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Brussels 1956

Brussels, Belgium 5th Public Talk 24th June 1956

One of our great difficulties is to know how to free ourselves from the complex problem of sorrow. Intellectually we try to grapple with it, but unfortunately the intellect has no solution to the problem. The best it can do is to find some verbal rationalization, or invent a theory; or else it becomes cynical and bitter. But if we can very seriously examine the problem of suffering - not just verbally, but actually experience the whole process of it - , then perhaps we shall discover its cause, and find out whether that discovery brings about the solution of it.

Obviously, the problem of sorrow is one of the fundamental issues in our life. Most of us have some kind of sorrow, secret or open, and we are always trying to find a way to go beyond it, to be free of it. But it seems to me that unless we begin to understand for ourselves the really deep workings of the mind, sorrow will inevitably continue.

Is sorrow a thing to be got rid of through rationalization, that is, by explaining the cause of sorrow? Superficially, we all know why we suffer. I am talking particularly of psychological suffering, not merely of physical pain. If I know why I suffer, in the sense that I recognize the cause of my sorrow, will that sorrow disappear? Must I not look for a deeper issue, rather than be satisfied with one of the innumerable explanations of what it is that brings about the state which we call sorrow? And how am I to seek out the deeper issue? Most of us are very easily satisfied by superficial responses, are we not? We quickly accept the satisfactory escapes from the deep issue of suffering.

Consciously or unconsciously, verbally or actually, we all know that we suffer, because we have in us the contradiction of desires, one desire trying to dominate another. These contradictory desires make for conflict, and conflict invariably leads to the state of mind which we call suffering. The whole complex of desire which creates conflict - this, it seems to me, is the source of all sorrow.

Most of us are caught up in this mass of contradictory desires, wishes, longings, hopes, fears, memories. That is, we are concerned with our achievements, our successes, our well-being, the fulfillment of our ambitions; we are concerned about ourselves. And I think this self-concern is the real source of our conflict and misery. Realizing this, we try to escape from our self-concern by throwing ourselves into various philanthropic activities, or by identifying ourselves with a particular reform; or we stupidly cling to some kind of religious belief, which is not religious at all. What we are essentially concerned with is how to escape from our suffering, how to resolve it.

So it seems to me very important, if we would free ourselves from sorrow, to go into this whole complex which we call desire, this bundle of memories which we call the 'me'. Is it possible to live in the world without this complex of desire, without this entity called the `me', from which all suffering arises? I do not know if you have thought of this problem at all. When we suffer for various reasons, most of us try to find an answer, we try to escape by identifying ourselves with one thing or another, hoping it will alleviate our suffering. Yet the suffering goes on, either consciously or underground.

Now, can the mind free itself from suffering? This must be a problem to all of us who think about these things, because all of us suffer, acutely or superficially. Can there be an ending to sorrow, or is sorrow inevitable? If it is our human lot to suffer endlessly, then we must accept it and live with it. But I think merely to accept the state of sorrow would be foolish, because no man wants to be in that state.

So, is it possible to end sorrow? Surely, sorrow is the result, not only of ignorance - which is lack of self-knowledge - , but also of this enormous effort that everyone is continually making to be something, to acquire something, or to reject something. Can we live in this world without any effort to be or become something, without trying to achieve, to reject, to acquire? That is what we are doing all the time, is it not? We are making effort. I am not saying that there must be no effort, but I am inquiring into the whole problem of effort. I can see in myself - and it must be obvious to most of us - that so long as I desire to be successful, for example, either in this world or psychologically, spiritually, I must make effort, I must exert myself to achieve; and it seems to me that suffering is inherent in the very nature of that effort.

Please do not brush this aside. It is easy to say "One cannot live in this world without effort. Everything in nature struggles, and if we do not make effort there will be no life at all". That is not what I am talking about. I am inquiring into the whole process of effort; I am not saying that we should reject or sustain effort, augment or decrease it. I am asking whether effort is necessary psychologically, and whether it does not produce the seed of sorrow.

