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New York 1954

New York 5th Public Talk 29th May 1954

It seems to me that without self-knowledge most of our beliefs and activities have very little significance. And self-knowledge is not acquired from books, it is not a matter of learning from someone how to know about yourself; nor is it, I think, merely a process of gathering information about oneself. Most of us know only a positive way of thinking which I feel is the lowest form of thinking. That is, merely to accumulate knowledge about oneself and live according to that knowledge only leads to a further strengthening of the ego, of the "me", with all its complications. The highest form of thinking is negative, is it not? Surely, negative thinking is the highest form of thinking, and the discovery of how to think negatively can come about only through awareness of the responses of the self from moment to moment.

We all know what to think, that is, we have been brought up from childhood to judge what is right, what is wrong to compare, and so on, which is a positive way of thinking. This positive way of thinking is the strengthening of experience, and the more we acquire it the more we think we are learning, finding out about ourselves. That is, we think that the strengthening of the past will give us understanding.

Isn't that the way we think? The more we can study, the more we can analyze, the more we can store up experience and let that experience, that knowledge, guide our activity, the more secure, the more positive we are. That is the way we live, is it not? And that doesn't give any space to discover, because our experience is always conditioning us, always telling us what to think, how to approach life, and so on. Therefore there is never a negative approach to the problems of our existence, because the more experience we have, the more the mind is conditioned, is it not?

I may be saying something which perhaps you have not heard before; and if so, please don't discard it or listen to it merely to find out what you think about it, because what you think about it will be according to your experience. To listen in order to discover the truth of what is being said, and to listen in order to form an opinion about it, are two different things, are they not? When I make a statement, what is important, surely, is not whether you can accept it or how you can use it, but to find out whether in itself it is true or false; and to see the truth or the falseness of what is being said, one has to suspend all one's judgments, one's reactions, which is quite an arduous task. That is why the way you listen is very, very important. As I have said over and over again, these talks will be utterly useless if you are merely gathering ideas to be utilized or to be thought over later. But if, as we proceed, we can together find out the truth of what is being said, then perhaps this, and the past talks, and the last talk tomorrow, may be of some significance.

As I was saying, we have been trained in what to think about God, about truth, we have been educated to be nationalistic, and so on. Our minds are shaped from childhood, influenced by ideas, and any experience we have must be related with those ideas, with those beliefs. Therefore, experience never frees the mind. Do please listen to this. Experience never frees the mind, and yet we are pursuing experience, greater, wider, more significant experience. And when we do have an experience totally unconnected with the past, we take that experience and hold it in memory, which prevents the further birth of new experience. That is, our minds are being constantly influenced, shaped by past experience, and so the mind can never renew itself, it can never be a totally new instrument. Our own past experiences are conditioning both the future and the immediate, the now, because we are thinking positively in terms of time: what I have been, what I am, what I shall be; and all further experience, all human knowledge, is based on this conditioning. So, knowledge in that sense becomes an impediment to creative understanding.

It seems to me that the highest form of thinking is negative. Negative thinking is not accumulation, but the constant discovery of what is true in relationship, which means seeing myself as I actually am from moment to moment. This self-knowledge is not a process in which the mind is gathering information in order to act rightly, or to avoid wrong action. And self-knowledge is essential, because if I do not know the process of my own thinking, if I am unaware of my own reactions, of my background, of the unconscious responses, compulsions, urges, then whatever thought I may have is conditioned by my past, and hence there is no freedom. So, is it not important to find out what is, to be self-aware without the process of accumulation? Because the moment I accumulate in the understanding of myself, that accumulation is going to dictate how I shall understand the next discovery.

You see, we are concerned with how to improve ourselves, or how to improve society, therefore, change is merely a modified continuity, is it not? I gather, I learn, and I am using what I have learned to change; but what I have learned depends on my conditioning, my learning is always dictated by the past, so experience is never a liberating factor. if I see that, if I see the truth of it, then I can proceed to find out without accumulation.

Please, it seems to me that this is important to understand. Why does the mind accumulate knowledge, acquire virtue? Why does the mind constantly strive to become something, to perfect itself? Why? And in the process of acquisition, accumulation, is not the mind burdened? Surely, all accumulation in self-knowledge is a hindrance to the further discovery of the self, and it is this accumulation that is making us think positively. Now, is it possible to discover and not be acquisitive, so that the discovery does not leave an experience which will condition further discovery?

