Sydney 5th Public Talk 23rd November, 1955
This evening I would like to discuss what is perhaps rather a complex problem, but I think we can make it quite simple. You see, our minds are full of conclusions, knowledge, experiences, they are crowded with the things that we know. And is it possible to free the mind from the known? The known is made up of the facts, the struggles, the sorrows, the greed of everyday living, as well as the accumulated experience of man through centuries; and is it possible for the mind to recognise these facts that make up the known, and yet be free of them so that some other state may come into being?
When one's mind is full of conclusions, assumptions, experiences, filled with the happiness, the travail, the sorrows that have pursued one all through life, there is then no freedom to look at anything new. If, for instance, in listening to what I am saying you have assumed certain things about me - that you know and I do not, or that I know and you do not - or your mind is shaped, conditioned by what you have read so that you listen with a preconception, a conclusion, a background, then your mind is not simple; and it seems to me that one needs great simplicity to find out if there is something which is not a mere product of the mind.
If the mind is functioning all the time only within the field of the known, as it does with most of us, we find this area so limited, so narrow and petty that the mind begins to invent ideals, imaginations, delusions through which it escapes from the actual. Most religions offer such an escape, and the so-called religious person is full of fantastic ideas, beliefs and dogmas.
So the mind functions all the time within the field of the known, does it not? That is an actual fact which we are not seeking to deny or put aside. And the question is whether such a mind is capable of investigating or receiving something which is not merely an experience or a conclusion of the known. One cannot forget the road by which one travels, the name of the street in which one lives, and so on, that would be too absurd. But the mind gets used to the known and develops habits, it gets caught in certain conclusions, assumptions, postulates, and so we think in this area all the time; therefore the mind is never free to be really simple, and we think that the more we learn, read, pray, or practise a particular kind of meditation, the better we shall be able to find something beyond.
So the question is, can the mind, being the residue, the result of the known, of knowledge, of experience, free itself from the known and find something beyond? I would like to discuss this with you, if you will, because I think it is an important question. When we talk about religious experience, we mean going beyond the self, the "me", the known, do we not? Or perhaps most of us do not think in those terms at all. But it seems to me that the more thoughtful, alert and aware we are, and the more deeply we go into this question, the more obvious it is that any real revolution can come into being only through the religious person; and the religious person is not one who believes, who follows certain dogmas or practises a particular form of meditation. To me, the religious person is one who is aware of the known and does not allow the known to interfere with his search into the unknown.
This is what I would like to discuss with you this evening, and I hope the problem is clear.
Questioner: Why is it more important or more vital to be concerned with the unknown, however real, than with the known, which is both real and present?
Krishnamurti: I have insisted in all my talks that the mind must be free from the known to find something which may be called the unknown. If I have preconceived ideas, assumptions about you, surely I do not understand you. Now, can the mind be freed of all these assumptions, beliefs, dogmas, habits of thought? To put it differently, can the mind be made simple so that it is capable of a completely new experience, not an experience based on the old, an experience which is projected? Can the mind be open to the unknown, whatever that is, and yet be aware of the known, of the present fact? Is the problem clear? If it is, then let us discuss it. I think this is an important problem to understand, because if we do not understand this problem we shall be going around in circles thinking we are experiencing something very real when it is merely a projection of our own desire, and therefore living in an illusory world of our own imagination.
So, a religious man is one who is inwardly free from the known, is he not?
Does all this mean anything to you? After all, we have been brought up as Christians, Hindus, Moslems, Buddhists, or what you will, with certain dogmas, traditions and beliefs, and the mind is so conditioned by its background that all its experiences are consciously or unconsciously the outcome of this conditioning. As a Hindu I may have visions of the various gods which the Hindu culture has imprinted on me, just as you who have been brought up as Christians may have visions of Christ, and so on. Such a vision we call a religious experience; but actually, psychologically, what is taking place? The mind is merely projecting, in the form of an image, a symbol, the quality of the background it has inherited, is it not? Therefore the experience is not real at all, but the conditioning is a fact.
