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Bombay 1956

Bombay 7th Public Talk 25th March 1956

It seems to me that, all over the world, there is very little respect for the individual; and without this respect, the individual is totally crushed - which is what is happening in modern society. A different social environment must obviously be brought about, but I do not think we realize how important it is for the individual to be free; that is, we do not see the significance of individual inquiry, search, and release. It is only the individual who can ultimately find reality, it is only the individual who can be a creative force in this disintegrating society; and I do not think we fully comprehend how urgent it is that we as individuals should discover for ourselves a way of life dissociated from the cultural, social, and religious influences which surround us. If we did perceive the importance of the individual, we should never have leaders and be followers. We follow only when we have lost our individuality. There are leaders only when we as individuals are confused, and are therefore incapable of clearly thinking out our own problems, and acting upon them. At present we are not individuals, we are merely the residue of collective influences, of cultural impressions, and social restrictions. If you observe very closely and carefully the operation of your own mind, you will see that your thinking is according to tradition, according to books, according to leaders or gurus, which means that the individual has completely ceased; and surely it is only the individual who can create anything new.

Now, why is it that we have lost respect for the individual? We talk a great deal about the importance of the individual; all the politicians talk about it, including those in the collective, tyrannical society, just as the various religious leaders talk about the importance of the soul. But how does it happen that, in actual practice, the individual is ground down, totally lost? I do not know if this is a problem to any of you; but if we can pay sufficient attention this evening, perhaps we shall be able to emerge from the mass of collective influences - actually emerge from it, and discover for ourselves what it is to be real individuals, totally integrated human beings.

I think one of the fundamental reasons for our having ceased to be individuals is the fact that we are pursuing power; we all want to be somebody, even in the house, in the flat, in the room. Just as nations create the tension of power, so each separate human being is everlastingly seeking to be something in relation to society; he wants to be recognized as a big man, as a capable bureaucrat, as a gifted artist, as a spiritual person, and so on. We all want to be something, and the desire to be something springs from the urge to power. If you examine yourself, you will see that what you want is success and the recognition of your success, not only in this world, but in the next world - if there is a next world. You want to be recognized, and for that recognition, you are dependent on society. Society recognizes only those who have power, position, prestige; and it is the vanity, the arrogance, of power, position, prestige, that most of us are seeking. Our deep underlying motive is the pride of achievement, and this pride asserts itself in different ways.

Now, as long as we are seeking power in any direction, real individuality is crushed out - not only our own individuality, but that of others. I think this is a basic psychological fact in life. When we seek to be somebody, it means that we desire to be recognized by society; therefore we become slaves to society, mere cogs in the social machine, and hence we cease to be individuals. I think this is a fundamental issue, not to be quickly brushed aside. As long as the mind is seeking any form of power - power through a sect, power through knowledge, power through wealth, power through virtue - it must invariably breed a society which will destroy the individual, because then the human mind is caught and educated in an environment which encourages the psychological dependence on success. Psychological dependence destroys the clear mind which is alone, uncorrupted, and which is the only mind capable of thinking problems right through individually, independent of society and of its own desires.

So, the mind is everlastingly seeking to be something, and thereby increasing its own sense of power, position, prestige. From the urge to be something springs leadership, following, the worship of success; and hence there is no deep individual perception of inward reality. If one actually sees this whole process, then is it possible to cut at the root of one's search for power? Do you understand the meaning of that word `power'? The desire to dominate, to possess, to exploit, to depend on another - all that is implied in this search for power. We can find other and more subtle explanations, but the fact is that the human mind is seeking power; and in the search for power it loses its individuality.

Now, how is this demand for power, which breeds arrogance, pride, vanity, to be put away? The mind is constantly seeking flattery, its emphasis is on itself, all its activities are self-centred; and how is the mind to cut at the root of this thing? I do not know if you have thought about this problem of how to be totally rid of the drive to power, but I think it would be worthwhile if we could go into it this evening.

