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Hamburg 1956

Hamburg, Germany 4th Public Talk 14th September 1956

To understand what it is another is trying to convey, one must give a certain attention - not enforced attention or tremendous concentration, but that attention which comes with natural interest. After all, we have many problems in life - problems arising out of our relationship with society, the problems of war, of sex, of death, of whether or not there is God, and the problem of what this everlasting struggle is all about. We all have these problems. And I think we might begin to understand them deeply if we did not cling to one particular problem of our own, which is perhaps so close to us that it absorbs all our attention, all our effort, all our thinking but tried instead to approach the problem of living as a whole. In understanding the problem of living as a whole, I think we shall be able to understand our personal problems.

That is what I want to deal with, if I can, this evening. Each one of us has a problem, and unfortunately that problem generally consumes most of our thought and energy. We are constantly groping, searching, trying to find an answer to our problem, and we want somebody else to supply that answer. It is probably for this very reason that you are here. But I do not think we will understand the totality of our existence if we merely look for an answer to a single problem. Because all problems are related; there is no isolated problem. So we have to look at life, not as something to be broken up into parts, made fractional, but as something to be understood as a whole. If we can realize this, get the feeling of it, then I think we shall have a totally different approach to our individual problems, which are also the world problems.

What is happening now is that we are all so concerned with our own problems, with earning a livelihood, with getting ahead, with our personal virtue, and all the rest of it, that we do not have a general comprehension of the complete picture. And it seems to me that unless we get the feeling of the totality of our life, with all its experiences, miseries and struggles, unless we comprehend it as a whole, merely dealing with a particular problem, however apparently vital, will only create further problems, further misery.

I hope this is clear between us - that we are not considering one isolated problem, but we are trying to understand together the totality of the problem of our existence. So, whatever may be our immediate problem, can we, through that problem, look at our life as a whole? If we can, then I think the immediate problem which we have will undergo quite a change; and perhaps we shall be able to understand it and be free of it entirely.

Now, how does one set about to have this integrated outlook, this comprehensive view of life which reveals the significance of every relationship, every thought, every action? Surely, before we can see the whole picture, we must first be aware that we are always trying to solve our immediate problem in a very limited field. We want a particular answer, a satisfactory answer, an answer which will give us certainty. That is what we are seeking, is it not? And I think we must begin by being conscious of that, otherwise we shall not be able to grasp the significance of this whole problem.

All this may at first seem very difficult, it may even sound rather absurd to those of you who are hearing it for the first time; and what we hear for the first time we naturally tend to reject. But if one wants to understand, one must neither reject nor accept what is being said. One must examine it, not with sentimentality or intellectual preconceptions, but with that intelligence and common-sense which will reveal the picture clearly.

So, why is it that most of us are incapable of looking at the whole picture of life which, if understood, would resolve all our problems? We look at the picture as Germans, or Russians, or Hindus, or what you will. We look at the picture with our knowledge, with our ideas, with a particular training or technique, with a mind which is conditioned. We are always translating the picture according to our background, according to our education, our tradition. We never look at the picture without this influence of the past, without thinking about the picture. Do you see what I mean? After all, if I want to understand something, I must come to it with a fresh mind, with a mind that is not burdened with accumulated experience, knowledge, with all the conditioning to which it has been subjected.

Life demands this, does it not? Life demands that I look at it afresh. Because life is movement, it is not a dead, static thing, and I must therefore approach it with a mind that is capable of looking at it without translating it in certain terms - as a Hindu, a Christian, or whatever it is I happen to be. So, before I can look at the whole picture, I must be aware of how my mind is burdened with knowledge, tradition, which prevents it from looking afresh at that which is moving, living. Knowledge, however wide, however necessary at one level, does not bring comprehension of life, which is a constant movement. If my mind is burdened with technique, training, so that it can understand only that which is static, dead, then I can have no comprehension of life as a whole. To comprehend the totality of life, I must understand the process of knowledge, and how knowledge interferes with that comprehension. This is fairly obvious, is it not? - that knowledge interferes with the understanding of life.

And yet, what is happening in the world? All our education is a process of accumulating knowledge. We are concerned with developing techniques, with how to meditate, how to be good; the `how', the technique, becomes knowledge, and with that we hope to understand the immeasurable. So when one says "I understand what you are talking about", is it merely a verbal understanding, or has one really grasped the truth of the matter? If we really grasp the truth of what is being said, that very comprehension will free the mind from the accumulated knowledge which interferes with perception.

So, is it possible for one who has had many experiences, who has read the various philosophies, the learned books, who has accumulated information, knowledge, to put all that aside? I do not think one can put it aside, suppress or deny it; but one can be aware of it, and not allow it to interfere with perception. After all, we are trying to find out what is truth, if there is reality, if there is God; and to discover this for oneself is true religion - not the acceptance of some silly ritual or dogma, and all the rest of that nonsense.

