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Stockholm 1956

Stockholm, Sweden 5th Public Talk 24th May 1956

It might be profitable this evening if we could spend the time really discussing. By this I do not mean that you should merely ask questions and wait for my answer, but let us exchange ideas and think things out together. Perhaps it will be worthwhile, in a smaller group like this one, to try to go more deeply into what we have been talking about during the last four meetings.

We have been talking about how important it is that individual creativity should somehow come out of the chaos and confusion which exists in us and in the world today. And we have seen how essential it is, in this connection, to understand the background in which the mind is caught - the background which conditions us and limits our thinking. For it seems to me that, however much capacity we may have, the mind is nevertheless caught in the background, in the traditions, the experiences which it has stored up. It is fairly obvious that all experience tends to condition the mind; and I think it would be worth while to find out if it is possible for the mind not to be conditioned, not to build up a centre out of experience from which every judgment, every act then takes place; because that centre is inevitably self-enclosing, limited and narrow. If one thinks about it deeply, that is fairly clear.

Several questions have been asked as to why experience is a limitation, and I thought we might try to go into this matter rather thoroughly this evening. So, instead of my just talking about it, or our discussing merely as a verbal exchange, let us see if we can feel out this problem together.

Most of us think that experience is necessary, for our lives are full of experiences, both pleasant and unpleasant. One's memory is crowded with the residue of experience, and according to this accumulated experience we judge or evaluate life. Such evaluation, judgment, is invariably limited. The mind is bound by centuries of slavery to experience; and the question is, can it free itself? Can it be in that state of awareness which is entirely different from the state of accumulation? Can it be free of all accumulations, so that it never deteriorates but is fresh and, in that sense, innocent? For I think only such a mind can discover - not a mind that is loaded with experience.

So, can we go into this matter? Is it possible for us to find out together whether the mind can break through all this accumulation, which we call knowledge, experience? Can the mind also be free of the urge for further experience, which is really the pursuit of sensation, and thereby make itself new, fresh? Surely it is only the fresh, uncontaminated mind that is free to observe and discover for itself if there is something beyond its own creations.

In discussing all this, please do not treat me as an authority. You are not asking, and I am not telling you, which would be absurd, because that kind of exchange can only lead to authority and the crippling of the mind. What we are trying to do is to go seriously into this whole matter, without verbally blocking each other, or asking irrelevant questions, but really sticking to the point. Can we do that this evening?

Audience: Yes.

Questioner: To observe is to be free already, and to understand is also to be free - if I have understood you rightly. So it seems to be a real problem to know how to begin.

Krishnamurti: Let us bear in mind that you are not just asking questions for me to reply to. We are putting our minds together to try to find out whether experience helps man to be free from the limitations he has imposed upon himself. And it has been suggested that to understand is to be free, to observe is the beginning of freedom.

Now, what is our problem? What is actually happening with each one of us? Please examine your own mind and see what is happening to you. We have had very many experiences, both pleasant and unpleasant. To some we cling, while others we reject, but they are all held in our consciousness; we cannot build a wall and shut out any of them. They are there, whether we like it or not. And do these experiences help man, or hinder him? Will they bring freedom, or do they prevent freedom from taking place? This is really an important question; because psychologists say that every experience is retained by the mind. The death of a son leaves a mark; the hurts, the insults to our vanity - it is all held there in the mind. And what we are actually discussing is, can the mind free itself? If it can, then what is it that sets going this movement of freedom? Can you and I discover it for ourselves? Is it possible for the mind to break through its limitations and find true freedom? And is this to be done through observation? Is it to be done through some analytical process, or through confession, introspection, and so on?

Questioner: Experience which is in the deepest conformity with our innermost wishes will, I think, help us to free our minds. I personally have found that fasting and the vegetarian way of living is helping me to free my mind. When the stomach is empty the mind is set free. Should one give up such experience?

Krishnamurti: What do we mean when we say that vegetarianism, or certain other practices, will help us to be free? And what do we mean by `being free'? We say that some things free us, and some things bind us. When there is suffering, pain, we want to be free of it; but we do not want to be free of pleasure, do we? Our minds are only concerned with directing our activities in accordance with the pattern of satisfaction which the `I' has established.

We are not talking merely about vegetarianism, or yoga, and whether those practices bring freedom; we are inquiring to find out whether it is possible to be free from all experience. For example, the mind which is conditioned by Christianity, Hinduism, or what you will, may have visions, and the visions will be according to its particular background. All experience is both conditioned and conditioning, is it not? And we are discussing whether or not experience is helping us to be fundamentally free.