There is the desire to be somebody in this world, or to be somebody spiritually. Now, is it at all possible to get at and uproot this thing, so that we never follow a leader, have no sense of self-importance, and do not want to be somebody in the political or any other world? Can we be nobody, even though the whole stream of existence is moving the other way, urging us from childhood to be somebody? All our education is comparative; we are always comparing ourselves with somebody, which is again the search for power and position. And can this competitive spirit be got rid of, not little by little, not gradually through time, but completely and instantaneously, like cutting at the root of a tree and destroying it? Can this be done, or must we have time to bridge the gap between what is and what should be?

I think we all realize the significance of this desire to be something, which produces imitation and destroys real individuality, clear perception; so I need not go into further details this evening. Now, can this desire be destroyed, wiped away instantaneously, or does it need time, which we call evolution? As we are at present educated, we say that it is a matter of time, of gradually approaching the ideal state in which there is no desire for power, and in which the mind is totally integrated. That is, we are here, and we must reach there, which is somewhere in the far distance; so there is a gap, an interval between the two, and hence we must struggle, we must move away from here to arrive there, which demands time. To me, this idea that the root of the desire to be something can be destroyed through time, is utterly false. It must be wiped away immediately, or it can never be; and if you will give this your full attention, you will see it for yourself. Please listen, not merely to what I am saying, but to what is actually happening in your own mind as I am talking - to the reaction, the psychological process, awakened in you by my words, my description.

It is obvious that each one of us wants to be something; and we see that the desire to be something does breed antagonism, arrogance, crime. We also see that it brings about a social structure which encourages that very desire, and in which the individual ceases to exist, because the mind gets caught up in the organization of power. Seeing this whole process, can the desire to be something utterly disappear? Surely, it is only when the mind is capable of complete and direct thinking, uninfluenced by any self-centred activity, that it can find out what is real; and being caught in this extraordinarily complex desire to be something, is it possible for the mind totally to free itself? If the problem and its implications are clear, we can proceed. But if you say, "It will take time to get rid of the desire to be something", then you are already looking at the problem with a prejudice, with a so-called educated mind. Your education, or the Gita, or your guru, has told you it will take time; so when you approach the problem, you already have a preconceived opinion about it.

Now, is it possible for the mind instantaneously to wipe away this desire to be something, and hence never again create a leader by becoming a follower? It is the follower who creates the leader, there is no leader otherwise; and the moment you become a follower you are an imitative entity, therefore you lose creative individuality. So, can the mind wipe away totally this sense of following, this sense of time, this wanting to be something? You can wipe it away only when you give it your whole attention. Please see this. When you give your undivided attention to it and are completely observant, fully aware of the fact that the mind is seeking power, position, that it wants to be something - only then can you be free. I shall explain what I mean by complete attention.

Attention is not to be forced, put together; the mind is not to be driven to pay attention to something. Please look at this, if you kindly will. The moment you have a motive for attention, there is no attention, because the motive is more important than paying attention. For the total cessation of the desire to be something, complete attention must be given to that desire. But you cannot give complete attention to it if there is any motivation, any intention to wipe away that desire in order to get something else; and our minds are trained, not to pay attention, but to derive from attention a result. You pay attention only when you get something out of it; but here such attention is an obstruction, and I think it is very important to understand this right from the beginning. Any form of attention which has an objective, becomes inattention, it breeds indolence; and indolence is one of the factors which prevent the immediate wiping away of the desire we are talking about. The mind can wipe away a particular desire only when it gives it complete attention; and it cannot give it complete attention as long as it is seeking a result. That is one factor of inattention; and any form of explanation, verbalization, is another. That is, there can be no attention as long as the mind has explanations of why it is seeking power, position, prestige. When you are trying to explain the cause of all that, there is inattention; therefore through explanation you will never find freedom.