Now, can a mind on which have been imprinted the culture, the traditions, the dogmas of Christianity, of Hinduism, or of Buddhism, know its conditioning? Can it be aware of and free itself from this conditioning, so that it is able to find out if there is something more than the mere activity of the mind which is always functioning within the field of the known?
I think the question is clear by now, so let us discuss it.
Questioner: Whatever may be one's conditioning, there is experience going on which is real, and that experience is not related to one's conditioning. Such experience gives one proof that certain things are true.
Krishnamurti: Please go slowly. Do not assume that you are right and I am wrong, or that you are wrong and I am right. This requires thorough going into, investigating.
Is there experience apart from my conditioning which gives me proof that something which others have said is true? That is, I see my conditioning, but besides this conditioning I experience something which proves to me that my conditioning is right. Now, is there experience apart from and unconnected with my conditioning? If I am a Buddhist, for example, and I experience a vision of the Buddha, or of the Buddhistic state, is that experience unconnected with my conditioning as a Buddhist? Yet such an experience convinces many people that their conditioning is right, that what they believe is true. If I happen to be a Communist and do not believe in gods and all the rest of the nonsense, obviously I do not have that experience at all. I may have visions of a wondrous Utopian State, but not of the Buddha or the Christ. It is the background or conditioning that creates the image, the vision, and this experience only convinces me further that what I believe is true. So when we dissociate experience from the background of our thinking, surely that division is without validity, it has no meaning.
Questioner: What would be the nature of an experience which was not resulting from the background of the mind?
Krishnamurti: That is right, sir, surely that is the question. What kind of experience is it that is free of the background? And can there be such an experience? We cannot assume anything. If we are going to find out the truth of the matter there must be no assumption, no sense of obedience to any authority.
The question has been asked, what kind of experience is it that is not dictated by the background, that is not the outcome of the background? Now, can one describe this experience? I am not trying to avoid the question. Can you or I communicate to another this experience which is not the outcome of the background? Obviously not. First we must see the truth of the fact that all our experiences are dictated by the background, and not imagine that we are experiencing something dissociated from the background.
May I here suggest that those of you who are taking notes should not do so. You and I are trying to experience directly, now, the thing we are discussing, and if you take notes you are not really listening to what is being said. If you take notes you are doing so in order to think about it tomorrow. But thinking about it directly, now, will have much greater significance than thinking about it tomorrow, so may I suggest that you do not distract others and yourself by taking notes.
If one is to find out whether there is an experience which does not arise from the conditioning of the mind, must one not first see the truth of the fact that all experience is at present either the outcome of one's background, one's conditioning, or the reaction of that background to challenge? Do you see this fact? Are you conscious of the fact that your mind is conditioned as a Christian, as a Socialist, a Communist, or what you will, and that all your experiences and reactions spring from this conditioning? That is so, is it not?
Questioner: Whether one is a Christian, or belongs to some other religion, is largely a matter of destiny.
Krishnamurti: Please do not introduce words like destiny. That is off the main subject, it is not what we are discussing for the time being. Not that we cannot discuss it another time, but we must restrict ourselves to the point.
Questioner: By the word "experience" do you not really mean understanding or knowledge?
Krishnamurti: Those three words, experience, knowledge and understanding, are related to each other, are they not?
Questioner: But they are not the same.
Krishnamurti: No, of course not, sir. They are related to each other. If I want to understand not only what you are saying but the totality of you, I must not have a preconception about you, I must not have a prejudice or retain in memory either the injuries you may have caused me, or your pleasant flatteries. I must be free of all that in order to understand you, must I not? Understanding comes only when I can meet you anew, not through the screen of experience.
This is a sufficiently complicated question, so do not let us make it more complicated. If it is clear what we mean by understanding, and what we mean by experience and knowledge, let us go on.
I cannot understand if my mind reacts according to the limitation of my conditioning. Surely, this much is fairly simple. And is one aware that one reacts according to one's conditioning? Are you aware of the fact that as a Christian, a Communist, a Socialist, or whatever you may happen to be, you defend certain beliefs, religious or non-religious? Are you aware that your mind, being the residue of the past, is limited, and that whatever it may choose or experience is also limited?
