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Bombay 1956

Bombay 4th Public Talk 14th March 1956

We may theoretically or verbally agree that it is very important for the individual to emerge from the collective, but I do not think we pay sufficient attention to the problem; because it is only when there is the creative release of the individual that there is a possibility of discovering and living a totally different kind of life from that which we are living now. At present our life, our thinking, is collective; we are part of the collective; and if we are to bring about a different kind of society, with different values, it seems to me that the individual must begin to understand all the collective impressions that the mind has gathered through the centuries. And as I was saying, it is only when there is freedom at the very beginning that the true individual can emerge. After all, most of us are the result of environment; our thoughts, our activities, our beliefs, our various pursuits, are conditioned by the many influences that exist about us; and to discover what is truth, one has to free the mind from this conglomeration of influences, which is extraordinarily arduous and difficult. I do not think we give sufficient importance to this. It is not until the mind frees itself from these many influences that it is uncorrupted, and only then is there a possibility of discovering something entirely new - something which has not been premeditated, which is not a self-projection, which is not the result of any culture, society, or religion.

Propaganda is the cultivation of prejudices; and all of us are prejudiced, because we have been educated to accept or to reject, but never to inquire into this whole problem of influence. We say that we are seeking truth; but what is it that most of us are really seeking? If you are at all aware, self-observant, you will know that you are seeking a result of some kind; you want some form of satisfaction, an inward stability or permanency which you call by different names, according to the environment in which you have been brought up. And are you not seeking success? You want to be successful, not only in this world, but also in the next. It seems to me that this desire to be successful, to arrive, to become something, is a result of the wrong kind of education. And can the mind totally free itself from this desire?

I do not think we ask ourselves this question, because all we are concerned with is to follow a method, a system, or an ideal, which we hope will produce a result, lead us to certainty, to success, to definite and permanent happiness, bliss, or what you will. So our minds are always occupied in the effort to arrive at something; and as long as the mind is seeking a goal, an end, a result which will give it complete satisfaction, there must be the creation and following of authority. That is so, is it not? As long as I think that bliss, happiness, God, truth, or what you will, is an end to be reached, there will be the desire to reach it; so I must have a guru, an authority, who will help me to achieve what I demand. Therefore I become a follower, I depend on another; and as long as there is dependence, there is no question of the individual's emerging from the collective and finding out for himself what is truth, or what is the right thing to do.

So, if you observe, you will see that we are always seeking someone to tell us what to do. Being confused, we go to another to seek advice. The result is that we are always following, thereby psychologically setting up authority which invariably blinds our thinking and prevents the creativity which is so essential. Outwardly, in this competitive, acquisitive society, we are ambitious, ruthless, otherwise we shall be driven out, pushed aside. Inwardly, psychologically, we are equally ambitious; there also we want to arrive at a certain height, so we pursue an end, either self-projected, or created by another. Seeing all this, what is one to do? How is one to find out what is right action?

Surely, this must be a problem to all of us. We see confusion within us and around us; the old values, beliefs, and dogmas, the leaders we have followed, no longer satisfy us, they have lost their grip; and seeing all this chaos, what is one to do? How is one to find out what is right action? To go into this problem, we must ask ourselves what we mean by search, must we not? We all say we are seeking - at least, those of us do who are serious, earnest; but before we go on with our search, surely we must find out what we mean by that word, and what it is that each one of us is seeking.

Sirs, can you find anything new by seeking it? Or in your search, can you only find that which you have already known and projected into the future? I think this is an important question. What is it that we are seeking? And can a mind that is seeking ever find something beyond time, beyond its own projections? That is, I say I am seeking truth, God, bliss; but to find it, I must be able to recognize it, must I not? And to be able to recognize it, I must have already experienced it. Previous experience is necessary for recognition, so what I can recognize has already existed in my mind; therefore it is not truth, it is my own projection. And yet that is what most of us are doing. When we seek, we are seeking something which the mind has already experienced and wants to recapture; therefore what we are really after is the permanency of an experience of pleasure, gratification. So, as long as the mind is seeking, obviously it can never find out what is truth. It is only when the mind is no longer seeking - which does not mean that it becomes dull, distracted - and understands this whole process of search, that there is a possibility of discovering something which is not of its own projection, of its own evaluation.