There is no attention as long as you are comparing what has been said about this problem by various authorities, by Shankara, Buddha, Christ, or X, Y, Z. When your mind is full of other people's knowledge, other people's experience, when it is following guides, sanctions, there can be no attention. Neither is there attention if you judge or condemn - which is fairly obvious. If you condemn a thing, you cannot understand it. And there can be no attention when there is an ideal, because the ideal creates duality. Please see this. The ideal creates duality, and in that duality we are caught, especially in this unfortunate country, where we all have ideals. Everybody talks about the ideal of the guru, the ideal of non-violence, the ideal of loving your neighbour, the ideal of one life - and all the time you are denying that very thing in your living. So why not scrap the ideal? The moment you have an ideal, you have duality, and in the conflict of that duality the mind is caught. The fact is that there is this desire for power, this pride in being something, and it can only be wiped away instantaneously, not through the process of time; that is, only when the mind is aware of it without being distracted by the ideal. The ideal is a distraction, breeding inattention.

I hope you are giving your complete attention to the problem now, not because I am telling you to, but because you see for yourself the full significance of this desire to be something. If the mind is giving complete attention to the problem, it is not creating the opposite; therefore there is humility. The fact is that your mind is seeking power, position, mundanely or spiritually, and is thereby causing all this mess, the chaos, confusion, and misery in the world. When the mind really sees that fact, which is to give complete attention to it, then you will find that pride and arrogance totally cease; and this cessation is an entirely different state from that brought about by the desire to be humble. Humility is not to be cultivated; and if it is cultivated, it is no longer humility, it is merely another form of arrogance. But if you can look at the problem very clearly and directly, which is to give it your undivided attention, you will discover that to wipe away this desire to be something, with its arrogance, vanity and disrespect, is not a matter of time, for then it is wiped away immediately. Then you are a different human being, who will perhaps create a different society.

Question: It seems to me that the most notable thing about India is the all-pervading sense of timelessness, of peace and religious intensity. Do you think this atmosphere can be maintained in the modern industrial age?

Krishnamurti: Who do you think has created this sense of timeless peace and religious intensity? You and I? Or was it set going by some ancient people who lived quietly, anonymously, who felt these things intensely and perhaps expressed them in poems, in religious books? Because they felt intensely this religious spirit, it has remained; but it is not in our life, it is outside somewhere, and it has become our tradition. We are inclined to be so-called idealistic, which is a most unfortunate thing; and somewhat surreptitiously we have maintained this sense of timelessness - or rather, we have not maintained it, but it has gone on in spite of us. We are now caught in this modern industrial society. It is right that we should have machines to produce what is necessary in a country which is poverty-stricken; but because we have had nothing for so long, now that we can have things, if we are not very alert, individually clear-sighted and aware of the whole problem, we shall probably become more materialistic than America and the other Western nations - while America and Europe may perhaps become more spiritual, more timeless, more gentle, more compassionate. That may happen.

So, what is the problem? Is it how to maintain the sense of timelessness, the sense of peace and religious intensity, in spite of this modern industrial society? This industrial society has to exist, and production must be stepped up still more; but unfortunately, in bringing about greater production, in mechanizing farms and industries, the danger is that the mind will also become mechanized. We think science is going to solve all our difficulties. It is not. The solution of our difficulties depends, not on machines and the inventions of a few great scientists, but on how we regard life. After all, though we may talk about religion, we are not religious people; because the religious person is free of dogma, of belief, of ritual, of superstitions, he is not bound by class or caste, which means that he is free of society. The man who belongs to society is ambitious, he is seeking power, position, he is proud, greedy, envious; and such a man is not religious, though he may quote Shastras by the dozen. It is the religious person who will create this sense of timelessness, this sense of peace, even though living in an industrial society, because he is inwardly intense in his discovery from moment to moment of that which is eternal. But this requires astonishing vigour, mental clarity; and you cannot be mentally clear if your mind is cluttered up with knowledge gathered from the Shastras, the Gita, the Koran, the Bible, the Buddhist scriptures, and all the rest of it. Knowledge is the past, it is all that the mind has known, and as long as the mind is burdened with knowledge, it is incapable of discovering what is real. Only the religious mind can be timelessly creative, and its action is peace, for it reflects the intensity and the fullness of life.

