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Colombo 1957

Colombo 3rd Public Talk 20th January 1957

Considering the critical world situation and seeing the extraordinary conflict that is going on both outwardly and within ourselves, and being aware also of all the pressures - economic, social and religious - to which we are subject, it seems to me essential to bring about a fundamental change in the life of each one of us. I do not think that most of us appreciate the importance of such a revolution - a revolution that is uninfluenced and not dependent on any circumstances. This fundamental, radical change is not dependent on time, and therefore it has something of the quality of the eternal. But most of us are inclined to wait for change through social reforms, through governmental legislation and outward scientific progress, and so we are always dependent. The changes which are so obviously essential will somehow be brought about, we hope, through the pressure of society, through some kind of vague new educational system, or through social upheaval; but any such change is merely an adaptation to circumstances, and I don't think that adaptation, though it has a certain value, is really a change at all, because it does not free the mind to inquire deeply into the reality and the creativity of this thing called life.

Revolution, this inward change which is not brought about by outward invitation or compulsion, is possible only when there is self-knowledge. That is, if I don't know the ways of my own mind, the pressures, motives, compulsions, traditions that guide my thought and feeling, both consciously and unconsciously - if I don't know the totality of myself, then any form of change is really a modified continuity of what has been. Without knowing the whole content of myself, change is no change at all; it is merely an adaptation, a convenience, a conformity, a following of custom, tradition.

So, to bring about a radical change - and a radical change is essential when the crisis is totally new and imminent - there must be self-knowledge; and self-knowledge is not the knowledge that is gathered from books, from a system of philosophy, or from some religious teacher. Self-knowledge comes through observing myself from day to day, from moment to moment, through knowing the urges, the compulsions that spring from the unconscious, and through being aware of my gestures, the way I talk, the manner of my thinking, the anatomy of my feeling. If I don't know all that, then obviously any change is merely a modified continuity of what has been, and it therefore conditions my future action. I think it is important for each one of us to understand this.

Religion should essentially teach man to be a light unto himself and not depend on another, on any church, saviour, or system of thought. I think that is clear. Yet the whole social and religious structure which we have built around us makes us dependent; it has become an instrument of compulsion to ourselves and to others. Religions have emphasized, have they not?, the importance of rituals, of systems, of beliefs and dogmas; so you have been led away from the one essential fact, which is that you must know yourself. When you know yourself completely you will find that you don't need a guide, because you yourself are the guide, and then there is a total action which operates because the mind is free from every form of fear, whether conscious or unconscious. The mind is then the instrument of this total action, and not the creator of total action. I don't know if I am making myself clear.

In thinking of complete action, most of us want to act in a manner which will be free of contradictions, free of regrets and the fear of future punishment. We want every action to be a total response of our whole being. Because we see the confusion, the misery, the contradiction, the innumerable difficulties that arise from conditioned action, we try to find an action which will be total and in which this misery, this contradiction can never exist. So the mind, in seeking a total action, inquires, studies, suffers, and possesses an idea which it thinks is total action. That is why you study philosophy, seek out gurus, and all the rest of it: you feel that if you can find a total way of acting, all these contradictions and miseries will not arise. But I say the mind cannot find total action except through self-knowledge. And when through self-knowledge the mind is free, then total action will operate through the mind; the mind will not have to seek it. I think it is important to understand this.

You don't really know yourself. To know yourself is to know the extraordinary capacity of your own mind, to uncover the recesses of your own heart; it is to know how your mind operates, and whether your thinking is action or mere reaction; it is to be aware of the intricacies of the unconscious and see all the intimations and hints that the unconscious is projecting into the conscious. But you are not aware of all that, you are just operating on the surface and going through the routine of daily existence. You go to the office, do your work, and return, carrying on day after day in the same old pattern; and you do not want any disturbance of that pattern which means that you are superficially satisfied. When you are disturbed superficially, you seek further satisfaction, so your life remains on the superficial level. Though you may meditate, read the scriptures, think of God, it is all on the surface. Your mind is like a gramophone record repeating a song you have heard. It is not even your song, it is the song of another; and there may be no your song', but only `the song'.

So it is very important to understand not only the conscious, but also the unconscious mind. The unconscious mind is much more powerful, much more insistent much more directive and conservative than the conscious mind; because the conscious is merely the educated mind which adjusts itself to the environment. I do not know if you have noticed a priest riding on the bus or on a motorbike. This situation is quite contradictory, if you come to think of it, He is adjusting himself, as you do, to the environment, to the pressure from outside, but inwardly he is the same - that is, the unconscious is still the residue of the past.

