The Observer is the Observed
Madras, India. Group Discussion 16th December, 1947
I wonder how far you have been experimenting with what we have been discussing, namely, the problem of conflict and effort which brings about duality, the opposite, and the problem of terming a feeling. I wonder what has been the result of it and whether it has any fundamental effect on your daily activities. Do you translate into action anything that you hear or do you just let it pass by?
Today, let us try and find out the meaning or the significance of 'not terming a feeling' in relationship, whether with your family, your boss, or your clerk - in your daily life.
Can you live in relationship with another without naming a feeling? Let us suppose that you are really serious in experimenting with this in your relationship, for instance, with your wife. What will this lead to? You are irritated with your wife when she says something which you do not like. You retaliate. A few minutes later, you say to yourself, "Well, what about the discussions I had in regard to 'not naming a feeling'? I will not name the feeling in future." Similar occasions arise again. Then, if you experiment with this earnestly, you will find that the time-interval between the instinctive responses and your thoughtful responses gradually gets less and less, and that, in the end, you do not instinctively respond, but you watch yourself and do not name the feeling that arises in you, with the result that you do not get cross with your wife. You are now calm and quiet whatever your wife may say or do. Your wife will probably get more and more irritated with you on this account; she is not thinking along the same lines as yourself. At this stage you may turn away from sensate values, but your wife may be caught only in sensate values. She feels miserable; she feels thwarted because she does not get the things she wants. She has children; yet she does find love in them and therefore seeks an expression of love in things - car, house and other things of life. You try to talk over matters with her but she refuses to listen to you and becomes firm in her stand for things. What do you do?
A friend advises you to effect a compromise with her by handing over your cheque-book to her. You try this method. She does not want your cheque-book because what she wants is your heart which you are not giving her. You find that compromise is only an intellectual and verbal balance between two people who do not understand each other but who are tied by social conventions, and that, therefore, compromise is slow death.
You get exasperated and begin to talk over the matter with her seriously. She retorts and says to you "I want a car, a house, and a few things of life, because I know you are slipping from me. You have not given me your love. You are now slipping away from me into a realm which I cannot possibly understand and enter. I would like to follow you but I cannot. I have a child to look after. I have no love, if I had love, it would have filled my heart. I have not got that love at all and the love of the child is very little; the child does not know of love and it only clings to me. I have not the love which replenishes and fulfils my life. So, the child, the house and the car have become enormously important to me. I am quite different physically from you because I bear children. I am therefore more conservative and I want security. Emotionally, I am not so concentrated as you are. We have not loved each other and so the child has become all important. When I grow old and the children go away, what shall I be left with? An aching memory, a drudgery kitchen, an ailing husband who does not know what it means to love; and a frustrated life. I am even now feeling frustrated. That is why I am irritable, nervous and anxious. You are going one way and I another way. Where do we meet? We have never met except in bed; now, there is not even that. You sought pleasure with me to further your name, and I became your cook and bearer of children. You are now trying to educate me, which you never did before. You are now more and more alert. So, I have become anxious. You now talk of love and all the rest of it but you have no love for me. You do not understand me at all."
Now, you realise the need for your wife and yourself to understand each other. When you sincerely begin to understand her, you will have consideration and affection for her. You will try to find out all about her, her physical condition and her nervous responses. In understanding her, you will understand her desire for things. With mutual understanding there will be love; and the problem will then cease. Thus you will find that, if you do not term the feelings, the implications are extraordinarily significant in relation to your wife or in relation to society, whether Communist, Capitalist, or something else.
What is your relationship to property or things, if you do not name or give a term to a feeling, whether pleasant or unpleasant? You all own property. You all have titles, B.A., M.A., Judge, Doctor, etc. What will happen to your feeling of ownership -'my' property, 'my' wife, 'my' son, 'my' title - if you adopt this suggestion of 'not naming the feeling' and relate it to daily actions in which there is the feeling of ownership of possession?
If you are not naming a quality or terming a feeling, then the feeling dies away. Similarly, if that quality which we call acquisitiveness is not termed, the acquisitiveness withers away. When you do not name the feeling, then life becomes very simple.