Question: Is there anything new in your teaching?

Krishnamurti: To find out for yourself is much more important than my asserting `yes' or `no'. It is your problem, not my problem. To me, all this is totally new, because it has to be discovered from moment to moment; it cannot be stored up after discovery, it is not something to be experienced, and then retained as memory - which would be putting new wine in old bottles. It must be discovered as one lives from day to day, and it is new to the person who so discovers it. But you are always comparing what is being said with what has been said by some saint, or by Shankara, Buddha, or Christ. You say, "All these people have said this before, and you are only giving it another twist, a modern expression" - so naturally it is nothing new to you. It is only when you have ceased to compare, when you have put away Shankara, Buddha, Christ, with all their knowledge, information, so that your mind is alone, clear, no longer influenced, controlled, compelled, either by modern psychology, or by the ancient sanctions and edicts - it is only then that you will find out whether or not there is something new, everlasting. But that requires vigour, not indolence; it demands a drastic cutting away of all the things that one has read or been told about truth and God. That which is eternal, new, is a living thing, therefore it cannot be made permanent; and a mind that wants to make it permanent will never find it.

Question: Listening to you, one feels that you have read a great deal, and are also directly aware of reality. If this is so, then why do you condemn the acquisition of knowledge?

Krishnamurti: I will tell you why. It is a journey that must be taken alone, and there can be no journeying alone if your companion is knowledge. If you have read the Gita, the Upanishads, and modern psychology; if you have gathered information about yourself from the experts, and about what they say you should strive after - such knowledge is an impediment. The treasure is not in books, but buried in your own mind, and the mind alone can discover this treasure. To have self-knowledge is to know the ways of your mind, to be aware of its subtleties, with all their implications; and for that you don't have to read a single book. As a matter of fact, I have not read any of these things. Perhaps as a boy, or a young man, I casually looked at some of the sacred books, but I have never studied them. I do not want to study them, they are tiresome, because the treasure is somewhere else. The treasure is not in the books, nor in your guru, it is in yourself; and the key to it is the understanding of your own mind. You must understand your mind, not according to Patanjali, or according to some psychologist who is clever at explaining things, but by watching yourself, by observing how your mind works, not only the conscious mind, but the deep layers of the unconscious as well. If you watch your mind, play with it, look at it when it is spontaneous, free, it will reveal to you untold treasures; and then you are beyond all the books. But that again requires a great deal of attention, vigour, an intensity of pursuit - not the dilettantism of lazy explanations. So the mind must be free from knowledge; because a mind that is occupied with knowledge can never discover what is.

Question: I have tried various systems of meditation, but I don't seem to get very far. What system do you advocate?

Krishnamurti: I do not advocate any system, because every system makes the mind a prisoner; and I think it is very important really to understand this. It does not matter what system you practise, what posture you take, how you control your breathing, and all the rest of it, because your mind becomes a prisoner of whatever system you adopt. But there must be meditation; for meditation is a sweet thing, it clarifies the mind, bringing order, and revealing the significance, the fullness, the depth and beauty of life. Without meditation, the mind is shallow, empty, dull, dependent on stimulation. So meditation is necessary - but not the meditation that you do now, which has no value at all; it is a form of self-hypnosis. The problem is not how to meditate, or what system to follow, but to discover for yourself what meditation is.