To find something original and true, something timeless, you cannot come to it with the burden of memory, knowledge. The known, the past, can never help you to discover the moving, the creative. No amount of technique or learning, no amount of attending talks and discussions, can ever reveal to you the unknown. If you really see the truth of this, actually experience it for yourself, then you are free of all Masters and gurus, of all teachers, saints and saviours. Because, they can only teach you what is known; and the mind which is burdened with the known can never find what is unknowable.

To be free from the known requires a great deal of understanding of the whole process of the accumulative mind. It would be silly to say "I must forget the past" - that has no meaning. But if one begins to understand why the mind accumulates and treasures the past, why the whole momentum of the mind is based on time - if one begins to understand all that, then one will find that the mind can free itself from the past, from the burden of accumulated knowledge. There is then the discovery of something totally new, unexperienced, unimagined, which is a state of creativity and which may be called reality, God, or what you will.

So, being surrounded by problems, by innumerable conflicts, our difficulty is to know how to look at them, how to understand them, so that they are no longer a burden, and through those very problems we begin to discover the process by which the mind is everlastingly caught in time, in the known. Unless we can do that, our life remains very shallow. You may know a great deal, you may be a great scientist, you may be a great historian, or just an ordinary person; but life will always be shallow, empty, dull, until you understand for yourself this whole process, which is really the beginning of self-knowledge.

So it seems to me that our many problems can never be solved until we approach them as an integral part of the totality of existence. We cannot understand the totality of existence as long as we break it up into compartments, as we are doing now. The difficulty is that our problems are so intense, so immediate, that we get caught in them; and not to be caught in them, the mind must begin to be aware of its own process of accumulation, by which it gains a sense of security for itself. After all, why do we accumulate property, money, position, knowledge, and so on? Obviously, because it gives us a sense of security. You may not have much property or money, but if you have knowledge, it gives you a feeling of security. It is only to the man who has no sense of security of any kind, that the new is revealed, because he is not concerned about himself and his achievements.

So, how is the mind to free itself from time? Time, after all, is knowledge. Time comes into being when there is the sense of achievement, something to be arrived at, something to be gained. "I am not important, but I shall be" - in that idea, time has come into being, and with it the whole struggle of becoming. In the very idea "I shall be", there is effort to become; and I think it is this effort to become which creates time, and which prevents a comprehension of the totality of things. You see, so long as I am thinking about myself in terms of gain and loss, I must have time. I must have time to cover the distance between now and tomorrow, when I hope I shall be something, either in terms of virtue, or position, or knowledge. This creation of time breaks life up into segments; and that becomes the problem.

To understand the totality of this extraordinary thing called life, one must obviously not be too definite about these things. One cannot be definite with something which is so immense, which is not measurable by words. We cannot understand the immeasurable so long as we approach it through time.

To grasp the significance of all this is not an intellectual feat, nor a sentimental, emotional realization, but it means that you must really listen to what is being said; and in that very process of listening you will find out for yourself that the mind, though it is the product of time, can go beyond time. But this demands very clear thinking, a great alertness of mind, in which no emotionalism is involved. To understand the immeasurable, the mind must be extraordinarily quiet, still; but if I think I am going to achieve stillness at some future date, I have destroyed the possibility of stillness. It is now or never. That is a very difficult thing to understand, because we are all thinking of heaven in terms of time.

Question: Are yogic exercises helpful in any way to human beings?

Krishnamurti: I think one must go into this question fairly deeply. Apparently in Europe, as well as in India, there is this idea that by doing yogic exercises, practising virtue, being good, participating in social work, reading sacred books, following a teacher - that by doing something of this kind, you are going to achieve salvation or enlightenment. I am afraid you are not. On the contrary, you are going to be caught in the things you are practising, and therefore you will always be held a prisoner and your vision will be everlastingly limited.

Yogic exercises are all right, probably, for the body. Any kind of exercise - walking, jumping, climbing mountains, swimming, or whatever you do - is on the same level. But to suppose that certain exercises will lead you to salvation, to understanding, to God, truth, wisdom - this I think is sheer nonsense, even though all the yogis in India say otherwise. If once you see that anything that you practise, that you accept, that you develop, always has behind it the element of greed - wanting to get something, wanting to reach something, wanting to break a record - , then you will leave it alone. A mind that is merely concerned with the `how', with doing yogic exercises, this or that, will only develop a sense of achievement through time, and such a mind can never comprehend that which is timeless.