I hope I am making myself clear, because I think this is important. This is really the freedom from the self, so that there is no accumulative entity, and therefore there is creative being. Accumulation is not creativeness. A mind which is constantly acquiring can obviously never be creative. It is only the free mind that is creative, and there can be no freedom if every experience is stored up, because that which is accumulated becomes the centre of the "me", of the "I" which thinks positively. Positive thinking is the result of accumulation.

Let me put it this way and perhaps it will be more clear. In my relationship with another - if I am at all aware - I discover my reactions, I watch my own status and how the previous experiences of discovery either condemn or justify what I have newly discovered in relationship. That new discovery is also stored up, and when next I am aware of my relationship with another and see my reactions, which is the process of self-knowledge, the past again dictates, or translates in terms of the past, what I have discovered.

Surely, what I am saying is not very complicated. It is simple enough if we look at it. You see, as long as I am accumulating, gathering, storing up, my mind is thinking in terms of what to do and how to do it, and therefore my mind can never be free, because the whole process of my thinking is based on past accumulation, on past experience. So, thinking only prevents further discovery. What is thinking? It is the response of the past, verbalized and communicated, the past being the accumulations, the various influences, the conditionings of the mind. Thinking can never resolve the problem, thinking can never bring about a completely new state, a total transformation of our being, because thinking is the result of the past.

Now, is it possible for thought to come to an end? That is the problem. If thought can come to an end, then there is the cessation of all accumulation, and hence there is a possibility of the new. This is not as fantastic as it sounds, if you really go into the matter. When you think, surely your thinking is the result of the past, of your conditioning, of your belief, of your background, conscious or unconscious. According to your background you respond, and that response is called thinking; and through thinking you want to solve your problems. And the more you acquire, the more you accumulate experience, the greater you think will be your capacity to go into the problem and resolve it.

So, when you see that, then the inevitable question arises within yourself, which is: can thought come to an end so that I can discover the truth of the problem, and not translate it in terms of my experience or according to my background? Thinking is really a positive process and not a liberating process. We are brought up from childhood to know what to think; newspapers, magazines, everything around us tells us what to think. We are accustomed to gathering, to accumulating, which prevents us from actually understanding any particular problem totally and completely. We can understand a problem completely only when the mind is still, which is when there is no compulsion of any kind.

If you have really listened to this, you will not ask how thought is to come to an end, you will not say, "Tell me the method". The very asking of that question, the desire for a method, is another form of accumulation. But if you see the truth that only with the ending of thought can the problem be resolved, if you see it without trying to utilize it, then you will discover the significance of the whole process of thinking. Thinking actually strengthens the "me", the self, the self which is the maker of trouble, the maker of mischief, misery, whether it is identified with a nation, with a group, with a religion, or with an idea. Thinking is the outcome of the "me", which has been accumulated for centuries; so thinking will not solve our problems, on the contrary, it will multiply them, bring greater misery. If we see the truth of that, if through self-knowledge we see the truth of how the mind works, the conscious as well as the unconscious, if we are aware of the total process, then that very awareness will bring about the cessation of thought, and therefore stillness of the mind.

You know, we all have many problems which we seem to multiply. The resolution of one problem produces other problems, so our minds are everlastingly caught in problems; and we are always seeking answers to these problems, because fundamentally we want to use everything for our own benefit. If we hear something which is true, which we have caught the significance of, we immediately want to utilize it we say, "How can I use it in order to improve myself, to arrive at a more advanced stage?" So, we are always increasing our problems. Whereas, ii we are able to see what is true and leave it alone, not try to utilize it, then that very truth will operate, we don't have to do anything. As long as we are doing something about it, we shall create problems. Please listen to this. The difficulty is to pay attention, to give our whole being to discover, to find out. And when we do find out what is true, we want to utilize it, either socially, or to make ourselves happy, to be peaceful. Whereas, if we really give our whole attention, listen completely with our whole being, then that very perception of what is true, if we leave it alone, will begin to operate in spite of us.

Question: In this country we have always felt secure, but now our spiritual and physical well-being is threatened and fear is shaping our thinking. How can we overcome this fear?

Krishnamurti: As long as you are pursuing security in any form there must be fear. Please listen to this, follow it. As long as you as a nation, as a group, as an individual want to be safe, secure in your belief, in an idea, in anything, you are inviting fear, your shadow is fear. As long as you remain an American a Hindu, a Russian, a communist, a Catholic, a Protestant, or what you will, there must be fear.