When we make an effort, it is obviously with a motive; to achieve, to be, or to become something. Where there is effort there is the action of will, which is essentially desire - one desire opposing another; so there is a contradiction. To overcome this contradiction, we try in various ways to bring about an integration - which again involves effort. So our way of thinking, our whole way of living, is a process of ceaseless effort.

Now, this effort, surely, is centred in the 'me', the self, which is concerned with itself and its own activities. And can the mind free itself from this complex, from this bundle of desires, urges, compulsions, without effort, without a motive?

I hope I am making myself clear; because this is a very complex problem. I know that my life is a series of desires, it is made up of many wants and frustrations, many hopes, longings and aspirations; there is the cultivation of virtue, the search for moral standing, trying to conform to an ideal, and so on; and through it all there is the urge to be free. All that is the 'me', the self, which is the source of sorrow.

Surely, any move I make in order to be free of sorrow, furthers sorrow, because that again involves effort. I think one must understand this fundamentally: that any effort to be or become something, to achieve success, and so on, produces sorrow. By making an effort to get rid of sorrow, I build a resistance against it, and that very resistance is a form of suppression which breeds further sorrow. If I see this, then what am I to do? How is the mind which is caught in sorrow to free itself from sorrow? Can it do anything? Because any action on its part has a motive behind it; and a motive invariably breeds conflict, which again begets sorrow.

This is the whole issue. I think I shall be happy if I make a success of my life, have plenty of things, position, power, money. So I struggle. And in the very process of struggling to achieve that which I want, there is conflict, there is pain, there is frustration; so sorrow is set going. Or, if I am not worldly-minded, I turn to so-called spiritual things. There also I try to achieve something, to realize God, truth, and all the rest of it; I cultivate virtue, obey the sanctions of the church, follow yoga or some other system to the end that my mind may be at peace. So again there is a struggle, there is conflict, suppression, resistance - which seems to me utterly futile, without meaning.

So what is the mind to do? I know the whole pattern of suffering, and the causes of suffering; I also know the ways of escape, and I see that escaping from suffering is no answer. One may escape momentarily, but suffering is still there, like a lingering poison. So what is the mind to do?

How does the mind know anything? When I say "I know the pattern of suffering", what do I mean by that? Is it merely intellectual knowledge, a verbal, rationalized understanding of this whole network of suffering? Or am I aware of it totally, inwardly? Do I know it merely as something which I have learned, which I have been taught, which I have read about and captured through a description? Or am I actually aware of suffering as a process taking place in myself, at every moment of my existence? Which is it? I think this is an important question.

How do I know that I suffer? Do I know it merely because I feel frustrated, or because I have lost someone - my son is dead? Or do I know with my whole being that suffering is the nature of all desire, of all becoming? And must I go through the process of every desire in order to find that out?

Surely, there must be suffering so long as one does not totally comprehend desire, which includes the action of will and involves contradiction, suppression, resistance, conflict. Whether we desire superficial things, or the deep, fundamental things, conflict is always involved. So, can we find out whether the mind is capable of being free from desire - from the whole psychological process of the desire to be something, to succeed, to become, to find God, to achieve? Can the mind understand all that and be free from it? Otherwise life is a process of continuous conflict, misery. You may find a panacea, a semi-permanent escape; but misery awaits you. You may throw yourself into some activity, take refuge in a belief, find various ways of forgetting yourself; but conflict is still there.

So, can the mind understand the process of desire? And is this understanding a matter of effort? Or does understanding come only when the mind sees the whole process of desire - sees it, experiences it, is totally aware of it, and knowing that it cannot do anything about it, becomes silent with regard to that problem?

I think this is the fundamental issue - not how to transcend, transform, or control desire, but to know the full significance of desire, and knowing it, to be completely motionless, silent, without any action with regard to it. Because, when the mind is confronted with an enormous problem like desire, any action on its part distorts that problem; any effort to grapple with it makes the problem petty, shallow. Whereas, if the mind can look at this enormous problem of desire without any movement, without any denial, without accepting or rejecting it, then I think we shall find that desire has quite a different significance, and that one can live in this world without contradiction, without struggle, without this everlasting effort to arrive, to achieve.

