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Brussels 1956

Brussels, Belgium 4th Public Talk 23th June 1956

This evening I think it would be worthwhile to go into the whole question of tradition and memory, and try to discover what is the significance of this background, and how it functions. Tradition, it seems to me, invariably leads to mediocrity. And most of us are merely following tradition - the tradition of security, the tradition which has been handed down through the churches and other so-called religious organizations, or the tradition which we ourselves have built up as experience or knowledge. I think it would be wise and significant if we could go into this whole problem of experiences which condition the mind, and find out whether there is an experiencing which never limits the mind, never creates tradition, conformity. Can the mind ever be free from habit? Or must the mind always move in what is essentially a groove of habit, however apparently significant and worthwhile? Most of our minds do function in the groove of habit, and we seem to be at a loss when for a moment habit is gone. Habit may be necessary for the mind up to a certain point, and then it may become detrimental, a blockage, a hindrance.

So it seems to me important to find out what is the function of memory, and how far the mind can free itself from the mere pattern of memory. Is the mind capable of experiencing anything new, or must it always continue in the pattern of the old, however modified? Memory - which is, after all, tradition - has value up to a certain point; but however much information the mind may have stored up, it is incapable, through memory, of discovering something totally new. It seems to me that truth, or God, or whatever name one may like to give to that immeasurable thing, must be wholly unimaginable, not something projected from memory, something which has already been experienced; it must be totally new, something which the mind has never before experienced. A mind that is caught in tradition, that is merely the instrument of memory, living in the pattern of many yesterdays, is surely incapable of finding out what is true. And without the perfume of that reality, life becomes merely mechanical.

So it is important, I think, to go into this whole question of what is the function of memory - which means, really, what is the process of the mind? What is thinking? Can thinking ever be free of memory? All thinking - not merely specific thinking, but the totality of it - is the reaction of a background of tradition, of memory, is it not? And can the mind free itself from that background of the past, or is it incapable of being free? A mind that is merely inquiring through thought, through reason, through logic, moving from conclusion to conclusion - surely such a mind can never find out what is true, and whether there is a reality. And is our whole process of inquiry into reality merely a conditioned response, an escape from our tortures, from our pain and suffering?

So, what is thinking? How do we think? Let us try to go into this, not theoretically, not philosophically or speculatively, but directly experience what we are talking about, so that each one of us finds out how thought actually operates. This will perhaps help us to be aware of the total process of thinking, and then to see if the mind can go beyond thinking.

How do we think? If a question is asked which is familiar, the response is immediate, for there is no need to think. But a more complex question demands thinking - the thinking which is an inquiry, a looking into memory, the storehouse of knowledge. If a question is asked on a subject about which we know nothing, even then there is hesitation, a gap between the question and the response, which means that the mind is again looking into memory to find out if at any time it has learned something about that subject. So our thinking is always the response of memory, of association; our minds move from a fixed point in the past, from a belief or an experience which colours all our thinking. It is fairly obvious that this is the process which most of us go through, consciously or unconsciously, when we think.

Now, is it possible for the mind to go beyond that point, so that when it is inquiring into a very complex, unanswerable question - such as whether there is truth, or God, what lies beyond death, and so on - the mind is in a state of not knowing? Can it look at the problem and say `I do not know', because the thought process is entirely dissociated from the past? I think it is very important to come to that point, when all thinking ceases - thinking in the sense of responding according to the past, which is memory.

I do not know if I am making myself clear on this issue. If the totality of my thinking process is the response of my conditioning - which it is - , then the mind can never discover what is true, and whether there is anything which has not already been experienced. If the mind is to discover something totally new, it must come to this point, surely, when it is in a state of not knowing. That is why it is very important to go into this whole problem of consciousness - consciousness being the totality of all experience, of all memory, the residue of the past. One must know oneself; for self-knowledge is essential if one is to find out whether the mind can ever be free of all knowledge and discover something new.

If we look into ourselves, we shall see that experience conditions the mind. Every new experience is translated in terms of the old; it is absorbed by the established pattern of mediocrity, tradition. And obviously, a mind that is caught in tradition, in mediocrity, can never find out what is true, it can never discover that which is unimaginable, which cannot be conceived of, described, or believed in.

So, can the mind free itself from tradition and conformity - not only from those imposed by environment, but from the tradition and conformity which are built up by the mind itself through experience? One can see very well that all one's thinking is the response of one's conditioning. Our reaction to a challenge is always according to the background in which we have been brought up; and so long as we do not know our own conditioning, our thinking is never free. We may be able to adjust ourselves to a new pattern, to a new way of life, to new beliefs, to new dogmas, but in that process thought never frees itself.