Questioner: Is spontaneous love or affection dependent on the background?
Krishnamurti: Sir, do we know what spontaneous love is? Do you and I know love which is not the outcome of a conditioning, of a motive, of a social morality, of a sense of duty or responsibility? Do we know love in which there is no attachment? Or is it that we have read of such a state and we want to be in that state?
Coming back to the point, are we aware, you and I, that our minds are so complex, so conditioned, that there is in us nothing original, if I may use this word without being misunderstood? Are we capable of original understanding, of experiencing something uncontaminated, untouched, pristine, or are we mere gramophone records repeating what we have read, or what our background instigates? Are not fear and desire dictating some fancy, some imagination or hope? And can one be free of all this? One can be free, surely, only when one is aware that one's visions, hopes, beliefs are the outcome of one's own desire and are based on one's particular conditioning.
Is it clear up to this point?
Krishnamurti: Now, what do you mean by yes? Please do not be impatient or laugh it off. Have you merely accepted an explanation, or are you directly aware of the fact that you are conditioned, apart from the explanation? Do you see the difference between the two?
Krishnamurti: Please go slowly.
Questioner: Would it be that as we become more aware of present things it creates the incoming of a new force?
Krishnamurti: Sir, I am not talking about the incoming or outgoing of a new force. What I am talking about is very simple. Do you know that you are conditioned? And when you say "yes", does this statement reflect merely the verbal understanding of a verbal explanation, or are you aware that you are conditioned? Now, which is it?
Questioner: I am aware that I am conditioned.
Krishnamurti: Please be patient. This is important.
Questioner: If I am conditioned, can I be aware that I am conditioned?
Krishnamurti: Can I be aware that I am nationalistic, that I have certain beliefs, dogmas, prejudices? Can I know this? Surely I can, can I not? So, do I know that I have assumptions, prejudices, certain experiences which are the outcome of my conditioning, and that my mind is therefore very limited? Am I aware of this, not theoretically but actually? Am I directly experiencing the fact that my mind is conditioned?
Questioner: One can only say that one WAS conditioned. Krishnamurti: Do you mean that before you came to this meeting you were conditioned, and now you are not conditioned?
Questioner: We can know that we had an original experience only after we have had it, when the mind is again full of the known.
Krishnamurti: Please, this is a very complex problem, but if you will go slowly into it you will see for yourself the whole significance of what we are talking about. As human beings we are not creative, our minds are burdened with memories, sorrows, greed, dogmas, the nationalistic spirit, and so on. And is it possible for the mind to see all this and extricate itself? Surely, the mind can be free only when it knows that it is not free, that it is conditioned. Do I know this, am I directly experiencing this conditioning? Do I really see that I am prejudiced, that I have many assumptions? We have assumed that there is or is not God, that there is immortality or annihilation, that there is resurrection or reincarnation, and many other things; and can the mind be aware of all these assumptions, or at least of some of them?
Questioner: When you say "we", do you mean that your mind as well as ours is conditioned by these traditions and greeds which have moulded us? What do you mean by "we"?
Krishnamurti: It is a way of speaking. We are looking at the mind, yours and mine. Let us stick to this for the moment.
Questioner: As long as we are satisfied, what is the problem?
Krishnamurti: As long as you are satisfied, as long as you say it is perfectly all right to be a Christian, a Hindu, or a Communist, it is not a problem. Questioner: Then we have to be dissatisfied.
Krishnamurti: No, it is not that you have to be dissatisfied. But you are dissatisfied, are you not?
Krishnamurti: You see, the problem of dissatisfaction or discontent is quite different. If I am not satisfied I want to find some way to be satisfied, so I do not accept the present state, the present condition.
Questioner: Do you imply that verbalization is a bar to understanding, to direct experience?
Krishnamurti: Obviously, because the whole process of the mind is verbalization. I may not use a word, I may have instead an image or a symbol. If I have a symbol in my mind, the Hindu or the Christian idea of reality, of God, or what you will, even though I do not verbalize or put it into words, that symbol prevents the understanding of the real.
