static end, which you are seeking. And that you are seeking a goal shows that your mind is searching for assurance, certainty. To attain this certainty, mind desires a path, a system, a method which it can follow, and this assurance you think to find by conditioning mind and heart through self-discipline, self-control, suppression.

But truth is a reality that cannot be understood by following any path. Truth is not a conditioning, a shaping of the mind and heart, but a constant fulfillment, a fulfillment in action. That you inquire after truth implies that you believe in a path to truth, and this is the first illusion in which you are caught. In that there is imitativeness, distortion. Now please don't say, "Without an end, a purpose, life becomes chaotic." I want to explain to you the falseness of this conception. I say that everyone must find out for himself what truth is, but this does not mean that each one must lay down a path for himself, that each one must travel an individual path. It does not mean that at all, but it does mean that each one must understand truth for himself. I hope that you see the distinction between the two. When you have to understand, to discover, to experiment with life, a path becomes a hindrance. But if you must hew out a path for yourself, then there is an individual point of view, a narrow, limited point of view. Truth is the movement of eternal becoming, so it is not an end, it is not static. Hence the search for a path is born of ignorance, of illusion. But when mind is pliable, freed from beliefs and memories, freed from the conditioning of society, then in that action, in that pliability, there is the infinite movement of life.

A true scientist, as I said the other day, is one who is continually experimenting, without a result in view. He does not seek results, which are merely the by-products of his search. So when you are seeking, experimenting, your action becomes merely a by-product of this movement. A scientist who seeks a result is not a true scientist. He is not truly seeking. But if he is searching without the idea of gain, then, though he may have results in his search, these results are of secondary importance to him. Now you are concerned with results, and therefore your search is not living, dynamic. You are seeking an end, a result, and therefore your action becomes increasingly limited. Only when you search without desire for success, achievement, does your life become continuously free, rich. This does not mean that in your search there will be no action, no result; it means that action, results, will not be your first consideration.

As a river waters the trees that grow on its banks, so this movement of search nourishes our actions. Co-operative action, action bound together, is society. You want to create a perfect society. But there can be no such perfect society, because perfection is not an end, a culmination. Perfection is fulfillment, constantly in movement. Society cannot live up to an ideal; nor can man, for society is man. If society tries to fashion itself according to an ideal, if man tries to live according to an ideal, neither is truly fulfilling; both are in decay. But if man is in this movement of fulfillment, then his action will be harmonious, complete; his action will not be mere imitation of an ideal.

So to me, civilization is not an achievement but a constant movement. Civilizations reach a certain height, exist for a time, and then decline, because in them there is no fulfillment for man, but only the constant imitation of a pattern. There is completeness, fulfillment, only when mind and heart are in this constant movement of fulfillment, of search. Now don't say, "Will there never be an end to search?" You are no longer searching for a conclusion, a certainty; therefore living is not a series of culminations, but a continual movement, fulfillment. If society is merely approximating to an ideal, society will soon decay. If civilization is merely an achievement of individuals collected as a group, it is already in the process of decay. But if society, if civilization, is the outcome of this constant movement in fulfillment, then it will endure, it will be the completeness of man.

To me, perfection is not the achievement of a goal, of an ideal, of an absolute, through this idea of progress. Perfection is the fulfillment of thought, of emotion, and therefore of action - fulfillment which can exist at any time. Therefore perfection is free of time; it is not the result of time.

Well, sirs, there are many questions, and I shall try to answer them as concisely as possible.

Question: If a war breaks out tomorrow and the conscription law comes into force at once to compel you to take up arms, will you join the army and shout, "To arms, to arms!" as the Theosophical leaders did in 1914, or will you defy war? Krishnamurti: Don't let us concern ourselves with what the Theosophical leaders did in 1914. Where there is nationalism there must be war. Where there are several sovereign governments there must be war. It is inevitable. Personally I would not affiliate myself with war activities of any kind because I am not a nationalist, class-minded or possessive. I would not join the army nor give help in any way. I would not join any organization that exists merely for the purpose of healing the wounded and sending them back to the field to get wounded again. But I would come to an understanding about these matters before war threatened.