For example, you read in the Gita or the Upanishads a description of something permanent, an everlasting bliss, or what you will; and because this life is transient and your thinking, your activities, your relationships, are confused, disturbing, miserable, you want that other state about which you have read. That is what you are seeking. In the search for that state, you cultivate the acceptance of authority, you go to someone who promises to lead you to what you want. Therefore you become a follower; and as long as you follow, you are part of the collective, the mass. You have already recognized, you have established in your mind what that other state is, and you are seeking it through following a guru, through meditation, through the practice of various forms of discipline, and so on. What you are really seeking is something which you already know, or have been taught, a state which you have read about or vaguely experienced; so your search is for the continuance of a gratifying experience, or for the discovery of a pleasurable state which you hope exists, is it not? And I say this search will never reveal the unknown; therefore all seeking must cease.

Please do listen to all this with a little attention, if you kindly will. As they are now, our lives are contradictory, shallow, empty, and we are very confused. We go from one guru to another, from one book to another; all about us there are specialists in what we call spirituality, each offering a particular form of meditation, discipline, and we have to choose what is the right thing to do. Now, as long as there is choice, there must be confusion; and it seems to me that before we choose, seek, it is imperative to find out for ourselves what is freedom. For it is only the free mind that can inquire, and not the mind that is caught in tradition, that is conditioned, influenced; nor the mind that is seeking a result; nor the mind that is filled with the activity of the immediate in relation to a projected future.

Surely, then, we must discover for ourselves the full significance of freedom, not as a goal, not as an end, but now. What does freedom mean to all of us? As long as the mind is conditioned by society, by culture, as long as it is burdened with its own loneliness, emptiness, as long as it is a slave to any kind of influence, it is not free. So, can the mind be fully aware of the influences that exist outside of and within itself, and which cause it to think in a particular direction, thereby making it incapable of straight thinking? As long as there is pressure behind thinking, thinking can never be straight; and can the mind remove all this pressure? That is, can it be free of motivation, of all compulsion to be this or to be that? We may not be conscious of the pressures that lie behind our thinking, the compulsions of fear, of motive, of dogma and belief; but they are there. Now, can we be fully aware of these influences, and allow the mind to think very smoothly and straightly for itself? Surely, that is one of our greatest problems, is it not? Can we find out what are the pressures on and in the mind that are making us think and act in a certain direction? Let us look at the problem differently.

You live here in Bombay. Are you to take the side of Maharashtra, or Gujarat? To which state is Bombay to go? You all sit up and take interest now, do you not? (Laughter). It is very surprising. Now, what are you to do? If you say, `As a citizen I must choose', and you act either as a Maharashtrian, or a Gujarathi, that action is bound to lead to further misery. Whereas, if you act neither as a Maharashtrian, nor a Gujarathi, but as a human being who is not involved in any of this business - with all its stupidity and narrow prejudice, with its clinging to caste, and all the rest of that nonsense - , then your action will obviously be entirely different.

So we have to inquire what are the pressures, the motives that are compelling us to act in this way or that; for unless we understand these influences and are free of them, our action will invariably lead to greater sorrow and confusion. That is why it is very important to have self-knowledge, which is to understand the background, the conditioning of one's own mind, and to be freeing oneself from it all the time. You see, when we are merely concerned with immediate action, we get carried away by it, without inquiring into the whole problem of conditioning, how the mind is shaped as a Hindu, as a Christian, or what you will; and unless the mind is liberating itself from its conditioning, whatever action we may take is bound to be disintegrating, and can only create more chaos. So our concern is not to choose this or that course of action, but to understand how the mind is conditioned; for in freeing the mind from its conditioning, there comes an action which is sane, rational, intelligent.

What is important, then, is to find out for ourselves what each one of us is seeking, and whether what we are seeking has any validity, or is merely an escape. It is imperative to have self-knowledge, to know oneself - not as the Atman, and all the rest of it, but to know what one is from day to day, which is to observe how one thinks, to see what are the influences behind one's thought, and to be aware of the conscious as well as the unconscious movements of the mind. Then the mind is capable of being very quiet; and it is only in that quietness that something real can take place.

Question: One of the dominant ideas in Hinduism is that this world is an illusion. Do you not think that this idea, through the centuries, has been a strong contributing factor to the present misery?

Krishnamurti: I do not know what the doctrines of Hinduism are, because I am not a Hindu; nor am I a Christian, or a Buddhist. But I know, as we all do, that the mind has the power to create illusion. It can mesmerize itself into believing that the trees and the houses do not exist, or that suffering is not; it has the extraordinary faculty of believing whatever it likes, irrespective of facts - which is the power to create illusion. Illusion is of different kinds. We have created the illusion of the ideal. We say this world does not matter, it is only the next world that matters, and this world is merely a passage to that. Or we say, `I am rich now because I lived a good life last time'. So we can explain anything away, but the fact remains that the mind has the power to create illusion.