You see, we know this, we are deeply aware of this fact, but superficially we create a system which we think will give us security: nationalities which are separative, religions which are mere bigotry, dividing man against man. So, as long as we remain isolated in our nationalism, in our belief, in our own security, there must be wars, there must be hatred there must be antagonism, and therefore fear.

And do we ever directly experience what is fear? Please listen to this question. Do we ever directly experience what is fear? Knowing that we are afraid, we run away from it, do we not? We try to overcome it, we justify or condemn it, which are ways of avoiding and not directly experiencing fear.

Do you understand what I am saying? You experience directly any form of pleasure, you don't let anything interfere with it; but any form of unpleasantness you try to avoid. Fear is unpleasant, so you are never in direct relationship with it, you never directly experience it. When there is fear, you try to overcome it, you try to find out what to do about it. Your mind is already occupied, not with the direct experience of fear but with how to overcome it. Do you ever experience fear directly, without any interpretation without avoidance, justification or condemnation, so that there is a direct relationship with fear and you know totally that you are afraid? Are you ever in that state? Obviously not. Because when one is directly experiencing fear, then is there fear? It is only when one is avoiding or running away that there is fear. As long as your mind is seeking security in any form, physical, emotional or psychological, there must be fear. That is a fact, whether you like it or not. As long as you are only thinking of the American Way of Life, of improving your own standards, of having more money, more material welfare, while half the world has only one meal, or half a meal a day there must be fear.

Now, if you know that you are afraid because of this desire to be secure, can you look at that fear and be with it completely? Experiment with what I am saying and you will see that the thing which we call fear is a process in which the mind gives a name to a particular quality, and that this very naming strengthens the quality.

Suppose I am jealous envious and I am aware of that feeling. My awareness of it is a process of naming and then recognizing that feeling through the name. So the naming of it strengthens that particular feeling. The process of recognition is a process of strengthening what is recognized. When I name fear I have strengthened fear, and therefore I run away.

Observe for yourself the process of your own thinking. When you have fear, watch and you will see how you condemn it, how you want to run away from it. You want to shape it, you want to push it away, you want to do something about it, because it is unpleasant. But when you have a pleasant thing, you are identified with it totally. Identification and avoidance is the process of naming, is it not? And when you give a term to a particular feeling, you strengthen that feeling.

Is it possible for the mind to be free from the desire to be secure, and therefore free from fear? The two go together, do they not? You cannot get rid of fear and yet seek security. The desire for security in any form - security in relationship with another, in any experience - can only breed fear; and after you have bred fear, you want to overcome it. You cannot overcome fear. All that you can do is to find out the whole process that brings about the state of fear, see the truth of it, and leave it alone. Then you don't have to overcome fear. The truth will operate. The fact that you are afraid and are not directly related to the fact - that is in itself the factor which, if you are conscious of it,is going to liberate the mind from fear.

Please, you are not learning anything from me. If you are learning, you are accumulating, and therefore you are not discovering. What I am saying is actually what is happening in each one of us. If you don't discover it, but merely learn it, then it has no meaning. But if, as you listen, you observe your own process of thinking, then you will discover it; then it is yours, not mine. Then you don't have to follow a single thing, you don't have to follow any person or idea, because you are a light unto yourself. Then there is no fear of authority, and all the evils of following it are gone.

Question: Compulsive judgment and self-incrimination hold the mind in a firm grip. Since the compelling force is so strong, how is one to free oneself from these things? How are we to stay with an essential problem, since our strength of endurance is undermined by fears?

Krishnamurti: You see one of the difficulties is that we want to be free - free from fear, free from compulsive urges, free from our background, free from our conditioning. That is, we want to be free from suffering, and hold on to pleasure. Please watch your own mind. You are not merely listening to me, you are observing the process of your own mind, because I have nothing to say except to point out how your own mind is operating and destroying freedom.

As long as you want to be free, there is no freedom. But is it not possible to know all the compulsive forces, influences, to be aware of them and not try to be free from them? If you want to be free from them, you resist, and that very resistance creates problems. And if you observe these compulsive forces in yourself, with their strength and their fears, you will see how difficult it is simply to be aware of them without condemning, without choosing, without saying, "This is good, that is bad, this I am going to hold, that I am going to let go" - which is really not being aware. After all, each one of us is caught in various forms of compulsive force, and when this is pointed out to us, or when we casually or superficially become aware of it, we want to free ourselves of it; and this very desire to be free creates a resistance against it.