Now, for the moment at least, there is no actual war. When war comes, inflaming propaganda is made, lies are told against the supposed enemy; patriotism and hatred are stirred up, people lose their heads in their supposed devotion to their country. "God is on our side", they shout, "and evil with the enemy." And throughout the centuries they have shouted these same words. Both sides fight in the name of God; on both sides priests bless - marvellous idea - the armaments. Now they will even bless the bombing planes, so eaten up are they with that disease which creates war: nationalism, their own class or individual security. So while we are at peace - though"peace" is an odd word to describe the mere cessation of armed hostilities - while we are, at all events, not actually killing each other on the field of battle, we can understand what are the causes of war, and disentangle ourselves from those causes. And if you are clear in your understanding, in your freedom, with all that that freedom implies - that you may be shot for refusing to comply with war mania - then you will act truly when the moment comes, whatever your action may be.

So the question is not what you will do when war comes, but what you are doing now to prevent war. You who are always shouting at me for my negative attitude, what are you doing now to wipe out the very cause of war itself? I am talking about the real cause of all wars, not only of the immediate war that inevitably threatens while each nation is piling up armaments. As long as the spirit of nationalism exists, the spirit of class distinction, of particularity and possessiveness, there must be war. You cannot prevent it. If you are really facing the problem of war, as you should be now, you will have to take a definite action, a definite, positive action; and by your action you will help to awaken intelligence, which is the only preventive of war. But to do that, you must free yourself of this disease of "my God, my country, my family, my house."

Question: What is the cause of fear, particularly of the fear of death? Is it possible ever to be completely rid of that fear? Why does fear universally exist, even though common sense speaks against it, considering that death is inevitable and is a perfectly natural occurrence?

Krishnamurti: To him who is constantly fulfilling there is no fear of death. If we are really complete each moment, each day, then we know no fear of tomorrow. But our minds create incompleteness of action, and so the fear of tomorrow. We have been trained by religion, by society, to incompleteness, to postponement, and this serves us as an escape from fear, because we have tomorrow to complete that which we cannot fulfil today.

But just a moment, please. I wish you would look at this problem neither from the background of your traditions, modern or ancient, nor through your commitment to reincarnation, but very simply. Then you will understand truth, which will free you wholly from fear. To me the idea of reincarnation is mere postponement. Even though you may believe profoundly in reincarnation, you still have fear and sorrow when someone dies, or fear of your own death. You may say, "I shall live on the other side; I shall be much happier, and shall do better work there than I can do here." But your words are merely words. They cannot quiet the gnawing fear that is always in your heart. So let us tackle this problem of fear rather than the question of reincarnation. When you have understood what fear is, you will see the unimportance of reincarnation; then we shall not even need to discuss it. Don't ask me what happens after death to the man who is crippled, to the man who is blind in this life. If you understand the central point, you will then consider such questions intelligently.

You are afraid of death because your days are incomplete, because there is never fulfillment in your actions. Isn't that so? When your mind is caught up in a belief, belief in the past or in the future, you cannot understand experience fully. When your mind is prejudiced, there can be no complete understanding of experience in action. Hence you say that you must have tomorrow in which to complete that action, and you are afraid that tomorrow will not come. But if you can complete your action in the present, then infinity is before you. What prevents you from living completely? Please don't ask me how to complete action, which is the negative way of looking at life. If I tell you how, then you will merely make your action imitative, and in that there is no completeness. What you will have to do is to discover what prevents you from living completely, infinitely; and that, you will find, is this illusion of an end, of a certainty, in which your mind is caught, this illusion of attaining a goal. If you are constantly looking to the future in which to achieve, to gain, to succeed, to conquer, your action in the present must be limited, must be incomplete. When you are acting according to your beliefs or principles, naturally your action must be limited, incomplete. When your action is based on faith, that action is not fulfillment; it is merely the result of faith.

So there are many hindrances in our minds; there is the instinct of possessiveness, cultivated by society, and the instinct of non-possessiveness, also cultivated by society. When there is conformity and imitation, when mind is bound by authority, there can be no fulfillment, and from this there arises fear of death, and the many other fears that lie hidden in the subconscious. Have I made my answer clear? We shall deal with this problem again, in a different way.

