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Madras 1956

Madras 3rd Public Talk 18th January 1956

One of our great problems, I should think, is what to do, what kind of action to take in this civilization which is so confused, so contradictory, so demanding. Most of us are educated for one thing, and really want to do something else. The governments want efficient soldiers and bureaucrats, and parents desire that their children should fit into society and earn a livelihood, and that is more or less the pattern followed throughout the world. The individual's occupation is very largely determined by his education and the demands of the society about him.

If you don't mind, I am going to discuss a rather complicated problem this evening, and if you will be good enough to pay a little attention I think you will find that an action comes into being which is not cultivated or shaped by a particular culture; and that action may be the solution to the complicated problem of our existence.

Naturally we are all concerned with action, with what to do, and the `what to do' is generally dictated by the world about us. That is, we know that we have to earn a livelihood in some capacity, either as an engineer, a scientist, a lawyer, a clerk, or what you will; and our superficial culture, our education, is restricted to that. Our minds are occupied most of the day with how to earn a livelihood, how to conform to the pattern of a particular society. Our so-called education is limited to the cultivation of skills and the memorizing of a series of facts which will help us to pass some examination and get a particular job; so our action settles at that level, it is shaped according to the necessities of a particular society, a society that is preparing for war. Industrialization demands more scientists, more physicists, more engineers, so this particular layer of the mind is cultivated; and that is what society is chiefly concerned with.

Actually, if you examine it, that is what most of us are concerned with: to adapt ourselves to the demands of society. So there is a contradiction in our life between the so-called educated layer of the mind, and the deep, unconscious occupation, a contradiction of which very few of us are aware; and if we are aware of this contradiction, we are merely seeking some kind of satisfaction, some kind of easy solution for the misery of having to earn a livelihood in a particular profession while inwardly wanting to be or to do something else. This is what is actually happening in our life, whether we are aware of it or not. Any action born of the superficial, educated layer of the mind is obviously an incomplete action, and such a partial action is always in contradiction with the total action of man. I think this is fairly clear.

That is, one is educated as a clerk, as a lawyer, or for some other profession, and society is concerned only with that. The government and industry demand scientists, physicists, engineers, to prepare for war, to increase production, and so on. So one is educated for a profession, but the totality of one's being is undiscovered, unrevealed, and hence man is always in conflict within himself. I think this is very clear if we observe the social and political activities, and the religious pursuits of man. Most of us do something in daily life which is contradictory to everything that we feel we really want to do. We have responsibilities which bind us and from which we want to escape, and the escape takes the form of speculation, theories about God, religious rites, and so on. There are innumerable forms of escape, including drink, but none of them resolve this inner conflict. So what is one to do?

I do not know if you have ever put that question to yourself. Any action born of this inner contradiction is bound to create more mischief and misery. That is what the politicians are doing in the world. However wise a politician may be, he must inevitably create mischief unless he understands the total occupation of the mind, and brings about an action out of the comprehension of that totality. And this is what I want to discuss: whether an action can come into being which is not the action of mere influence and motive.

Please follow this a little bit. Action born of influence is restricted. Our minds are the result of innumerable and contradictory influences, and any action born of that contradictory state must also be contradictory; and a culture, a society which is based on this contradiction, must create endless conflict and misery. This again is fairly obvious, it is an historical fact whether you like it or not. We can see that while the mind is occupied on the surface with daily living, below that there are innumerable motives of satisfaction, of greed, of envy, the compulsions of passion, fear, and so on, with which the mind is also occupied, though one may not be conscious of it. And can the mind go still below that?

To put it differently, with what is the mind occupied? Please, not my mind, but your mind. Do you know what your mind is occupied with? It is obviously occupied during the day, when you are busy at the office, with the routine of your work. Below that superficial occupation of the mind there is another kind of occupation going on, which may be self-protection, security, ambition, and so on, and which is generally in contradiction with the other occupation.

To make this talk worth while and significant, may I suggest that you listen to observe and discover how your own mind is occupied. I want to go into the problem of occupation, because I feel if we can understand this whole question of the mind's occupation, out of that understanding an action will come which is true action, an action which is not born of will, of discipline, and is therefore not contradictory. Am I making myself clear?