So one has to inquire very deeply within oneself as to the significance and purpose of memory. And is memory the totality of our consciousness? Consciousness is within the field of time, is it not? My thinking, which is the result of the past, colours the present and projects the future - and this is the process of time. So all my experience is within the field of time. Can the mind free itself from that whole process? And if it does free itself, can it discover something new?

I do not think this is so very complicated if one is at all aware of oneself. You can see it for yourself quite simply if you observe the process of your own thinking. We know how extraordinarily easy it is to fall into a groove of habit, how quickly the mind reduces everything to habit - which is sometimes called `adjustment'. The mind always functions from the known to the known; and if the mind is to discover the unknowable, surely it must be free from the known. Can the mind free itself from the known? It is really a very interesting problem - not only interesting, but extraordinarily profound, if we can go into it.

All accumulated experience makes the mind conform, does it not? And can the mind free itself from the accumulation of experience? When it is free, is there such a thing as an experiencer? What is it that experiences? Surely, it is the accumulation of previous experiences and memories. The mind responds to any challenge through its previously accumulated knowledge. Either its response is adequate, or inadequate. When it responds adequately, there is no conflict, no suffering; but when there is inadequacy of response, then there is suffering, there is conflict. This is obvious and superficial. To know ourselves we must inquire much more profoundly, we must understand the whole process of our consciousness, the totality of it - not merely the superficial consciousness of daily activities, but the deep unconscious, which contains the whole residue of racial conditioning, the racial memories, the hidden motives, urges, compulsions, fixations. This does not mean that we must go to a psychologist. On the contrary, we must understand ourselves through direct experience.

To have this self-knowledge, the mind must be aware of itself from moment to moment; it must see all its own movements, its urges, its motives, the operations of memory, and how, through tradition, it is caught in mediocrity. If the mind can be aware of all that within itself, then you will find there is a possibility of being free from all conditioning and discovering something totally new. Then the mind itself is made new - and perhaps that is the real, the immeasurable.

Question: How is it possible to free oneself from psychological dependence on others?

Krishnamurti: I wonder if we are conscious that we do depend psychologically on others? Not that it is necessary, or justifiable, or wrong, psychologically to depend on others; but are we, first of all, aware that we are dependent? Most of us are psychologically dependent, not only on people, but on property, on beliefs, on dogmas. Are we at all conscious of that fact? If we know that we do depend on something for our psychological happiness, for our inward stability, security, then we can ask ourselves why.

Why do we psychologically depend on something? Obviously, because in ourselves we are insufficient, poor, empty, in ourselves we are extraordinarily lonely; and it is this loneliness, this emptiness, this extreme inward poverty and self-enclosure that makes us depend on a person, on knowledge, on property, on opinion, and on so many other things which seem necessary to us.

Now, can the mind be fully aware of the fact that it is lonely, insufficient, empty? It is very difficult to be aware, to be fully cognizant of that fact, because we are always trying to escape from it; and we do temporarily escape from it through listening to the radio, and other forms of amusement, through going to church, performing rituals, acquiring knowledge, and through dependence on people and on ideas. To know your own emptiness, you must look at it; but you cannot look at it if your mind is all the time seeking a distraction from the fact that it is empty. And that distraction takes the form of attachment to a person, to the idea of God, to a particular dogma or belief, and so on.

So, can the mind stop running away, escaping, and not merely ask how to stop running away? Because the very inquiry into how the mind is to stop escaping, becomes another escape. If I know that a certain path does not lead anywhere, I do not walk on that path; there is no question of how not to walk on it. Similarly, if I know that no escape, no amount of running away will ever resolve this loneliness, this inward emptiness, then I stop running, I stop being distracted. Then the mind can look at the fact that it is lonely, and there is no fear. It is in the very process of running away from what is that fear arises.

So, when the mind understands the futility, the utter uselessness of trying to fill its own emptiness through dependence, through knowledge, through belief, then it is capable of looking at it without fear. And can the mind continue to look at that emptiness without any evaluation? I hope you are following this. It may sound rather complex, and probably it is; but can we not go into it very deeply? Because a superficial answer is completely meaningless.

When the mind is fully aware that it escapes, runs away from itself; when it realizes the futility of running away, and sees that the very process of running away creates fear - when it realizes the truth of that, then it can face what is. Now, what do we mean when we say that we are facing what is? Are we facing it, looking at it, if we are always giving a value to it, interesting it, if we have opinions about it? Surely, opinions, values, interpretations, merely prevent the mind from looking at the fact. If you want to understand the fact, it is no good having an opinion about it.