Please, let us not go into these various points, even though they are related, but let us stick to one thing. Can you and I know, while sitting here, that we are conditioned? Can we be conscious, fully aware of that fact?
Questioner: What has all this got to do with the primary need of every human being, which is food, clothing and shelter?
Krishnamurti: Sir, we all need sufficient food, clothing and shelter, each one of us, but there are millions, practically the whole of Asia, who have not got them. An equitable distribution of the physical necessities is prevented by our psychological greed, our nationalism, our religious differences. Psychologically we use these necessities to aggrandize our own selves, and if we go slowly into this thing we are discussing you will yourself answer this question instead of asking me. What we are trying to do here is to liberate ourselves from each other so that you and I are original individuals, real human beings, not the mass of the collective.
So, if that is understood, can we say, "I know I am conditioned"?
Questioner: Yes, I know I am conditioned, and I must do something about it. Now, how do I free myself?
Krishnamurti: The lady says that she knows she is conditioned, conditioned in the known. She knows her prejudices, her assumptions, her conscious and unconscious desires, urges, compulsions, and knowing all that she asks, "What can I do, how am I to break through it?" Is that what most of you are asking too?
Krishnamurti: All right. Let us go step by step, and please follow this a little patiently. I am aware that I am conditioned, and my immediate reaction to that awareness is that I must be free from conditioning, so I say, "How am I to be free? What is the method, the system, the process by which to be free?" But if I practise a method I become a slave to the method, which then forms another conditioning.
Questioner: Not necessarily.
Krishnamurti: Sir, let this idea float around a little bit. Being aware that I am conditioned, that I am greedy, I want to know how to get rid of it. The question of how to get rid of it is prompted by another form of greed, is it not? I may practise non-greed day after day, but the motive, the desire to be free from greed, is still greed. Go slowly, please. So the "how" cannot solve the problem, it has only complicated the problem. But the question can be answered totally, as you will presently see for yourself.
If I am fully aware that I am greedy, does not that very awareness free the mind from greed? If I know a snake is poisonous, that is enough, is it not? I do not go near the snake. But we do not see that greed is poison. We like the pleasant sensation of it, we like the comfortable feeling of being conditioned. If we were trying to free the mind from conditioning we might be antisocial, we might lose our job, we might go against the whole tradition of society, so unconsciously we take warning and then the mind asks, "How am I to get rid of it?" So the "how" is merely a postponement of the realization of the fact. Is this point clear?
What is important, then, is why the mind asks for a method. You will find that there are innumerable methods which say, "Do these things every day and you will get there." But in following the method you have created a habit and to that you are a slave, you are not free. Whereas, if you see that you are conditioned, conditioned to the known, and are therefore afraid of the unknown, if you are fully aware of this fact, then you will find that that very awareness is operating, is already bringing about a measure of freedom which you have not deliberately tried to achieve. When you are aware of your conditioning, actually, not theoretically, all effort ceases. Any effort to be something is the beginning of another conditioning.
So it is important to understand the problem and not find an answer to the problem. The problem is this. The mind, being the result of time, of centuries of conditioning, moves and has its being in the area of the known. This is the actual fact, it is what is happening in our daily lives. All our thinking, our memories, our experiences, our visions, our inner voices, our intuitions, are essentially the outcome of the known.
Now, can the mind be aware of its own conditioning and not try to battle against it? When the mind is aware that it is conditioned and does not battle against it, only then is the mind free to give its complete attention to this conditioning. The difficulty is to be aware of conditioning without the distraction of trying to do something about it. But if the mind is constantly aware of the known, that is, of the prejudices, the assumptions, the beliefs, the desires, the illusory thinking of our daily life, if it is aware of all this without trying to be free, then that very awareness brings its own freedom. Then perhaps it is possible for the mind to be really still, not just still at a certain level of consciousness and frightfully agitated below. There can be total stillness of the mind only when the mind understands the whole problem of conditioning, how it is conditioned, which means watching, off and on, every movement of thought, being aware of the assumptions, the beliefs, the fears. Then perhaps there is a total stillness of the mind in which something beyond the mind can come into being.
November 23, 1955
Sydney 5th Public Talk 23rd November, 1955
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