That is, unless you understand the totality of your occupation, there cannot be an integrated action. Your mind is superficially occupied during the day with the pursuit of your job and similar activities, but it is also occupied at other levels, in other directions. So there is a contradiction between these two layers of the mind, and we try to overcome the contradiction through discipline, through conformity, through various forms of adjustment based on fear; therefore action always remains contradictory, which is what is happening with all of us. What to do is not the problem at all, because when you ask what to do, the answer is inevitably according to the layers of your occupation, and will only create further contradiction.

Now, what is your mind occupied with? Please follow this. Do you know what your mind is occupied with every day? You know very well that it is occupied with daily activities. Below that, what else is it occupied with? Are you aware of that deeper occupation? If you are, then you will see that it is in contradiction with the daily pursuits; and either the mind manages somehow to conform, to adjust itself to the daily pursuits, or the contradiction is so total that there is a perpetual conflict going on, which leads to all kinds of diseases.

Now, sirs, from where should action take place? I want to do things in the world, I have to earn a livelihood, and I must work hard; or I want to paint, to write, to think, or be a religious entity. I want to work in some way, and there must be action. From what source, from what centre, should this action spring? That is the problem. I see that action springing from any layer of occupation is bound to create contradiction, misery. There is no difference between the action of a housewife, the action of a lawyer, and the action of the mind which is pursuing God. Socially they may be different, but in reality there is no difference, because the housewife, the lawyer, and the man who pursues God, are all occupied. One occupation may be socially better than another, but fundamentally all occupation is more or less the same, there is no `better' occupation.

So, from where should action take place? From what centre will action not be contradictory, not lead to mischief, misery, and corruption? Can there be action from a true source, which is not the action of occupation? Am I making my point clear? Probably not. As I said, it is a very complex problem, and I hope I am not making it too complicated.

Let me put the issue differently. Your minds are occupied, are they not? That is fairly obvious. Now, why is the mind occupied? And what would happen if the mind were not occupied? What would happen to a woman if she were not occupied with the kitchen, or to a man if he were not occupied with business? What would happen to you if your mind were not occupied with these things? The immediate response is to say with what one would be occupied if one were not occupied with one's present activities - which indicates the demand for occupation. A mind which is not occupied feels lost, so the mind is always seeking occupation. Its occupation is invariably contradictory, which creates mischief; and after creating the mischief, we are concerned with how to remove the mischief, we are never concerned with the occupation of the mind. But if we can understand the occupation of the mind at different levels, then we shall discover the action which comes when the mind is not occupied, and which does not create mischief.

Have you ever tried to find out why the mind is occupied? Try it now, sirs, if only for the fun of it. But first you must be aware that your mind is occupied - which is obvious. You are occupied with your business, with your promotion or failure, with how your wife quarrels with you, or you quarrel with her, and so on; and there is the occupation of a sannyasi, of the so-called religious man who is always reading, muttering words, chanting, who is caught in the repetition of rituals, who keeps busy disciplining himself, conforming to the pattern of an ideal. All that is occupation.

We are all occupied, are we not? Why? Why is the mind occupied? Is it the nature of the mind to be occupied? If it is the nature of the mind to be occupied, whether with the high or with the low, which are relative, then such a mind can never find true action. The mind can observe, attend, discover, not when it is constantly busy, but only when it is capable of not being occupied. As long as the mind is occupied, any action born of that occupation must be restrictive, limiting, confusing. Try it and you will see how extraordinarily subtle and difficult it is to have a mind which is not everlastingly full; yet if there is the urgency to find out what is right action in this mad, confused, and suffering world, you have to come to this point.

Our problem is, then, from what source, from what centre must action arise, if it is not to be contradictory and confusing? The social reformer does not ask this question, because he wants to act, to reform - and in the very process of reformation he is creating mischief. All politicians and religious leaders are doing this. No amount of reading scriptures, of conforming, adjusting to society, has ever solved our problems; on the contrary, they are multiplying. Seeing all this, we have to understand why this confused and sorrowful state has come into being. It has come into being because we all want immediate action; and immediate action can be found only in the superficial layers of our consciousness, it comes out of occupation, out of the so-called educated mind.