Sirs, if I may suggest it, watch your own minds; do not merely listen to my words, but through my words observe the operation of your own thinking and discover yourself. I am describing the picture, but it is your picture, not mine. If you really watch yourself as you listen, you will find a radical change taking place in spite of your conscious mind. It is like a seed that, being sown in fertile soil, pushes through the earth and puts out a blossom. So may I respectfully and persistently ask you to listen so that through the activity of listening you find out the real facts, the truth about yourself. The discovery of that truth will liberate the mind, and then you will not have to pursue the truth which liberates.

The unconscious mind is the residue of all that has been for centuries past; it is the storehouse of tradition, the inheritance of the race, and to bring about a radical change there, is much more difficult than to change on the surface. Look at yourselves, sirs, and you will observe a very simple fact: that though you have motorcars, modern buses, gramophones, recording machines, and all the rest of it, inwardly you are steeped in a thousand, or ten thousand years of tradition. The unconscious is much more conservative than the conscious mind, much more traditional, and therefore far less capable of real transformation.

So it is very important to understand the unconscious, not merely to scratch on the surface of the mind and think, you have understood yourself. To understand the unconscious as well as the conscious mind, there must be a sense of watchfulness which is spontaneous and not enforced. If you watch a child with condemnation, with criticism, with a sense of comparison, what happens? The child feels it and becomes paralysed, he freezes in his action. You must have noticed it. Whereas, if you begin to play with the child and let him do what he likes, then, even though you are there, he feels free to carry on in his own way, and then you can study him.

Similarly, if the mind watches itself with condemnation, with justification, with a sense of comparison, and so on, when the thinking process freezes and your thoughts become still; but that is not stillness, the mind is simply afraid to move. On the other hand, if you watch with the ease of spontaneity, with the ease of familiarity, without any sense of comparing or justifying, then you will see that the totality of your mind begins to uncover itself. You do not have to uncover it, nor does the conscious mind have to uncover the unconscious. The mind will uncover itself, just as the child begins to play in your presence because he has confidence in you. So the unconscious as well as the conscious mind begins to uncover itself if you approach it without any sense of direction, opposition or identification; and in this state of awareness you will find that the mind is learning the content of itself.

Learning is not possible if there is accumulation of what has been learnt. Please follow this. The mind is capable of learning only when there is no accumulation. The moment there is accumulation, which is knowledge, learning ceases, because knowledge interprets what is being learned. Perhaps this is something new and therefore rather difficult, so please pay a little attention. At present you know only one state, the state of being taught, of being told; and a mind that has been taught is incapable of learning, because it can move only along the line of what it has been taught. The teaching may give it an opportunity to inquire, but only in a positive or negative direction. A mind that has been taught cannot learn, because learning is a new process. You cannot learn if you already know. What is there to learn? Only the mind that does not know, that has not accumulated, is capable of learning.

Most of us are incapable of learning because our minds are filled with things known. When the mind moves in the field of the known it is not learning; we think it is learning, but in actuality it is merely accumulating or furthering what has been, which is knowledge. To be capable of learning, the mind must be free of this knowledge - the knowledge of what it has been told, of what it has learnt. That is why it is tremendously important to know the content of your own mind.

Truth, reality, God, or whatever name you may like to give it, is not something to be learnt; you cannot come to it with knowledge. The mind must be free of the known if it is to know the unknowable; and the difficulty for most of us is that we think we can arrive at the unknown by moving from the known to the known. There must be self-knowledge, which means learning about yourself as you live from moment to moment; and you cannot learn about yourself if you begin with what you learned yesterday and carry on with that in order to understand more. There is a possibility of learning about yourself only when there is the death of what you have already learnt.

Sirs, please pay a little attention to this, because when there is the understanding of yourself, out of that comes an extraordinary sense of release, of complete freedom from fear. This freedom from fear gives an astonishingly vital energy to the mind, and you need this energy if your mind is to be in a state of complete silence so that it is capable of receiving that which is true. You need great energy for the mind to be still - not dull, but still. A petty mind may think about stillness, but it is not still; it may meditate on silence, but silence is not. This silence, this tranquillity, this peace comes only through learning about and understanding yourself, so that the mind is in that state of energy which brings stillness. Then only is it possible for the eternal to be.

In considering these questions together, please bear in mind that we are not looking for an answer; because the solution lies in the problem itself, and not away from the problem.

Question: You say that the mind will be free when the thinking process ceases. Hinduism and Buddhism advocates various practices towards this end. What method do you advocate?