After all, you practise yogic exercises in the hope of reaching something, gaining something; you hope to achieve happiness, bliss, or whatever is offered. Do you think bliss is so easily realized? Do you think it is something to be gained by doing certain exercises, or developing concentration? Must not the mind be altogether free of this self-centred activity? Surely a man who practises yoga in order to reach enlightenment, is concerned about himself, about his own growth; he is full of his own importance. So it is a tremendous art - an art which can be approached only through self-knowledge, not through any practice - to understand this whole process of self-centred activity in the name of God, in the name of truth, in the name of peace, or whatever it be - to understand and be free of it.

Now, to be free does not demand time, and I think this is our difficulty. We say "I am envious, and to get rid of envy I must control, I must suppress, I must sacrifice, I must do penance, I must practise yoga", and all the rest of it - all of which indicates the continuance of self-centred activity, only transferred to a different level. If one sees this, if one really understands it, then one no longer thinks in terms of getting rid of envy in a certain period of time. Then the problem is, can one get rid of envy immediately? It is like a hungry man - he does not want a promise of food tomorrow, he wants to be fed now, and in that sense he is free of time. But we are indolent, and what we want is a method to lead us to something which will ultimately give us pleasure.

Question: A well-known author has written a great deal about the use of certain drugs which enable man to arrive at some visionary experience of union with the divine ground. Are those experiences helpful in finding that state of which you speak?

Krishnamurti: You can learn tricks, or take drugs, or get drunk, and you will have intense experiences of one kind or another, depressing or exciting. Obviously the physiological condition does affect the psychological state of the mind; but drugs and practices of various kinds do not in any way bring about that state of which we are talking. All such things lead only to a variety, intensity and diversity of experience - which we all want and hunger after, because we are fed up with this world. We have had two world wars, with appalling misery and everlasting strife on every side; and our own minds are so petty, personal, limited. We want to escape from all this, either through psychology, philosophy, so-called religion, or through some exercise or drug - they are all on the same level.

The mind is seeking a sensation; you want to experience what you call reality, or God, something immense, great, vital. You want to have visions; and if you take some kind of drug, or are sufficiently conditioned in a certain religion, you will have visions. The man who is everlastingly thinking about Christ, or Buddha, or what not, will sooner or later have experiences, visions; but that is not truth, it has nothing whatever to do with reality. Those are all self-projections; they are the result of your demand for experience. Your own conditioning is projecting what you want to see.

To find out what is real, the mind must cease to demand any experience. So long as you are craving experience, you will have it, but it will not be real - real in the sense of the timeless, the immeasurable; it will not have the perfume of reality. It will all be an illusion, the product of a mind that is frustrated, that is seeking a thrill, an emotion, a feeling of vitality. That is why you follow leaders. They are always promising something new, a Utopia, always sacrificing the present for the future; and you foolishly follow them, because it is exciting. You have had that experience in this country, and you ought to know better than anyone else the miseries, the brutality of it all. Most of us demand the same kind of experience, the same kind of sensation, only at another level. That is why we take various drugs, or perform ceremonies, or practise some exercise that acts as a stimulant. These things all have significance in the sense that their use indicates that one is still craving experience; therefore the mind is everlastingly agitated. And the mind that is agitated, that is craving experience, can never find out what is true.

Truth is always new, totally unknown and unknowable. The mind must come to it without any demand, without any knowledge, without any wish; it must be empty, completely naked. Then only truth may happen. But you cannot invite it.

Question: Is our life predetermined, or is the way of life to be freely chosen?

Krishnamurti: So long as we have choice, surely there is no freedom. Please follow this; do not merely reject or accept it, but let us think it out together. The mind that is capable of choosing, is not free; because in choice there is always conflict, conscious or unconscious, and a mind that is in conflict is never free. Our life is full of conflict, we are always choosing between good and bad, between this and that; you know this very well. We are always comparing, judging, evaluating, accepting, rejecting - that is the process of our life, which is a constant struggle; and a mind that is struggling is never free.

And are we individuals - individuals in the sense of being unique? Are we? Or are we merely the result of our conditioning, of innumerable influences, of centuries of tradition? You may like to separate yourself as being of the West, and set yourself still further apart as being German. But are you an individual in the sense of being completely uncorrupted, uninfluenced? Only in that state are you free, not otherwise. Which does not mean anarchy, or selfishly individual existence - on the contrary.

But now you are not individuals; you are anything but that. You are Germans, English, French; you are Catholics, Protestants, Communists - something or other. You are stamped, shaped, held within the framework in which you have been brought up, or which you have subsequently chosen. So your life is predetermined. You saw ten years ago how your life was predetermined. And every Catholic, every churchgoer, every person who belongs to any religious organization - his life is predetermined, fixed; therefore he is never free. He may talk about freedom, he may talk about love and peace; but he cannot have love and peace, nor can he be free, because for him those are mere words.