Now, is there an action which is not the result of effort, which is not the action of will? The action of will is the action of desire; and desire, whether educated or uneducated, restrained or free, is limited to the contradictory layers of consciousness. Have you not noticed, sirs, that when you want to do one particular thing, immediately there is a contradiction in the form of restrictive fears, demands, examples, a sense of discipline which says, `Don't do that'? And so you are caught in conflict. Right through life we are caught in this way; from childhood till we die there is this everlasting contradiction and conformity. Seeing this, can the mind discover an action which is not contradictory, which is not mere conformity, which is not the product of influence? I think that is the fundamental issue, the right question; and one can find such action only when one is aware of and understands the total occupation of the mind.

Do you know what your mind is occupied with? Go layer by layer, and you will discover that there is no space anywhere in the mind which is not occupied. And when you do inquire into the unconscious to discover what its occupation is, even then the superficial mind, which is examining the unconscious, has its own occupation. So what is one to do? One wants to find out the total occupation of the mind, because one sees that without being aware of the total occupation of the mind, any action is bound to create contradiction and therefore greater misery.

Now, what is the mind, your mind, occupied with? And if it were not occupied, what would happen? Would you not be frightened to discover that your mind is not occupied at all? Therefore there would be an immediate urge to be occupied with something. Try it, and you will find out that there is never a moment when the mind is not occupied; and if you do experience a rare moment when the mind is not occupied, which is an extraordinary state, then how to get back to or to retain that state becomes your new occupation.

So, I am suggesting that true action can come only when the mind has understood the totality of its occupation, conscious as well as unconscious, and knows the moment of not being occupied. You will find that action from those moments when the mind is not occupied is the only integrated action. When it is not occupied, the mind is uncontaminated by society, it is not the product of innumerable influences, it is neither Hindu nor Christian, neither communist nor capitalist; therefore it is itself a totality of action which you do not have to be occupied with, or think about.

Now, if you have been good enough to listen to all this attentively, if you have not been asleep, but have listened with complete attention, then you will have experienced immediately the state of not being occupied. As one speaks, or listens, one is aware of the various layers of occupation, and of how contradictory they are; and being aware of the total contradictory nature of consciousness, the mind discovers a state in which it is not occupied. This brings a totally different sense of action. Then you have to do nothing, for the mind itself will act.

Question: There is deep discontent in me, and I am in search of something to allay this discontent. Teachers like Shankara and Ramanuja have recommended surrender to God. They have also recommended the cultivation of virtue, and following the example of our teachers. You seem to consider this futile. Will you kindly explain.

Krishnamurti: Why are we discontented, and what is wrong with discontent? Obviously we are discontented because, to put it very simply, we want to be something. If I am a good painter, I paint in order to be better known; if I write a poem, I am dissatisfied because it is not good enough, so I struggle to improve. If I am a so-called religious person, there too I want to be something. I follow the example of the various saints, and I want to have as good a reputation as they have. From childhood I have been told I must be as good as or better than somebody else. I have been brought up in comparison, competition, ambition, so my whole life is burdened with discontent. After all, discontent is envy; and our culture, religious and social, is based on envy. We are encouraged to be something for the sake of God. On the one hand, discontent is stimulated, and on the other, we try to find ways and means to overcome that discontent. Being discontented economically, socially, we turn to religious examples to find satisfaction; we meditate, practise disciplines, in order to have no discontentment and to be at peace. This is what is happening with all of you, and I say it is a futile business, it has no meaning at all. To follow, to imitate, to have authority in religious matters, is evil, just as it is evil to have tyranny in government, because then the individual is completely lost.

At present you are not individuals, you are merely imitative machines, the product of a particular culture, of a particular education. You are the collective, not the individual - which is again fairly obvious. You are all Hindus or Christians, this or that, with certain dogmas, beliefs, which means that you are the product of the mass; therefore you are not individuals. You must be totally discontented to find out; but society does not want you to be discontented, because then you would be vital, you would begin to inquire, to search, to discover, and therefore you would be dangerous.