Now, we are going to enter into this question of what meditation is, so don't shut your eyes and go to sleep over it, thinking you are meditating. We are inquiring, and inquiry demands attention, vigour - not closing your eyes and going into a trance, which you are apt to do when you hear that word `meditation'. We are trying to find out what meditation is; and to find out what meditation is, requires meditation. (Laughter.) Sirs, please don't laugh it off. To find out what meditation is, your mind must be meditating, not just following some stupid system based on the teachings of a guru, of Shankara or Buddha. All teachings are stupid the moment they become systems. You and I are trying to find out together what meditation is, and what it means to meditate; we are not concerned with where meditation is going to lead. If you are intent upon finding out where meditation is going to lead, then you will never discover what meditation is, because you are interested in the result, not in the process of meditation.

So we are setting out on a journey to find out what is meditation; and to find out, to discover what is meditation, the mind must first be free of systems, must it not? If you are tied to a system, it does not matter whose system it is, you obviously cannot find out what is meditation. You follow a system because you want a result out of it, and that is not meditation; like practising the piano, it is merely the development of a certain faculty. When you follow a system, you may learn a few tricks, but your mind is caught in the system, which prevents you from finding out what is meditation; therefore, to find out, the mind must be free of systems. It is not a question of how to be free; because the moment you say, "How am I to be free of the system in which my mind is caught?", the `how' becomes another system. But if you see the truth that the mind must be free of systems, then it is free, you don't have to ask how.

So, being free of systems, the mind must then inquire into the whole problem of concentration. This is a little more abstract, but please follow it. When a child is playing with a toy, the toy absorbs his mind, it holds his attention. He does not give attention to the toy, but the toy attracts him. That is one form of what you call concentration. Similarly, you have phrases, images, symbols, pictures, ideals, which attract and absorb you - at least, you want to be absorbed by these things, as the child is absorbed by the toy. But what happens? You are not as absorbed as the child; other thoughts come in, and you try to fix your mind on the chosen image or symbol, so you have a battle. There is contradiction, strife, a ceaseless effort to concentrate, but you never quite achieve it. This effort is what you call meditation. You spend your time trying to concentrate, which any child can do the moment he is interested in something; but you are not interested, so your concentration is a form of exclusion.

Now, is there attention without anything absorbing the mind? Is there attention without concentrating upon an object? Is there attention without any form of motive, influence, compulsion? Can the mind give full attention without any sense of exclusion? Surely it can, and that is the only state of attention; the others are mere indulgence, or tricks of the mind. If you can give full attention without being absorbed in something, and without any sense of exclusion, then you will find out what it is to meditate; because in that attention there is no effort, no division, no struggle, no search for a result. So meditation is a process of freeing the mind from systems, and of giving attention without either being absorbed, or making an effort to concentrate.

Meditation is also a process of freeing the mind from its own projections; and its projections take place when the mind is occupied with the past. That is, when the mind is full of experiences, which are a result of the past, it inevitably projects and is caught in the images or ideations of the past. To project an image of Rama, Seeta, Christ, Buddha, or Mataji, and then worship that projection, is a form of self-hypnosis which does bring extraordinary visions, a state of trance, and all the rest of that nonsense; but meditation is the process of freeing the mind from the past, so that there are no such projections at all.

So the worshipping of a projection, however noble, is not meditation. And meditation is not prayer - the prayer which demands, petitions, begs for some result. Nor is meditation the pursuit of virtue, which becomes a self-centred activity. When the mind is free from the hypnosis of the past, from the pursuit of its own activities, its own projections, when it is no longer experiencing the things it has learned, then you will find out what meditation is. Then you will never ask how to meditate, because from morning till night, in whatever you are doing, subtle, hidden, the perfume of meditation is there. But merely closing your eyes, repeating some phrases, fingering the beads, is utterly vain. These things do not free the mind at all; on the contrary, the mind becomes a slave to them. It is the inquiry into what is meditation that has significance, that has great depth and vision, not the inquiry into what system to follow. It is only the stupid, arrogant mind that wants a system. The free mind never asks how, but is always discovering, moving, living.


Bombay 1956

Bombay 7th Public Talk 25th March 1956

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