Your life is shaped, controlled by the society which you have created. You have created the wars, the leaders; you have created the organized religions of which you are now slaves. So your life is predetermined. And to be free, you must first be aware that your life is predetermined, that it is conditioned, that all your responses are more or less the same as those of everybody else throughout the world. Superficially your responses may be different; you may respond one way here, another way in India or in China, and so on; but fundamentally you are held in the framework of your particular conditioning, and you are never an individual. Therefore it is absurd to talk about freedom and self-determination. You can choose between blue cloth and red cloth, and that is about all; your freedom is on that level. If you go into it very deeply, you will find that you are not an individual at all.

But in going into it very deeply, you will also find that you can be free from all this conditioning - as a German, as a Catholic, as a Hindu, as a believer or a non-believer. You can be free from it all. Then you will know what it is to have an innocent mind; and it is only such a mind that can find out what is truth.

Question: Will awareness free us, as you suggest, from our undesirable qualities?

Krishnamurti: I think it is important to understand what we mean by awareness. I am going to explain what I mean, and please do not add something mysterious, complicated, or mystical. It is very clear and simple if one cares to go right to the end of it. We are aware, are we not?, of many things. You are aware that I am standing here, that I am talking, and that you are listening. And if you are alert, you are also aware of how you are listening. To know how you are listening is also part of awareness, and it is very important; because if you are aware of how you are listening, you will know in what way you are conditioned. You are probably interpreting what is being said according to your conditioning, according to your prejudices, according to your knowledge; and when you are interpreting, you are not listening. To be conscious of all this is part of awareness, is it not?

Now if you go still further, you will find that the moment you are really listening, and not interpreting according to your prejudices, you begin to see for yourself what is true and what is false. Because true and false are not a matter of prejudice or opinion; either it is so, or it is not. But if you are concerned with interpretation all the time, then your vision is blurred and there is no clear perception. That is why most of us are not really listening to what is being said - because we are interpreting it in terms of our upbringing or preconceptions. If you are a Christian, you listen and compare what is being said with the teaching of the Bible, or the Christ; or if you do not do that, you refer to some other information which you have gathered. So you are always listening with a barrier. To see this whole process going on in one's mind is part of awareness, is it not?

The questioner wants to know if through awareness he can be free of any unpleasant qualities. That is, can one be free, let us say, of envy? If you will follow what I am saying, you will see the full implication of what lies in this question.

Most of us, if we are at all aware, cognizant, conscious of ourselves, know when we are envious. Furthermore, we can see that our whole society is based on envy, and that religions are also based on it - wanting something more, not only in this world but also in the next. We know the feeling of being envious, the superficial as well as the very complex process of envy.

Now, being aware of envy, what happens? We either condemn or rationalize it. We generally condemn it, because to condemn is part of our upbringing; we are educated to condemn envy, it is the thing to do, even though we are envious all the time. By condemning envy, we hope to be free of it; but we are not free, it keeps on returning. Envy exists so long as there is a comparative mind. When I am comparing myself with somebody who is greater, more popular, more virtuous, and so on, I am envious. So a comparative mind breeds envy.

And you will see, if you go into this problem still deeper, that so long as you verbalize that feeling by calling it `envy', the feeling goes on. I hope you are following this. You name the feeling, do you not? You say "I am envious". But cannot one know that one is envious without naming it? Is it only by naming the feeling that one becomes conscious of it?

How do you know you are envious? Please take it very simply, and you will see. Do you know it only after you have given a name to it, calling it `envy'? Or do you know it as a feeling, independent of all terms? Is not all this also part of awareness?

Let us go slowly. I am envious, and I condemn it, because to condemn envy is part of my social upbringing; but it goes on. So if I really want to be free of envy, what am I to do? That is the problem. I do not want the feeling to continue, because that would be too silly; I see the absurdity of it, and I want to be free of it. So, how is the mind to be free of envy? First I have to see that all comparison must cease; and to really see that requires very arduous inquiry, because one's whole upbringing is based on comparison - you must be as good as your brother, or your uncle, or your grandfather, or jesus, or whoever it is. So, can the mind cease to compare?

Then the problem is, when one has a certain feeling, can the mind stop naming it, stop calling it `envy'? If you will experiment with this, you will see how extraordinarily alert the mind must be to differentiate the word from the feeling. All this is part of awareness, in which no effort is involved; because the moment you make an effort, you have a motive of gain, and therefore you are still envious.

So the mind is envious as long as it is comparing itself with somebody else; and it is envious as long as it gives a name to the feeling, calling it `envy', because by giving it a name it strengthens that feeling. And when the mind does not compare, when the mind does not give a name to the feeling and thereby strengthen it, you will find, if you proceed very hesitantly, carefully, diligently, that awareness does free the mind from envy.

September 14, 1956,


Hamburg 1956

Hamburg, Germany 4th Public Talk 14th September 1956

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