When the mind is thus able to look at the whole process of desire, you will find that it becomes astonishingly capable of experiencing without adding anything to itself. When the mind is no longer contaminated by desire and all the problems connected with it, then the mind itself is reality - not the mind as we know it, but a mind that is completely without the self, without desire.

Question: You talked yesterday of mediocrity. I realize my own mediocrity, but how am I to break through it?

Krishnamurti: It is the mediocre mind that demands a way to break through or achieve. Therefore when you say "I am mediocre, how am I to break through it?", you do not realize the full significance of mediocrity. The mind that wants to change or improve itself will always remain mediocre, however great its effort. And that is what we all want, is it not? We all want to change from this to that. Being stupid, I want to become clever. The stupid man who is attempting to become clever will always remain stupid. But the man who is aware that he is stupid, and realizes the full significance of stupidity, without wishing to change it - that very realization puts an end to stupidity.

So, can the mind look at the fact of what it is without trying to alter it? Can I see that I am arrogant, or stupid, or vain - just realize the fact, and not wish to change it? The desire to change it breeds mediocrity, because then I look to someone to tell me what to do about it; I go to lectures, read books, in order to find out how to change what I am. So I am led away from facing the fact of what I am; and being led away from the fact is the cultivation of mediocrity.

Now, can I look at the fact of mediocrity without wishing to break through it? After all, the mind is mediocre - it does not matter whose mind it is. The mind is mediocre, bound by tradition, by the past; and when the mind tries to improve itself, to break through its own limitations, it remains the same mediocre mind, only it is seeking a new sensation, that is, to experience the state of not being mediocre.

So the problem is not how to break through mediocrity; for mediocrity is invariably the result of pursuing tradition, whether that tradition has been established by society, or cultivated by oneself. Any effort on the part of the mind to break through mediocrity will be an activity of mediocrity, therefore The result will still be mediocre.

This is the real issue. We do not see that the mind, however cultivated, however clever, however erudite, is essentially mediocre, and that however much it may try to break through mediocrity, it is still mediocre. When the mind sees the fact of its own mediocrity, not just the superficial part, but the totality of it, with all that it involves, and does not try to do something about it, then you will find you are no longer concerned with mediocrity, or with attempting to change this into that. Then the very fact itself begins to operate.

That is, when the mind is aware of the fact of its own stupidity, mediocrity, and does not operate on that fact, then the fact begins to operate on the mind; and then you will see that the mind has undergone a fundamental change. But so long as the mind wants to change, whatever change it may bring about will be a continuation of that which it has been, only under a different cloak.

That is why it is very important to understand the whole process of thinking, and why self-knowledge is essential. But you cannot know yourself if you are merely accumulating knowledge about yourself, for then you know only that which you have accumulated - which is not to know the ways of your own self and its activities from moment to moment.

Question: How are we to put an end to man's cruelty towards animals in the form of vivisection, slaughter-houses, and so on?

Krishnamurti: I do not think we will put an end to it, because I do not think we know what it means to love. Why are we so concerned about animals? Not that we should not be - we must be. But why this concern about animals only? Are we not cruel to each other? Our whole social structure is based on violence, which erupts every so often into war. If you really loved your children, you would put a stop to war. But you do not love your children, so you sacrifice them to protect your property, to defend the State, or the church, or some other organization which demands of you certain things. As our society, of which we are a part, is based on acquisitive violence, we are invariably cruel to each other. The whole structure of competition, comparison, position, property, inheritance - violence is inherent in all that, and we accept it as inevitable; so we are cruel to each other, as we are cruel to animals.

The problem is not how to do away with slaughter-houses and be more kind to animals, but the fact that we have lost the art of love - not sensation, not emotionalism, but the feeling of being really kind, of being really gentle, compassionate. Do we know what it is to be really compassionate - not in order to get to heaven, but compassionate in the sense of not wanting anything for oneself?

Surely, that demands quite a different psychological education. We are trained from childhood to compete, to be cruel, to fit into society. So long as we are educated to fit into society, we will invariably be cruel; because society is based on violence. If we loved our children, we would educate them entirely differently, so that there would be no more war, no nationalism, no rich and no poor, and the whole structure of this ugly society would be transformed.