Questioner: Such things are not helpful.

Krishnamurti: Please do not agree with me. I do not mean this sarcastically or ironically, but the problem is much too fundamental for us merely to agree or disagree. We must go into it.

Questioner: I think that, living in this world of time and space, it is impossible to escape from experience. If we fight against our experiences, or cling to them, then they leave a hardened residue in the mind. But I think it is possible to go through experiences and still keep oneself absolutely free. I have done something like this myself. If one does not fix one's position in an experience, but just allows it to pass over one like a wave, then something happens - one will be changed and one will be free.

Krishnamurti: But you see, sir, when we say "If I do this, then something else will happen", all discussion stops. Surely, suppositional thinking is not thinking at all. What we are trying to go into is this: when there is some accident in life, a death or a hurt, it leaves a mark on the mind; and is it possible not to have that mark from an experience? Experience is going on all the time. Our whole life is a series of experiences, conscious or unconscious. The mind is like a sieve; some things we let go through it, and some are held. If you will observe your own mind you will see this as an obvious fact. So the experiences of yesterday condition the experiences of today - which is again a fact, surely. And can the mind be free of experience, so that experience does not leave a mark upon it which gives a bias to the oncoming experiences?

Questioner: But you can never get away from it.

Krishnamurti: If we say that, then all discussion ceases. Can we remove the `never' and go into the problem more deeply? After all, a mind which has conclusions and thinks only from those conclusions, is thinking no longer; it has stopped thinking.

Questioner: It seems fairly clear that when we are caught in a certain experience, the mind is not free. But when we live, as it were, in the dance of experience, then experience brings us to a point where we look at things differently and the mind has a chance to be free.

Krishnamurti: We all have conclusions, have we not?

Audience: No.

Krishnamurti: You mean to say you have no conclusions? - that there is life after death, that you are Swedish, that your friends are like this or like that, that experience has led you to a certain point, that there is a God, or no God, and so on? We are a mass of conclusions, are we not? And from this background we judge, we look at and evaluate life. Your conclusions are based on your experiences, and on the conventions of society which the collective has impressed upon you; and you are thinking from these conclusions. Now, someone comes along and points out that when you are thinking from conclusions, from past experiences, you are not thinking at all. And is it possible for the mind not to think from conclusions, and yet to act, to live, to function, to think? Because only such a mind is capable of looking, observing very keenly.

Questioner: I can follow you to the extent of seeing that it is a hindrance to accumulate knowledge for the sake of knowledge, and I also see the futility of disciplines, methods, and of striving for more and more sensation. But I cannot understand why you say we must not collect any experiences. You yourself must have had many experiences, for you have travelled and given lectures for over thirty years. You say we should free ourselves from religions, dogmas, and conventional biases. To do that we must know the structure of society, and we cannot get to know that structure without a great deal of penetrating personal experience, such as you certainly have had.

Krishnamurti: I do not think we are quite understanding what the problem is. The gentleman says that I have had lots of experience, and implies that it must have left a great deal of knowledge and many impressions; the cupboard must be full of riches. I do not think so. What we are talking about is this: all of us have a centre, either a solid kernel or a fluidic one, but still a centre - a centre of hurts, fears, of wanting something, of pettiness, frustration, lack of love, and so on. This centre is the result of our experiences, and it is always accumulating through further experiences. It is alive with memories, with various hopes and fears, and the mind is acting from this centre. And we are trying to find out whether the mind can ever be free from this centre, which is a vast bundle of experiences.

My son is dead. That leaves a tremendous wound, does it not? War is a terrible experience, and it leaves a scar, a mark on the mind. These marks direct all our thinking, do they not? They determine our attitude, our way of thinking and living, and they shape our future experiences. If I believe in Christ, in Buddha, or in some other person, that belief is an experience which will govern other experiences.

So, do we know, all of us, that we have such a centre? And is it possible to break it down, or does it have to go on? - which may be the process of life; we are going to find out. Is it inevitable that the process of life should form a centre, which then governs and directs further experience? Or is there something else, something entirely different, which will break down this centre of accumulation?

That is, acting from your centre, you are ambitious - you want to be a great architect, a painter, a poet. There is always something we want to be, either positively or negatively; and this centre invites future experience according to its conditioning. Am I making it clear?

Audience: Yes.

Questioner: But without a centre which accumulates memories, I would be lost; I would not even know where I lived. Surely it is right to remember, and store up memories, otherwise how can I live?