Naming a feeling is giving it continuity whether it is pleasurable or painful. How do you relate it to your property? If you change your name into "Swami something," it means only that name is more important. But, what happens when I drop my name, not literally, but when the content behind the name has completely gone out of it? I am not lost if somebody calls me by another name, but you are; because round the name there is a feeling - the ancestral, Brahmanic, etc., the feeling of property which you are going to leave your son - which is the very thing which you deny verbally, theoretically, when you want not to name a feeling. But you are attached to your name because of the content behind the name or title.
To name a feeling, whether it is pleasurable or painful, is to give it continuity, to give birth to itself repeatedly. If you are serious in the search after Truth, you are bound to drop the naming with regard to property which is bank-account, cheque-book, the stored up money, etc.
Generally you are concerned only with words and not with feelings. If I flatter you, you are pleased and if I insult you, you get annoyed. Should not a wise man be indifferent to flattery and insult?
If I am not a scoundrel and somebody calls me a scoundrel I want to find out, I want to discover whether he is correct. If I am a scoundrel and somebody calls me as such, and if I do not want to be discovered as one, I get annoyed. In other words, this irritation is a process of self-protectiveness. The proper attitude is for me to know in what way you think me a scoundrel.
Similarly, the use of titles is a form of exploitation. Mrs. Smith, if she calls herself Lady Smith, gets better treatment. She finds others snobbish and she wants to exploit their snobbishness by using titles.
How are you to deal with property? Can you give up your property by saying that you are not going to name you property? You say that you will use your property only for your needs and that you will discourage acquisitiveness.
It is a wrong question to ask where to draw the line between needs and acquisitiveness, because you will have always needs. Acquisitiveness creates needs. You can find this out for yourself when you go to a shop.
Then there is the use of property as a means of self-expansion, and the use of an organisation as a means of self-fulfilment. You belong to a certain society, a certain group because that group of people have property, shelter or an idea which is extraordinarily useful to you. So, belonging to an organisation whether it is the Hindu or the Muslim and so on, is for self-expansion. If all these things drop away, you would be happy people; you would not be merely talking about brotherhood, but you would spread kindness and would love others.
Now your love is concentrated in property and, therefore, you have little love for persons. Naming the property, ie identifying and giving continuance to the feeling of acquisitiveness, is one of the problems which is creating terrible havoc in the world. The man who uses a title, who is acquisitive, can never be happy, never be brotherly, though he may talk about brotherhood and happiness. Mere giving up of property or title, outwardly, will not solve the problem; you can give up the content of property or title only when you understand its whole significance. If you do not understand the whole significance, the remnants of acquisitiveness will still remain in the mind. This is really difficult because, psychologically, you are the property. Without it, where are you? The moment you let it go, you feel lost. To let go name, title, and property requires an extraordinary inward richness; it means freedom from outward things; you can let them go only when you have something real in yourself. You do not let them go for the simple reason that the property is you, the title is you, the name is you; this means the sensory things are you. The moment you do not identify your name, do not give a name to that feeling of being lost or being nobody, it comes to an end. Then the property will drop away and you will not care two pins.
So, the emphasis is not on property - which the Communist, the Socialist, or the Capitalist is emphasising - but it is on the significance property has for you. When you have inward riches, property does not matter; and there can only be inward riches when you do not name the feeling; through that door you find the imperishable. The man who is talking about the imperishable and is naming his feelings is a hypocrite.
It is only when you do not name your property, acquisitiveness will cease to be. Then, you will know the difference between the needs and acquisitiveness. You need food, clothing and shelter. But, when you seek psychological satisfaction through property, name or title, they are no longer needs but become potent factors in making you more and more ruthless in acquisitiveness.
From this, you will see that only when you would understand the whole significance of not naming feelings in relation to title, property and relationship with others, and when you do not name such feelings in your daily life, there will be a rich transformation within yourself whereby you will bring about a creative society.
The Observer is the Observed
Madras, India. Group Discussion 16th December, 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.