Krishnamurti: Let us first examine this whole question of pursuing a method in order to achieve a result - a psychological, not a factual result. We are not now considering how to end the process of thinking. We shall come to that later.

What do you mean when you say that the practising of a method, a system, will give you what you want, very subtly or very obviously? I want peace of mind, and the various religions, including Buddhism and Hinduism, say "Do these things and you will get it". So day after day I practise a particular method, I sit in meditation, controlling my mind, suppressing unwanted thoughts, and so on. I go through all this, hoping to arrive at a state of which I call peace.

Now, what does a method or a system do when you practise it? What is the effect on your mind of practising a method, whether it be a first-class super method or a very stupid one? Surely, the effect is to make the mind conform to a pattern of thinking, which is to force it to function in the groove of a particular habit. That is all the method is concerned with. And a mind that is functioning in the groove of habit is not a mind at all, it is merely a mechanism that repeats the same operation day after day.

Do please understand this, sirs. Though a method may promise you bliss, heaven, nirvana, or God, that method does not free the mind; it only enslaves the mind to itself. A mind that practises a method obviously conforms to it. So the method becomes the means of holding the mind within a pattern of thinking; and a mind that thinks in terms of a pattern, a habit, is never capable of being free. If you really understand this, not because I say it but because you see the truth of it for yourself then you will find that you are free of all methods. No method,however `good' it may be, can free you; on the contrary, all methods are essentially the same in that they enslave you to themselves. The mind that conforms to any method, to any authority, ceases to function as a free mind, and is therefore incapable of inquiring into what is truth.

I am just pointing out the fact, and I hope it is clear. You can either look at or disregard the fact, it is up to you. If you look at the fact and go into it sanely, reasonably, without any prejudice, you are bound to see that all methods, whether Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Islamic, or what you will, condition the mind, and that through a method the mind can never be free. Then comes the problem: How is one to free the mind from the thinking process? I am using that word `how' as an inquirer, I am not asking for a method through which to free the mind. Now, why do you want thought to come to an end? Is it because you have been told or have read that in ending the thought process you will come to something much greater - which means that you are seeking a reward? Or do you want to end thought because you understand the significance of thinking?

What is the significance of thinking? Is thinking the means to a real discovery of what is truth, what is God, what is beyond the measure of the mind? If it is, then we must think completely, fully. But if thinking is not the key that opens the door, then obviously we must put it away.

What do you mean by thinking? When I ask you that question, the whole mechanism of thinking is set, going, is it not? My question awakens in your mind a series of associations, memories. Memory responds, and then you give your reply. So what you call thinking is always, and not just when a question is asked, the response of memory; and the response of memory is conditioned thinking. You think as a Sinhalese, as a Buddhist, or a Christian, as a man or a woman, as a businessman or a lawyer. The whole mechanism of your mind is conditioned by the knowledge which you have gathered as a professional or a so called religious person, by the things you have been trained in, and from that background you think. The background, which is memory, tradition, responds to challenge, and that response, through words, is what you call thinking. This is comparatively simple. Since thinking is the response of memory, and memory is always conditioned, thinking can never be free. There is no such thing as free thinking, because thinking is always associated with the past.

So thinking can never be free. That is a discovery, sirs, not a statement that you have learnt from me. If you have really listened you will find it a tremendous shock and discovery to realize that all thinking about a problem, whether personal or scientific, immediate or in the future, is conditioned by the past, which is memory, and that a human being who would discover something new must put memory aside. He may use memory afterwards, but to use memory to discover is to be conditioned, and a conditioned mind can never find out what is true. The function of thinking is not discovery, but to put into action what has been discovered. Seeing the truth of that the mind says "Thought must end" - which is not to confine, suppress, or sublimate thought, but to realize that thought as a process must come to an end. Thought comes to an end only through self-knowledge, that is, when you understand the whole process of thinking and don't just say "I must end thought", which is an immature statement without any validity or significance.

A petty mind thinks "I must end thinking in order to find truth". Such a mind is still petty, and it will never find truth. But when the mind says "I am petty and I must understand this whole process of thinking", which is true self-knowledge, then it is no longer petty. Such a mind understands the significance of thinking, and therefore it is free from the thought process. Being totally still, the mind is made new, fresh, innocent. Only the mind that has put away and is free of the known is capable of receiving the unknown. Such a mind is not the observer of the unknown, it is not a receptacle of the unknown; it is the unknown itself.

Question: You say that the conditioning of the mind, with which we approach all our problems, breeds conflict and prevents the understanding of truth. How can the mind be unconditioned?