Question: How does memory arise, and what are the different kinds of memory? You have said, "In the present is contained the whole of eternity." Please go more fully into this statement. Does it mean that the past and the future have no subjective reality to the man who lives wholly in the present? Can past errors, or, as one might call them, gaps in understanding, be adjusted or remedied in the ever continuous present in which the idea of a future can have no place?

Krishnamurti: If you have followed the previous answer you will understand the cause of memory; you will see how memory arises. If you don't understand an incident, if you don't live completely in an experience, then the memory of that incident, experience, lingers in your mind. When you have an experience that you cannot fully fathom, the significance of which you cannot see, then your mind returns to that experience. Thus memory is created. It is born, in other words, from incompleteness in action. And since you have many layers of memories arising from incomplete actions, there comes into being that self-consciousness which you call the ego, and which is nothing but a series of memories, an illusion without reality, without substance either here or in the highest plane.

There are various kinds of memory. For instance, there is the memory of the past, as when you recollect a beautiful scene. But are you interested in this? I see so many people looking all around. If you are not really interested in following this, we shall discuss nationalism and golf or tennis. (Laughter)

Now there is the memory which is associated with the pleasure of yesterday. That is, you have enjoyed a beautiful scene; you have admired the sunset or the moonlight on the waters. Then later, say when you are in your office, your mind returns to that scene. Why? Because when you are in an unpleasant and ugly environment, when your mind and heart are caught up in what is not pleasant, your mind tends automatically to return to the pleasant experience of yesterday. This is one type of memory. Instead of changing conditions around you, instead of altering the environment about you, you retrace the steps of a pleasant experience and dwell on that memory, supporting and tolerating the unpleasant because you feel that you cannot alter it. Therefore the past lingers in the present. Have I made that clear?

Then there is the memory, pleasant or unpleasant, which precipitates itself into the mind even though you do not want it. Uninvited past incidents come into your mind because you are not vitally interested in the present, because you are not fully alive to the present.

Another kind of memory is that concerned with beliefs, principles ideals. All ideals and principles are really dead, things of the past. The memory of ideals persists when you cannot meet or understand the full movement of life. You want a measure to gauge that movement, a standard by which to judge experience; and acting in the measure of that standard you call living up to an ideal. Because you cannot understand the beauty of life, because you cannot live in its fullness, its glory, you want an ideal, a principle, an imitative pattern, to give significance to your living.

Again, there is the memory of self-discipline, which is will. Will is nothing else but memory. After all, you begin to discipline yourself through the pattern of memory. "I did this yesterday", you say, "and I have made up my mind not to do it today." So action, thought, emotion, in the vast majority of cases, is entirely the result of the past; it is based on memory. Therefore such action is never fulfillment. It always leaves a scar of memory, and the accumulation of many such scars becomes self-consciousness, the "I", which is always preventing you from understanding completely. It is a vicious circle, this consciousness of the "I".

So we have innumerable memories, memories of discipline and will, of ideals and beliefs, of pleasant attractions and unpleasant disturbances. Please follow what I am saying. Don't be disturbed by others. If this does not interest you, if your mind is constantly wandering, you may as well leave. I can go on, but what I say will mean nothing to you if you are not listening.

We are constantly acting through this veil of memories, and therefore our action is always incomplete. Hence we take comfort in the idea of progress; we think of a series of lives tending towards perfection. Thus we have never a day, never a moment, of rich, full completeness, because these memories are always impeding, curtailing, limiting, trammelling our action.

To return to the question:Does it mean that the past and the future have no subjective reality to the man who lives wholly in the present?" Don't ask me that question. If you are interested, if you want to eradicate fear, if you really want to live richly, worship the day in which the mind is free of the past and of the future, then you will know how to live completely.