So, can we look, without any evaluation, at the fact of our psychological emptiness, our loneliness, which breeds so many other problems? I think that is where the difficulty lies - in our incapacity to look at ourselves without judgment, without condemnation, without comparison; because we have all been trained to compare, to judge, to evaluate, to give an opinion. Only when the mind sees the futility of all that, the absurdity of it, is it capable of looking at itself. Then that which we have feared as being lonely, empty, is no longer empty. Then there is no psychological dependence on anything; then love is no longer attachment, but something entirely different, and relationship has quite another meaning.

But to find that out for oneself, and not merely repeat it verbally, one must understand the process of escape. In the very understanding of escape there is the stopping of escape, and the mind is able to look at itself. In looking at itself there must be no evaluation, no judgment. Then the fact is important in itself and there is complete attention, without any desire for distraction; therefore the mind is no longer empty. Complete attention is the good.

Question: Does awareness mean a state of freedom, or merely a process of observation?

Krishnamurti This is really quite a complex problem Can we understand the whole significance of what it is to be aware? Do not let us jump to any conclusions. What do we mean by ordinary awareness? I see you; and in watching you, looking at you, I form opinions. You have hurt me, you have deceived me, you have been cruel to me, or you have said nice things and flattered me; and consciously or unconsciously all this remains in my mind. When I watch this process, when I observe it, that is just the beginning of awareness, is it not? I can also be aware of my motives, of my habits of thought. The mind can be aware of its limitations, of its own conditioning; and there is the inquiry as to whether the mind can ever be free from its own conditioning. Surely this is all part of awareness. To say that the mind can or cannot be free from its conditioning, is still part of its conditioning; but to observe that conditioning without saying either, is a furthering of awareness - awareness of the whole process of thinking.

So through awareness I begin to see myself as I actually am, the totality of myself. Being watchful from moment to moment of all its thoughts, its feelings, its reactions, unconscious as well as conscious, the mind is constantly discovering the significance of its own activities - which is self-knowledge. Whereas, if my understanding is merely accumulative, then that accumulation becomes a conditioning which prevents further understanding. So, can the mind observe itself without accumulation?

All this is still only part of awareness, is it not? A tree is not merely the leaf, or the flower, or the fruit; it is also the branch, the trunk - it is everything that goes to make up the whole tree. Likewise, awareness is of the total process of the mind, not just of one particular segment of that process. But the mind cannot understand the total process of itself if it condemns or justifies any part, or identifies itself with the pleasurable and rejects the painful. So long as the mind is merely accumulating experience, knowledge - which is what it is doing all the time - , it is incapable of going further. That is why, to discover something new, there must be a dying to every experience; and for this there must be awareness from moment to moment.

All relationship is a mirror in which the mind can discover its own operations. Relationship is between oneself and other human beings, between oneself and things or property, between oneself and ideas, and between oneself and nature; and in that mirror of relationship one can see oneself as one actually is - but only if one is capable of looking without judging, without evaluating, condemning, justifying. When one has a fixed point from which one observes, there is no understanding in one's observation.

So, being fully conscious of one's whole process of thinking, and being able to go beyond that process, is awareness. You may say it is very difficult to be so constantly aware. Of course it is very difficult - it is almost impossible. You cannot keep a mechanism working at full speed all the time, it would break up; it must slow down, have rest. Similarly, we cannot maintain total awareness all the time. How can we? To be aware from moment to moment is enough. If one is totally aware for a minute or two, and then relaxes, and in that relaxation spontaneously observes the operations of one's own mind, one will discover much more in that spontaneity than in the effort to watch continuously. You can observe yourself effortlessly, easily, when you are walking, talking, reading - at every moment. Only then will you find out that the mind is capable of freeing itself from all the things it has known and experienced; and it is in freedom alone that it can discover what is true.

Question: When we dream, do we enter the collective unconscious? Are the dreams symbolic of our psychological state, and therefore a useful guide?

Krishnamurti: I wonder why we are so bothered about dreams? Why is it that we have so many problems, so many questions, and so many experts telling us what to do and how to think? Why has life become such an extraordinarily complex thing? Life is essentially simple; and why has the mind made it complicated? We have made even love complex. We are forever trying to find ways to love, to be compassionate, to be gentle, to be kind - and yet in that very effort we miss it all. And dreams have become still another problem.