Now, can the mind free itself from that power and see facts as they are, instead of its opinion about the facts? Is it possible to see that one is cruel, and not explain cruelty away, or speculate about what it is that has made one cruel? Can one see the starvation, the degradation, the misery, the conflict, the brutality that exists in the world, and not explain it? Can we be simply aware of the fact that we are brutal, violent, cruel, not only outwardly, but inwardly? If we just see that fact without explaining it, what happens? Then the fact begins to operate on the mind the mind does not operate on the fact. The mind operates on the fact only when we evaluate the fact, when we have opinions about it. Being cruel, I have the ideal of kindliness, compassion, which is over there, away from the fact. What is over there is an illusion created by the mind; the fact is, I am cruel. Now, can the mind remain with the fact, not morbidly, but just remain with the fact that I am cruel, full stop? The ideal has been created by the mind, and it is a total illusion; it exists because I want to escape from the fact. But if the mind is free from that illusion which it calls the ideal, then the mind can be operated on by the fact. Let us make it more clear and simple.

Most of you, I am sure, have ideals; and ideals exist because the mind has the power to create them. They have no validity, they are not facts; they are the mind's conception of what should be, which is entirely different from what is. What is is the fact, not what should be; but unfortunately we are all idealistic, and so there is the split personality. We are always talking about nonviolence, Ahimsa - how easily this word slips out of us! - and yet we are Maharashtrians, Gujarathis, Telugus, and God knows what else. (Laughter). Sirs, why have ideals, which have no value at all? If we have no ideals, then the fact of misery, of starvation, and the appalling cruelty we indulge in, will force us to do something.

As long as we belong to any religion, to any caste, to any particular group, as long as we make the family or the nation the most important unit, there must be cruelty; and we never face this fact, we never look at it, but are always attempting to reach the ideal, and never do. When the mind frees itself from the idea of what should be, it can look at the fact of what is; and then the fact will obviously do something to the mind. As long as I only speculate about there being a poisonous snake in my room, I can go on speculating indefinitely, and there is no action; but if there is an actual snake, then action is immediate, I do not have to think about action.

So it may be partly because we have thought of this world as illusory, or as a steppingstone to something much greater, that we are not very concerned with its social horrors and utter misery - but this does not mean that each one of us should immediately enter the field of social reform, which would only increase the present chaos. What is important is to find out how your mind works, which means seeing the pressures, the compulsions, that make you do a certain thing, and freeing the mind from its conditioning. As long as the mind thinks as a Hindu, a Brahmin, a Catholic, or what you will, its conditioning prevents it from facing the fact; but the moment it frees itself from that conditioning and faces the fact, there is an action uninfluenced by the past.

Sirs, the problem is very complex. You see, any ideas the mind creates are the outcome of its background, of its prejudice, bias; and a mind that would find out what is the right thing to do in all this chaotic misery, must understand and free itself from its background - which is much more important than to find out what to do. The `what to do' will come with the understanding of the background. As long as you think as a Brahmin, or a non-Brahmin, as long as you follow this path, or that path, any action born of such thinking inevitably creates more confusion, more wars, more hatred. But if you begin to understand the background, there is bound to be right action; and the understanding of the background comes only through awareness in relationship.

Question: Can there be a synthesis of the East and the West, and is not that the only way of bridging the gulf between them?

Krishnamurti: Sir, what are the East and the West? You see, we are asking a wrong question and trying to find a right answer. Is there an East and a West, except geographically? Is there an eastern culture and a western culture? Is there an eastern way of thinking and a western way of thinking? Superficially there may be; but whether it is called eastern or western, communist or Catholic, each one of us is conditioned by the culture in which he is brought up. You may live in the East, and another in the West; but he is conditioned by his society, by the climate, by the food he eats, by the innumerable impressions, pressures, influences, that exist around him, just as you are. In the West, people wear a certain type of clothing, and here they wear something else; but the human being is the same throughout the world, whatever he wears, and regardless of whether his skin is brown, white, black, or yellow. We are all ambitious, greedy, envious, wanting success - though `success' may take one form there, and a different form here. We are human beings, not easterners and westerners; this is our world, it is not the world of the communists, the Catholics, or of any other group, however much they may want it to be. Large groups of people are deliberately being conditioned to think in a certain way. But there is no `better' conditioning, there is only conditioned thinking; and as long as our minds are conditioned, and act according to that conditioning, we are bound to create wars. As long as you think as a Hindu, opposed to Americans, or Russians, or Moslems, or what you will, you must inevitably bring about antagonism; as long as you think of yourself as a Gujarathi, or a Maharashtrian, you are going to have appalling brutalities.