But we are not interested in all that, which is a very complex and profound problem. We are only concerned with how to stop some aspect of cruelty. Not that we should not be concerned with stopping cruelty. The point is, we can found or join an organization for stopping cruelty, we can subscribe, write, work for it ceaselessly, we can become the secretary, the president, and all the rest of it; but that which is love will be missing. Whereas, if we can concern ourselves with finding out what it is to love without any attachment, without any demand, without the search for sensation - which is an immense problem - , then perhaps we shall bring about a different relationship between human beings, and with the animals.

Question: What is death, and why is there such fear of it?

Krishnamurti: I think it would be worthwhile to go into this problem, not merely verbally, but actually. Why do we divide life and death? Is living separate from death? Or is death part of living? It may be that we do not know what living is, and that is why death seems such a terrible thing, something to be shunned, to be avoided, to be explained away.

Is not living part of dying? Am I living if I am constantly accumulating property, money, position, as well as knowledge and virtue, all of which I cherish and hold on to? I may call that living, but is it living? Is not that whole process merely a series of struggles, contradictions, miseries, frustrations? But we call it living, and so we want to know what death is.

We know that death is the end for all of us; the body, the physical organism, wears out and dies. Seeing this, the mind says "I have lived, I have gathered, I have suffered, and what is to happen to me? What lies for me beyond death?" Not knowing what lies beyond, the mind is afraid of death, so it begins to invent ideas, theories - reincarnation, resurrection - , or it goes back and lives in the past. If it believes in reincarnation, it tries to prove that belief through hypnosis, and so on.

That is essentially what we are all doing. Our life is overshadowed by this thing called death, and we want to know if there is any form of continuity. Or else we are so sick of life that we want to die, and we are horrified at the thought that there might be a beyond.

Now, what is the answer to all this? Why have we separated death from living, and why does the mind cling to continuity? Cannot the mind be aware of that which it calls death in the same way that it knows living? Can it not be aware of the whole significance of dying? We know what our life is: a process of gathering, enjoying, suffering, renouncing, searching, and constant anxiety. That is our existence, and in that there is a continuity. I know that I am alive because I am aware of suffering, of enjoyment; memory goes on, and my past experiences colour my future experiences. There is a sense of continuity, the momentum of a series of events linked by memory. I know this process, and I call it living. But do I know what death is? Can I ever know it? We are not asking what lies beyond, which is really not very important. But can one know or experience the meaning of that which is called death, while actually living? While I am conscious, physically vigorous, while my mind is clear and capable of thinking without any sentimentality or emotionalism, can I directly experience that thing which I call death? I know what living is; and can I, in the same way, with the same vigour, the same potency, know the meaning of death? If I merely die at the last moment, through disease, or through some accident, I shall not know.

So the problem is not what lies beyond death, or how to avoid the fear of death. You cannot avoid the fear of death so long as the mind accumulates for itself a series of events and experiences linked by memory, because the ending of all that is what we actually fear.

Surely, that which has continuity is never creative. Only the mind which dies to everything from moment to moment really knows what it is to die. This is not emotionalism; it requires a great deal of insight, thought, inquiry. We can know death, as well as life, while living; while living we can enter the house of death, the unknown. But for the mind, which is the result of the known, to enter the unknown, there must be a cessation of all that it has known, of all the things it has gathered - not only consciously, but much more profoundly, in the unconscious. To wipe all that away is to die; and then we shall find there is no fear.

I am not offering this as a panacea for fear; but can we know and understand the full meaning of death? That is, can the mind be completely nothing, with no residue of the past? Whether that is possible or not is something we can inquire into, search out diligently, vigorously, work hard to find out. But if the mind merely clings to what it calls living - which is suffering, this whole process of accumulation - and tries to avoid the other, then it knows neither life nor death.

So the problem is to free the mind from the known, from all the things it has gathered, acquired, experienced, so that it is made innocent and can therefore understand that which is death, the unknowable.

June 24, 1956


Brussels 1956

Brussels, Belgium 5th Public Talk 24th June 1956

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