So, knowing that you have compulsive urges, what is important is to look at them, live with them, and understand them; and you can understand them only when you don't want to run away from them, when you don't justify, compare, or condemn them. If you see the compulsive force and just remain there, without trying to free yourself from it, then you will find that the thing which you wanted to be free from has dropped away from you without your making an effort to be free.

Question: What to you is prayer and meditation?

Krishnamurti: It does not matter very much what they are to me, but let us find out what is the truth, the significance of prayer and meditation. If I tell you what to me is prayer and meditation it will only be an opinion, and apparently many people are interested in gathering opinions; but here we are not concerned with opinions. We want to find out what is the truth of this matter, and not look at it according to the opinion of the Catholics, the Protestants, the Buddhists, or the Hindus. That does not bring about liberation of the mind, but only a superficial change, a modified continuity.

So, we are not concerned with opinion, whether Oriental or Occidental, but with trying to find out the implications of prayer and of the whole question of what is meditation.

Is meditation synonymous with prayer? Do you pray? Why do you pray? We are not concerned with how you should pray, or what is the best form of prayer, but with why you pray, because that is the fact; so let us start with that.

Why do you pray? When there is clarity, when there is joy, bliss, or what you will, do you pray then? Surely, that very joy, that bliss, is a form of heightened intelligence or living. We pray only when we are confused, when we are in sorrow, when we want something. That is so, is it not? A mind that is very clear, free, untrammelled, without any problems, why should it pray? It is itself in a state of incorruptibility. It is when we do not know whom to follow, when we have the multiplication of problems, when we are in sorrow, when we are hopelessly lost, frustrated, unfulfilled - it is only then that we want someone to help us, and therefore we pray. We repeat certain sentences, we force the mind to be still, because the very suffering compels us to be quiet.

The compulsion to prayer, then, is the desire to overcome fear or sorrow, and naturally there is a response. When you ask, you are given, and what you receive depends on the state of your mind, of your desire, of your misery. When you pray, you take a certain posture, repeat certain words, and thereby quiet the conscious mind; and when the conscious mind is quiet, the unconscious may produce an answer to your particular suffering, to your immediate problem, or the answer may come to the quiet conscious mind, not from within, but from outside yourself. But surely, that is not meditation. Meditation is emptying the mind of the known. After all, meditation is not concentration. You can concentrate on anything in which you are interested, which is an obvious fact. Being absorbed in a particular idea, in the repetition of a particular word or sentence, or in projecting an image, a symbol, a saviour - surely, none of that is meditation. The projection comes from the background of your conditioning, and living in that image is not meditation. And yet this is what most of us call meditation, is it not? We want to know how to meditate. Books have been written about it, and when they talk about meditation, concentration, absorption, it implies resistance, discipline, which only strengthens the past, filling and narrowing the mind.

It seems to me that meditation is something totally different, because concentration on an idea is an exclusive, acquisitive process which merely brings certain forms of satisfaction and gratification. Surely, meditation is the discovery of what is true from moment to moment. Please listen to this. As long as I am practising a method, the method will produce a result, but the result is not what is true. It is a product of the mind in its desire to be safe, to be comforted; therefore the mind is never empty, it is filled, occupied, and such a mind can never allow the unknown to come into being. You may practise meditation for years and be able to control your mind completely, but then what? What have you done? Your mind is still petty, small, conditioned by the past, filled with the known and so the unknown can never come into being.

Meditation, then, is a process of freeing the mind through self-knowledge from all the things that it has accumulated - not just from one form of accumulation which is painful, but from every form of accumulation, from everything that it has known, experienced, so that not only the conscious mind, but consciousness as a whole, is totally empty, free. It is only then that the immeasurable, that which is not put together by the mind, which is not sought after, comes into being. But it cannot come into being if you invite it, because your invitation is merely the desire for comfort, the desire to save yourself, the desire to avoid pain.

So, your mind is everlastingly struggling to become something, or wanting greater experience through meditation. But true meditation is the understanding that comes through self-knowledge, and that understanding is not the outcome of accumulation. If there is any sense of the experiencer apart from the experience, then the mind is not empty. As long as the mind is seeking experience, there must be the experiencer, therefore there is an urge, a compulsion to expand, to gather, to accumulate. When the mind sees the whole significance of thinking, or experiencing, only then is there a possibility of emptying the mind so that the mind itself is the unknown, not the experiencer of the unknown.

May 29, 1954


New York 1954

New York 5th Public Talk 29th May 1954

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