Unfortunately, discontent with most of you is based on the demand for satisfaction, and the moment you are satisfied, your discontent goes. Then you wither and decay. Have you not observed how people who are discontented when they are young, lose their discontent the moment they have a good job? Give the communist a good job, and it is all over. It is the same with religious people. Don't laugh, it is the same with you. You want to find the right master, guru, the right discipline - which is a cage that will smother you, destroy you; and this destruction is called the search for truth. That is, you want to be permanently satisfied so that you will have no disturbance, no discontent, no sense of inquiry. That is what has actually happened; and the more ancient the culture, the more destructive it is, because tradition invariably breeds mediocrity.

So we see that discontent, as we know it now, is merely the desire to find permanent satisfaction. And is there such a thing as permanent satisfaction, a permanent state of peace? Or is there only a state in which nothing is permanent? Only the mind that is totally impermanent, that is totally uncertain, can discover what is true; because truth is not static. Truth is always new, and it can be understood only by a mind which is dying to all accumulation, to all experience, and is therefore fresh, young, innocent.

Now, is there a discontent which has no object, no motive? Do you understand? A mind whose discontent has a motive will find a conclusion that will satisfy it and destroy its discontent; and such a mind decays, withers. All our discontent is based on a motive, is it not? But now we are asking quite a different question. Is there a discontent which has no motive, which is not the product of a cause? Must you not inquire into this and find out? Surely, such a discontent is necessary - or let us use a different word, it does not matter; let us call it a movement which has no cause, no motive. I think there is such a movement, and it is not mere speculation, or a hopeful idea. When the mind understands the discontent that has a motive, the discontent that is born of the demand for satisfaction, for permanency - when the truth of that discontent is really seen - then the other is. But the other cannot be understood or experienced if there is discontent with a motive, and at present all our discontent has a motive: I cannot get what I want, my wife does not love me, I am no good as I am so I must be different, and so on. There is this endless multiplication of cause and effect, out of which comes the thing we call discontent.

Now, if the mind is aware of that whole process and understands it totally, sees the truth of it, then you will find there is a movement which has no motive at all. It is a movement, an action, it is not static, and it may be called God, truth, or what you will. In that movement there is enormous beauty, and that movement may be called love; because after all, love is without motive. If I love you and want something from you, it is not love - though I may call it by that name - , because there is a motive behind it. Social or religious activity based on a motive, though it is called service, is not service at all; it is self-fulfilment.

So, can one find out what it is to love without motive? It must be discovered, it cannot be practised. If you say, `How am I to get that love?', you are asking a question which has no meaning, because in wanting to get it you have a motive. When you use a method in order to get that love, the method only strengthens the motive, which is the `you'. Then you are important, not love.

If you will go into this very deeply - which is quite hard work, and which in itself is meditation - I think you will find that there is a movement without motive, a movement which has no cause; and it is such a movement that brings peace to the world, not your discontented movement with a cause. The man in whom there is this movement without a cause, is a religious man; he is a man who loves, therefore he can do what he will. But the politician, the social reformer, the man who cultivates virtue in order to be happy, or to know God, whose efforts are the result of a motive at whatever level - the activities of such a man only breed hatred, antagonism, and misery.

That is why it is very important for each one of us to find out for ourselves, and not follow Shankara, Ramanuja, Buddha, or Christ. To find out for ourselves, to discover something, we must be free; and we are not free if we merely quote Shankara, or some other authority. If we follow we shall never find. So freedom is at the beginning, not at the end. Liberation is now, not in the future. Liberation means freedom from authority, from ambition, from greed, from envy, and from this smothering of real discontent by the discontent which has a motive and demands an end.

It is essential for a revolution to take place which is not within the pattern of society, but within each one of us, so that we become total individuals, and not little Shankaras, little Buddhas, little Christs. We must undertake the journey by ourselves, completely alone, without support, without influence, without encouragement or discouragement; because that way there is no motive. The journey itself is the motive, and only those who undertake that journey will bring something new, something uncorrupted to this world - not the social reformers, the do-gooders, not the masters and their pupils, nor the preachers of brotherhood. Such people will never bring peace to the world. They are mischief makers. The man of peace is the man who puts aside all authority, who understands the ways of ambition, of envy, who cuts himself off totally from the structure of this acquisitive society, and from all the things that are involved in tradition. Only then is the mind fresh; and you need a fresh mind to find God, truth, or what you will, not a mind that is put together by culture, by influence.


Madras 1956

Madras 3rd Public Talk 18th January 1956

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