Krishnamurti: That is the whole problem, is it not? If I forget where I live, there is something wrong with me mentally. At one level there must obviously be the retention of certain experiences, but they will be only those experiences which do not condition my thinking and feeling. Whereas, if I have been brought up as a Hindu, or a Catholic, that background is surely going to condition my whole outlook. Living in a particular society and conforming to its sanctions, I am conditioned in that particular way, and I look at everything from a certain fixed point of view.

So, we are talking about the possibility of removing its conditioning from the mind - the conditioning which causes conflict, which perverts the mind and makes it really insane. When I call myself a Hindu, a Communist, a Catholic, or what you will, it is not sanity; that is insanity, because it divides human beings and sets man against man. Naturally it would be absurd to forget where I live; or if I am, say, a physicist, to forget what I know. We are not talking about that. But a physicist who calls himself an American, a Russian, or a Swede, and uses his knowledge from that centre, perverts life, does he not? That is the kind of thing we are talking about.

So let us proceed to investigate whether you and I have in fact got these accumulated experiences, these conclusions which are perverting thought. We obviously have got them, so the question is how to deal with them. How is the mind, which has certain dominant beliefs, to be free of them? I do not know if you have ever thought about this problem, but it is surely important. The mind has a background of belief, of conclusion, of experience, both pleasurable and painful, and this background is so strong, so corroding. How is the mind to be free of it? Or is this not a problem to you?

Questioner: I do not think we can do anything except let it pass away.

Krishnamurti: No, sir, we cannot do that.

Questioner: But we do not have to dwell on it.

Krishnamurti: But we do! I do not think we are meeting the problem. You have had certain experiences, and you have certain beliefs, conclusions, have you not? These conclusions, beliefs and experiences direct your life, and according to them you have further experiences. You may have visions of Christ, or visions of a future Utopia, of this or of that. And we are trying to find out whether the mind is not very harmful, very destructive, when its thoughts spring from conclusions, beliefs. If I believe in nationalism - which is one of the causes of war - , if I feel myself to be an Englishman, an Indian, a Russian, and so on, from that crystallized thinking I will inevitably create war. So, can the mind be free from conclusions? - that is my problem. Is it not yours also? I am sure it is. I am not pushing you into a corner, but you will have to face it. As long as you have any conclusions, you are one of the causes of war. If you realize this, then how are you to be free from conclusions?

Questioner: If we can reason freely, we may be able to find a way of freeing our minds from the conclusions which lead us in the wrong direction. The fact that we have flags shows that we are on the wrong path; we think as Swedes instead of as human beings. Perhaps it will free us if we can ask: will this deed, which is the result of my thinking, benefit those among whom I live, or will it not?

Krishnamurti: I am afraid the problem is not quite so simple. If I merely say "I am going to live by what I think is good", where does it lead? A dictator, a tyrant, thinks he is doing good; so do the exploiter and the imperialist. `Doing good' cannot be the criterion by which the mind can free itself. If it were as simple as that, it would be very easy. I have to know myself first, do I not? I have to know all my hidden motives, my desires, my tendencies, the totality of myself. Whether I am doing good or doing harm depends, surely, on whether I know and understand myself. And how am I to know myself? Can I know myself on the basis of a conclusion - the conclusion that there is in me a divine spark, or that I am only the result of environmental influences, or any other conclusion? To know myself, surely, I must have no preconceptions, no assumptions. I must see those hopes and fears which are dictating my thoughts about myself; I must know the conclusions, the fixed points to which the mind clings - and the very knowing of them may be the action of breaking them down. The moment I know I am talking as a Hindu, and understand the significance of it, the thought that I am a Hindu has lost its influence; but if I profit by it, if I find security in it, then I will cling to it.

We have to know the total content of our being, and we cannot know it if we start from any fixed point. If we have a fixed point built up through fear, through hope, through dogma, then, when we try to look at ourselves, that fixed point is always colouring, distorting what we see.

Questioner: All that I can do with a conclusion is to become aware of it, to question it; and when I do that, I find that I do not know.

Krishnamurti: We are touching now upon a very complex problem, and it has taken one and a half hours to come to this point. The problem is whether we can find out how our thinking is actually conditioned, and whether to go beyond that conditioning will take time.

To know for oneself very clearly in what way one is conditioned, to what beliefs the mind is clinging, and of what one is afraid - to know all this, and then discover how to go much deeper, needs patient inquiry; and perhaps we can go further into it tomorrow. The brain will not take more than a certain amount.

May 24, 1956


Stockholm 1956

Stockholm, Sweden 5th Public Talk 24th May 1956

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