To solve a problem is not to search for an answer, a solution. If my mind is concerned with the solution of the problem, then I have created another problem, have I not? Do you understand what I mean? Here is a problem - the problem of dreams. I do not know why we have made it into a problem, but we have. Now, if I am concerned with the solution of the whole problem of dreams, then the search for the solution becomes another problem, does it not? So instead of having just one problem, I now have two. And that is the way of our life - problem after problem. We never seem to understand the one central problem from which arise all our problems, and that is our self-centred activity and concern from morning till night. So let us inquire into this.

Is each one of us a collective entity, or a separate, distinct individual? Are you and I separate individuals, totally different from one another? That is what we mean by individuality, is it not? - a mind which is not contaminated by the collective, which is not shaped by circumstances, by environment, by the past. Are you and I such individuals? Obviously not. We may think we are individuals, but actually our beliefs, our traditions, our values, our ways of life, are those of the collective. You are Christians, or Hindus, or Buddhists, or Communists, which means that you have been contaminated, conditioned to be what you are; and each one is trying to brainwash the others.

Obviously, the superficial consciousness, the everyday working mind, is educated to adjust itself to the present environment, to the present society. It may have acquired a new skill, or a different kind of technology, and may therefore consider itself an individual; but actually it is still conditioned by the past. To me, the totality of consciousness is the result of the past - the past being the experiences of the race, and also the impressions made on the mind during its own past and present activities.

So the mind that is trying to be an individual, the mind that has learned new techniques, new ways of speech, new adjustments, is still the totality of the collective; it still has the same hidden motives, the same pursuits, ambitions, envies, suffering. Are we aware of the collective in ourselves? Or, being indifferent to all that, do we merely cultivate the superficial?

Now, when our minds are merely being cultivated superficially, when they are occupied all day long with the things we have to do - with various jobs, with learning a livelihood, and so on - , there is no opportunity to inquire into the unconscious. So when we go to sleep, the unconscious projects its movement, its activity, into the relatively quiet conscious mind in the form of symbolic dreams. Surely this is all very obvious. So our dreams may be symbols, hints, intimations from the unconscious, from the totality of the collective consciousness. Then the problem arises of what these symbols mean, what their significance is, how to get them interpreted; and all the complications begin.

So the question is, can the mind be free from all symbols in the form of dreams? That is, can the mind be free not to dream? As we said, dreams - not the superficial ones, but the significant dreams - are obviously intimations or hints from the unconscious, of which we are not aware when the mind is absorbed, as it generally is, in earning a livelihood, and so on. And can the mind be free from all dreams, so that during sleep it is able to penetrate more deeply into itself? I think this is the important question - not what dreams are, but whether the mind can be free from all unconscious urges and symbolic hints, intimations, so that it is really silent; for in that silence it can discover great depths.

Perhaps this possibility has not occurred to you; but do not make it into another problem. In considering this question, we are not trying to find out what is the significance of dreams. You can discover that for yourself if you begin to be aware, during the day, of your unconscious motives, urges, fixations, beliefs, frustrations. If you are really aware of all that during the waking consciousness; if you are watchful, alertly observant, so that your mind no longer gets caught in ambitions, in frustrations, in the fear of failure, and all the rest of it; then, surely, there is no need to dream. Having been alert during the day, watchful of its reactions, the mind, when it goes to sleep, is quiet, peaceful; and then there is a possibility of touching something unknowable which, on waking, brings great clarity.

This is not superstition or mystical nonsense; we are talking of very simple, straightforward facts. So long as my mind is crowded with problems, so long as it is occupied with itself and its ambitions, its fears, its anxieties, its frustrations, obviously it is incapable of going beyond itself. And most of our days are spent in self-occupation; we are concerned with ourselves all the time. Inevitably, therefore, when we go to sleep, our dreams are the intimations of something deeper which we have not understood, and which we again translate in terms of our own self-concern. But if, during the day, we can be fully aware of and so remove all the ambitions, the frustrations, the conflicting desires, the psychological dependencies, then surely the mind is capable - not only during the day, but also during the hours when the body is at rest - of discovering something beyond the measurement of thought.

That is why it is so important to know oneself. To know yourself you need not go to any book, to any priest, to any psychologist. The whole treasure is within yourself. It demands only that you observe it - observe yourself in the mirror of relationship. But you cannot observe if you are merely concerned with absorbing and accumulating. Only when the mind is not self-concerned is there a possibility of bliss.

June 23, 1956


Brussels 1956

Brussels, Belgium 4th Public Talk 23th June 1956

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