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The Observer is the Observed

Madras, India. Group Discussion 25th November, 1947

Before we proceed with our discussion about continuity and death, I think we ought to consider for a few minutes the art of listening. In order to understand, you should listen without any apprehension, without any fear of loss or fear of pain. Because you are suffocated with so many erroneous ideas and beliefs, there is no immediate communication with one another. Communication is possible not when there is fear but only when there is love.

We ought to consider very deeply the attitude of teaching and learning. Is there such a thing as teaching and learning? Do you learn anything? You may learn a technique, how to play the piano, or construct a motor, or how to drive. Our whole attitude towards life is the question of something we are going to learn, or something we are teaching. Communion with each other stops when there is this attitude of learning or teaching. There is beauty in real communion, which can only come with love. When there is, on the part of one, the attitude of learning, and, on the part of the other, the attitude of teaching, communion really ceases; and without communion, without partaking, without sharing, and without being together in good company, clear thinking is almost impossible.

During these few weeks of discussion have you learned anything? If you caught a few phrases or a few sentences from me, that is not learning. I was not teaching, but we were travelling together in deep communion, and therefore there was an understanding simultaneously, at the same time and at the same place.

A man who is merely teaching is not living any more than a man who is merely listening. If we can alter fundamentally that attitude of learning and teaching, we can enter into communion with each other. It is a mistake to go to somebody to learn. If you are enthusiastic and eager, then you will be able to share the wisdom, the song, or the truth with another. When a child is learning music, the teacher instructs him how to put his fingers and so on. But if he is really interested, he would be pestering the teacher with so many questions about music; then the relationship between the teacher and the pupil is immediately changed.

We are used to being told or being directed; as such, I become the teacher, and you become the learner, which is really absurd. After all we all human beings, not divided into the teacher and the pupil and all the other absurdities.

We are here to find out what is reality, what is love, and not for me to tell you, and for you to follow. Now, if we can establish proper relationship, there would be a real affection and therefore a quick response.

In discussing continuity, we have found out that we seek continuity through name, property, etc. and that genetic continuance and physiological continuance have become extraordinarily important, as long as psychological continuance is maintained. This psychological continuance is doing great havoc in this world, as can be seen from history and from what is happening nowadays.

Certain political systems have limited physical continuity. for instance, the father can no longer leave as before property for his son to inherit. But there is the emotional continuity, the ideological continuity which ultimately beings about agony and misery.

Continuity is memory. All our life is a challenge and a response. There is the response to a condition and that condition is modified or altered according to circumstances, but it is always conditioned; and any experience which comes along is met through a screen of conditioned response. The conditioned response is memory. We experience and we translate our experience according to our belief. Therefore, that experience is not fully completed. It is always broken down to constitute a particular condition and therefore, there is never a complete action.

So, we, from day to day, carry yesterday to today and today to tomorrow and there is always the conditional burden of memory, not factual memory but psychological memory. The older we are, the heavier it becomes. This continuity is really decay, and the older we are the more we are decayed, the more mentally sterile we are. I do not know if you have noticed that an experience that is followed through completely, leaves no residue.

Accumulated memory is static. It has no life unless we inject new life into it, ie, by our recalling the memory, we revive it. By this static memory which is dead we translate life which is a living thing.

We believe in God, not knowing what God is. We cannot have an idea of something which we do not know. We know Him by reading books written by somebody else. Reality can never be described. A man who loves, may tell us what love is; but can we know love in that way? We can imagine about it. In the very telling of what God or Love is, we have put that into a small vessel, in our own vessels; and it is not Truth. The very description of Reality by a person who has experienced Reality, is a denial of truth. If we put Reality into words, it ceases to be the Real. We think about God as a form of security, as a form of gratification or comfort. In other words, we are not really seeking God, but comfort through God. We seek happiness through things, property, relationship, etc. and, therefore, they become important. We do not know God and if we say that we are living in God, it is a form of traditional assertion.

Viewing it realistically, we can see that we love our family because it gives us joy; we love that which gives us pleasure, that which brings us a reward. As long as we are mutually agreeable, we love each other. It means that if we eliminate this pleasure or pain, there is nothing left, and so there is no love. We only know pleasure and pain and we do not know what love is. Therefore, to understand what love is, we must be free from pleasure and pain.

We do not know what God is, what Death is, and what Love is. These are the three amazing principles in life, of which we do not know, though we talk about them. So, the wise man says that he would not talk of them any more.

How can we find out what Love is? There are certain extraordinary moments in our life when we do love, i.e. when there is no pleasure or pain, when there is no relationship in love. These are very rare and extraordinarily beautiful moments.

Anything built on memory has no value; and as most of our relationship is built on memory, it has no significance. Therefore, how can our minds which are caught in the net of pain and pleasure be freed? Any action, inside the net, to get out of it, is still based on pleasure and pain. We have woven a net and brought everything into it. What is our response to this fact? We are looking at it through a screen and therefore we are not directly faced with it. The moment we face and recognise the fact without a screen, there is Truth. Since we are unwilling to face the fact we are hypocrites. So to get out of the net, we have, first of all, to be aware of the fact that we are hypocrites. The implications of this are tremendous. Love and hypocrisy can never go together. The very recognition of the fact that we are hypocrites or exploiters will bring about an instantaneous change in our actions.

The Observer is the Observed

Madras, India. Group Discussion 25th November, 1947

Jiddu Krishnamurti texts. The Observer Is the Observed. Contains reports of spontaneous discourses about life and reality, given at different times between 1945 and 1948.

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