"Can past errors, or, as one might call them, gaps in understanding, be adjusted or remedied in the ever continuous present in which the idea of a future can have no place?" Do you understand the question? As I have not previously read this question, I must think as I go along. You can remedy past gaps in understanding only in the present, at least, that is my view. Introspection, the process of analysis of the past, does not yield understanding, because you cannot have understanding from a dead thing. You can have understanding only in the ever active, living present. This question opens up a wide field, but I don't want to go into that now. It is only in the moment of the present, in the moment of crisis, in the moment of tremendous, acute questioning born of full action, that past gaps in understanding can be remedied, destroyed; this cannot be done by looking into the past, examining your past actions. Let me take an example which will, I hope, make the matter clear to you. Suppose that you are class-minded and are unconscious of this. But the training in that class consciousness, the memory of it, still remains with you, is still a part of you. Now to free the mind from that memory or training, don't turn back to the past and say, "I am going to examine my action to see if that action is bound by class consciousness." Don't do this, but rather, in your feelings, actions, be fully aware, and then this class-conscious memory will precipitate itself in your mind; in that moment of awakened intelligence, mind begins to free itself of this bondage.

Again, if you are cruel - and most people are unconscious of their cruelty - don't examine your actions to find out whether you are cruel or not. In that way you will never find out, you will never understand; for then the mind is constantly looking to cruelty and not to action, and is therefore destroying action. But if you are fully aware in your action, if your mind and heart are wholly alive in action, in the moment of action you will see that you are cruel. Thus you will find out the actual cause, the very root of cruelty, not the mere incidents of cruelty. But you can do this only in the fullness of action, when you are fully aware in action. Gaps in understanding cannot be bridged over through introspection, through examination, or through analysis of a past incident. This can be done only in the moment of action itself, which must ever be timeless.

I don't know how many of you have understood this. The problem is really very simple, and I shall try to explain it more simply. I am not using philosophical or technical terms, because I don't know any. I am speaking in everyday language.

Mind is accustomed to analyze the past, to dissect action in order to understand action. But I say you cannot understand in this way, for such analysis always limits action. Concrete examples of such limitation of action can be seen here in India and elsewhere, cases where action has almost ceased. Don't try to analyze your action. Rather, if you want to find out whether you are class-conscious, whether you are self-righteous, whether you are nationalistic, bigoted, authority-bound, imitative - if you are really interested in discovering these hindrances, then become fully aware, become conscious of what you are doing. Don't be merely observant, don't merely look at your action objectively, from the outside, but become fully aware, both mentally and emotionally, aware with your whole being in the moment of action. Then you will see that the many impeding memories will precipitate themselves in your mind and prevent you from acting fully, completely. In that awareness, in that flame, the mind will be able without effort to free itself from these past hindrances. Don't ask me, "How?" Simply try. Your minds are always asking for a method, asking how to do this or that. But there is no"how". Experiment, and you will discover.

Question: Since temple entry for Harijans helps to break down one of the many forms of division between man and man which exist in India, do you support this movement which is being zealously advocated in this country just now?

Krishnamurti: Now please understand that I am not attacking any personality. Don't ask, "Are you attacking Gandhiji?" and so on. I do not think that the problem of class distinction in India or elsewhere is going to be solved by allowing Harijans to enter temples. Class distinction ceases only when there are no more temples, no more churches, when there are no more mosques and no more synagogues; for truth, God, is not in a stone, in a carved image; it is not contained within four walls. That reality is not in any of these temples, nor does it lie in any of the ceremonies performed in them. So why bother about who enters and who does not enter these temples?

Most of you smile and agree, but you don't feel these things. You don't feel that reality is everywhere, in yourselves, in all things. To you, reality is personified, limited, confined in a temple. To you, reality is a symbol, whether it be Christian or Buddhist, whether it is associated with an image or with no image. But reality is not a symbol. Reality has no symbol. It is. You cannot carve it into an image, limit it by a stone or by a ceremony or by a belief. When these things no longer exist, the quarrels between man and man will cease, as when nationalism - which has been cultivated through centuries for purposes of exploitation - no longer exists, there will be no more wars. Temples, with all their superstitions, with their exploiters the priests, have been created by you. Priests cannot exist by themselves. Priestcraft may exist as a means of livelihood, but that will soon disappear when economic conditions change, and the priests will alter their calling. The cause, the root of all these things, of temples, nationalism, exploitation, possessiveness, lies in your desire for se- curity, comfort. Out of your own acquisitiveness, you create innumerable exploiters, whether they are capitalists, priests, teachers, or gurus, and you become the exploited. As long as this acquisitiveness, this self-security exists, there will be wars, there will be caste distinctions.