Krishnamurti: It is a fact that the mind is conditioned which thinks in terms of Buddhism, Christianity, Communism, Hinduism, or any other organized belief, whether it be socio-political, or a belief in God. Do you understand, sirs? You can be conditioned to believe in God, and another group of people can be conditioned not to believe in God, which is obvious. The Communist does not believe in God, he says it is all tommyrot, it is just the way you have been educated, it is a form of escape; you have merely accepted what you have been told. But the Communist himself accepts what he has been told; he too has his books, his leaders, his authorities. He has been conditioned to believe in no-God, just as you have been conditioned to believe in God or in something else. Both are conditioned, obviously. Your conditioning is not superior, nor is his inferior. There is no nobler or less noble conditioning; there is only the fact that the mind is conditioned. You can observe this fact in daily life if you are aware of the functioning of your own mind. You think along a certain line. As a Buddhist or a Christian you will do or not do certain things, just as a Communist will do or not do certain other things; so both minds are conditioned.

Now, the questioner wants to know how to free the mind from its conditioning. First of all, sirs, you must know that your mind is conditioned. The mind cannot free itself till it knows it is conditioned. If I am blind, I must know that I am blind before I can do something about my blindness; otherwise, my talking about blindness as very little value.

Similarly, you must Mow for yourself that your mind is conditioned, and you must also find out in what manner it is conditioned. You think as a Sinhalese or a Hindu, you have certain customs, a certain social morality, certain ways of approaching problems, a certain disregard for women; you feel contempt for the servant and respect for the big man which is reflected in the manner of your speech.. All this is your conditioning, which is the result of the tradition in which you have been brought up, whether that tradition is comparatively new or ten thousand years old. You cannot be aware of your conditioning if you oppose it, if you think it is right or wrong, good or bad, noble or ignoble, if you say "This I will keep, that I will throw away". Whereas, if the mind approaches the totality of its conditioning without condemnation or justification, then that very approach will free the mind from conditioning. When you know that you are functioning in the groove of tradition, and realize how stupid it is, it drops away, you don't have to struggle against it.

But the difficulty is that you find profit, pleasure in tradition, in being conditioned; you find it is a safe thing; so the unconscious, which is very conservative, hesitant, holds you. Conditioning involves the totality of your thinking-feeling, whether pleasurable or painful; and when you realize that you cannot seek pleasure and discard pain, then you will find that, because you understand the whole import of conditioning, the mind is free of conditioning; you do not have to do a thing about it. No effort on the part of the mind to uncondition itself can bring about freedom from conditioning, because all such effort is born of conditioning; you have been told from childhood that you must make an effort in order to be free. But if you understand the whole process of conditioning, there is freedom, you don't have to make an effort to be free.

Question: Is it not desirable to revive the great religions and the glorious cultures associated with them, since in their pure form they have helped many people towards the spiritual life?

Krishnamurti: When there is confusion there is always the urge to revive the past, because it is the safe thing to do. All over the Christian world they are shouting that Christianity must be revived, and apparently you are doing the same thing here, saying that the ancient religions must be revived.

Now, can the ancient religions be revived? What do you mean by religion? Surely, religion has nothing whatever to do with dogmas, beliefs, rituals, nor with the authority-bound mentality of the priest. Organized belief has been built up for the profit of the few in the name of the many, and that is obviously not religion. Religion is something entirely different. Religion is love; and can love be `revived'? To be religious is just to love people, to be kind, to be generous, not to hate, not to be ambitious, not to be envious, to have sympathy, to have compassion; and can these things be `revived'? Can you go back and bring the dead books, the dead traditions, to life? Or is it that love cannot be revived, because love is only in the present, not in the past or the future? Love is not something that you can get through practice. You can love, be compassionate, only in the present, in the immediate. It is because you do not love, because you are confused, that you seek to revive something which is dead. If you had love you would never talk about revival. A living man does not talk about revival; he is living. It is the dead man who wants to put life into himself - the so-called life that had made him die.

So religion is not organization, religion is not authority, religion is not dogma, ritual, or belief; nor is it the knowledge accumulated through the past. Religion is a state of living in the present; it is to understand the whole process, the totality of time. This understanding frees the mind from fear, and only then does the mind know what it is to love. A mind that loves does not seek God or truth, because love itself is truth. To be completely attentive is be good. The mind that cultivates virtue is not a virtuous mind. Love cannot be revived. Only dead things can be revived, in the sense that you can pump life into them hoping they will live. They never will. Let the dead lie dead. Be concerned with the living. That is much more difficult, because it demands great clarity, sympathy, generosity, love.

January 20, 1957.


Colombo 1957

Colombo 3rd Public Talk 20th January 1957

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