So there is only the human mind, there is only thinking, whether here or in the West; and it is the primary job of every serious person to inquire into the whole process of thinking, because all action springs from thought. Without thinking, there is no action; and thinking is now divided as Indian, European, this or that, which means that it is conditioned, influenced, shaped by a particular culture. Having produced its own culture, the mind then gets caught in that culture, in that society; and to understand this process, to go into it and break it down, is the function of every responsible human being. It is only when we free the mind from its conditioning that we can know what love is, what compassion is; and as long as we remain Hindus, Maharashtrians, or what you will, it is all nonsense to talk about God, truth, love, compassion.

A new world cannot come into being unless each one of us feels that this earth is ours to live on, yours and mine; and we cannot live on it peacefully if I think of myself as a Brahmin, or a great saint, and look upon you as a little man, a servant to be abused. We are human beings together, and the change of heart is much more important than the change of legislation. Laws cannot change the heart; and the heart or mind which is ambitious, can utilize or circumvent any form of legislation to enrich itself. That is why it is very important to understand all this, and not divide the world as the East and the West.

Question: According to you, the known can never discover the unknown. How then can one recognize the unknown? Is it so utterly different?

Krishnamurti: Surely, the mind is the result of the known. The mind only knows as a fact what has been, it can never know as a fact what will be. It can conjecture; but there are innumerable influences which are constantly changing the future, so no man can say what the future will be; and I think it is very important to understand this politically. No group of people, whether communist, Catholic, socialist, or any other, can know the future. To assume that the future can be known is to have a pattern, from which arises the effort to force man to fit into that pattern, liquidating him if he does not, or destroying him in prison-camps, and all the rest of the horrors. What can be known is the process of one's own thinking. The known is the past; recognition is the whole process of the known.

The questioner asks, in effect, "Can I recognize the unknown? Can I experience, and know that I am experiencing, the unknown?" Now, what do we mean by recognition? Surely, we can only recognize something we have known. Having met you before, I recognize you; if I have not previously met you, I cannot recognize you - recognition being familiarity with the name, the quality and shape of the face, the manner of speech, the gesture, and all the rest of it. So recognition is always the result of the known. I recognize, because I have experienced before, that that is a house, that is a tree, that is a man, a woman, or a child; I know because I have been told, and also because it is my own experience. I know through experience; so the mind is the result of the known. From the known it can project the unknown, calling it God, truth, or what you will; but it is still a projection of the known.

So, can the known experience the unknown? Obviously not. Such a question is a contradiction, it has no validity. The question is not whether the mind can recognize or experience the unknown, but whether the mind can free itself from the known. Being the result of the known, can the mind free itself from the known? This is an extraordinary question, if you really put it to yourself and go into it. The mind has become mechanical because it functions from the known to the known. Like the electronic machines which have been invented, it can only function through association. Our thinking is the result of the known, otherwise there is no thinking; it is the reaction of memory, which is the past; and it is the past that asks, "Can I know or experience something which is timeless, something without measure, beyond recognition?" The answer is obvious.

So, all that we can do is to understand the operations of the known, to see how the mind thinks, feels, inquires - which is meditation; and only then is the mind completely still. Stillness of the mind may be induced by drugs, or by discipline, suppression, but that is not meditation; it is just a trick, and such a mind is not still. It is only through inquiring into the known that the mind can be quiet, completely still - the totality of the mind, the conscious as well as the unconscious, not just the superficial mind which says, "I must be still in order to experience the unknown". The totality of the mind must be still, which means that the whole process of thinking must come to an end; and it cannot come to an end by chopping it off, or operating upon it, but only by understanding it. When the whole process of thinking is understood, there comes a stillness of mind in which there is neither the experiencer nor the experienced, there is no movement; and only then is there a possibility of the coming into being of something which is beyond the measure of time.

Our job, then, is not to inquire into the unknown, but to find out whether the mind can be free from the known. If you really put this question to yourself, factually and not theoretically, you will find out whether the mind can or cannot be free. I cannot tell you; it is for you to discover the truth of the matter. And you are bound to put this question to yourself, because, as it is now, your mind is mechanical, it endlessly repeats what it has been taught, what it has learnt, what it has read - the eternal gossip about the known. Only when the mind understands itself is there the possibility of freedom from the known.


Bombay 1956

Bombay 4th Public Talk 14th March 1956

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