You cannot get rid of poison by merely discussing, by talking, by organizing. When you as individuals awaken to the absurdity, the falseness, the hideousness of all these things, when you really feel within you the gross cruelty of all this, only then will you create organizations of which you will not become slaves. But if you don't awaken, organizations will come into being that will make of you their slaves. That is what is happening now throughout the world. For God's sake, awaken to these things, at least those of you who think! Don't invent new ceremonies, create new temples, new secret orders. They are merely other forms of exclusiveness. There cannot be understanding, wisdom, as long as this spirit of exclusiveness exists, as long as you are looking for gain, for security. Wisdom is not in proportion to progress. Wisdom is spontaneous, natural; it cannot result from progress; it exists in fulfillment.

So even though all of you, Brahmins and non-Brahmins, are allowed to enter temples, that will not dissolve class distinctions. For you will go at a later hour than the Harijans; you will wash yourselves more carefully or less carefully. That poison of exclusiveness, that canker in your hearts, has not been rooted out, and nobody is going to root it out for you. Communism and revolution may come and sweep away all the temples in this country, but that poison will continue to exist, only in a different form. Isn't that so? Don't nod your heads in agreement, because the next moment you will be doing the very thing against which I am talking. I am not judging you.

There is only one way to tackle all these problems, and that is fundamentally, not superficially, symptomatically. If you approach them fundamentally, there must be tremendous revolution; father will stand against son, brother against brother. It will be a time of the sword, of warfare, not of peace, because there is so much corruption and decay. But you all want peace, you want tranquillity at any price, with all this cankerous poison in your hearts and minds. I tell you that when a man seeks truth he is against all these cruelties, barriers, exploitations; he does not offer you comfort; he does not bring you peace. On the contrary, he turns to the sword because he sees the many false institutions, the corrupt conditions that exist. That is why I say that if you are seeking truth you must stand alone - it may be against society, against civilization. But unfortunately very few people are truly seeking. I am not judging you. I am saying that your own actions should reveal to you that you are building up rather than destroying those walls of class distinction; that you are safeguarding rather than demolishing them, cherishing rather than tearing them down, because you are continually seeking self-glorification, security, comfort, in one form or another.

Question: Can one not attain liberation and truth, this changing, eternal movement of life, even though one belongs to a hundred societies? Can one not have inward freedom, leaving the links outwardly unbroken?

Krishnamurti: Realization of truth has nothing to do with any society. Therefore you may belong or you may not. But if you are using societies, social or religious bodies, as a means to understand truth, you will have ashes in your mouth.

Can one not have inward freedom, leaving the links outwardly unbroken?" Yes, but along that way lie deceit, self-deception, cunning and hypocrisy, unless one is supremely intelligent and constantly aware. You can say, "I perform all these ceremonies, I belong to various societies, because I don't want to break my connection with them. I follow gurus, which I know is absurd, but I want to have peace with my family, live harmoniously with my neighbour and not bring discord to an already confused world." But we have lived in such deceptions so long, our minds have become so cunning, so subtly hypocritical, that now we cannot discover or understand truth unless we break these ties: We have so dulled our minds and hearts that, unless we break the bonds that bind us and thereby create a conflict, we cannot find out if we are truly free or not. But a man of true understanding - and there are very few - will find out for himself. Then there will be no links that he desires either to retain or to break. Society will despise him, his friends will leave him, his relations will have nothing to do with him; all the negative elements will break themselves away from him, he will not have to break away from them. But that course means wise perception; it means fulfillment in action, not postponement. And man will postpone as long as mind and heart are caught up in fear.

1933, The Art of Listening

5th Public Talk. Adyar, India; 2nd January, 1934

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

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