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New Delhi 1960

New Delhi 1st Public Talk 14th February 1960

If I may, I would like to talk over with you some of the problems which all of us are confronted with. In talking over these problems with each other, we must clearly understand that any form of influence or persuasion is very temporary, affecting only the conscious mind, and does not bring about a radical change at all. And a radical change is necessary. Some form of revolution in the quality of our thinking is obviously essential; and we can bring about a fundamental change in the mind only when there is a sensitivity to the problems, and not mere acceptance or denial either of the problems or their so-called solutions. If you and I do not clearly understand this, we shall be merely wasting our time. I do not want to influence you in any way whatsoever. It is not my intention to persuade you to act in any particular direction, nor do I wish to determine a course of action for you to pursue. To me, all such forms of persuasion or influence, are a denial of freedom. There is neither good influence nor bad influence; there is only influence. Influence is propaganda, and propaganda always destroys the capacity to think clearly.

If this is very well understood between us - that there is no intention on my part to persuade you to think in any particular direction - , then let us try to think over together the many problems that we have; let us consider them clearly, dispassionately, so that the mind is no longer bound, no longer a slave to any pattern of behaviour or thought; because negative thinking is the highest form of thinking.

By `negative' I do not mean the opposite of the positive. Most of us think positively, in terms of do and don't, which is adjustment to a conclusion, to a pattern of thought or action. The pattern may be the result of a great deal of experience, it may be the outcome of research and many experiments, but it is still a pattern; and thinking according to a pattern, however conclusive, satisfactory, is a process of conformity which always conditions the mind.

But it seems to me that to deny such positive thinking, and merely to revolt against the pattern, will in no way create thinking which is of the highest quality. The highest form of thinking is negative thinking - that is, just to be aware of the fallacies of positive thinking, to see the conflicts it creates, and from there to think clearly, dispassionately, without any prejudice or conclusion.

Perhaps, this evening, we can go into all that, because we have many problems; and I think no problem is isolated. Every problem is related to every other problem, and the individual problem is obviously the problem of the world. When we divide problems as individual and global, individual and social, individual and political, individual and communal, I think such dividing is fallacious and does not bring about comprehension at all. What brings about comprehension is this awareness or perception of the total, undivided problem.

Some of you may be hearing all this for the first time, and your difficulty will be to understand what the words are meant to convey. Words are symbols, and merely to adhere to symbols, stops all thinking. Whereas, if we can slip through the symbols, through the words and definitions - not denying them, but seeing their limitations and going beyond them - , then, perhaps, we shall be able to understand the problem.

So, what is the central problem for each one of us, for the mind? In putting this question, I am not preparing to point out the problem so that you can either accept or deny it. We are trying to understand - which means there can be neither denial nor acceptance. The moment you deny or accept, all investigation ceases, all inquiry into the problem comes to an end. And it is also very important to be able to listen to the question, is it not? Most of us, I think, do not listen at all. We hear a great deal, but we do not listen, just as we do not see anything without interpretation.

If I may, I would like to explain a little what it means to listen. Listening is an art. To listen, you must give total attention; and you cannot give total attention when your mind is interpreting what it is hearing, translating it in terms of what you already know or have experienced. A mind that listens in the true sense of the word does not interpret what it hears according to its own experiences. It is not interpreting at all: it is totally attentive. Such listening without interpretation gives to the mind a temporary focus in which there is that strange quality of total attention.

I wonder if you have ever listened to anything with total attention? To most of us, attention implies the effort to concentrate; but where there is an effort to concentrate, there is no listening and therefore no understanding. Listening implies, surely, a mind that is completely relaxed and yet attentive. If you will kindly experiment with this state of relaxed attention, which is listening, we can proceed to inquire - and inquiry will then be neither yours nor mine. Such inquiry is not conditioned, it is not in response to any demand or necessity; therefore such inquiry begins to free the mind.

It seems to me the central problem for all of us is the fact that we are slaves - slaves to society, slaves to public opinion, slaves to our professions, slaves to our religious dogmas and beliefs. And a mind that is slavish obviously cannot perceive what is true. A man who spends thirty, forty, or fifty years in his profession as an engineer, a bureaucrat, a politician, a physicist, becomes a slave to that profession, does he not? He may mutter on the side about reality, God, goodness, virtue, and all the rest of it; but such a mind is obviously not a free mind. And surely it is only a free mind that is capable of inquiry, of search, of finding and unfolding.

The problem is not what to do about being a slave, but to understand the depth of our slavery. To me, that word `understanding' does not mean merely grasping a problem intellectually; it has quite a different meaning. Intellectually, verbally one may comprehend all the arguments, all the reasons and deductions, and come to some kind of conclusion; but surely that is not understanding. Understanding demands a comprehensive perception of the whole process of existence, not just a sectional or fragmentary grasp of one problem. Life covers everything, it has no beginning and no end; life is the good and the bad; life is the Communist, the Socialist, the Capitalist, the Imperialist; life is that total something in which dwell the painter, the musician, the man of sorrows. If I want to understand this extraordinary thing called life, with all its vastness - and not only the vastness, but also the particular, the limited, the life of a person in a small village, or in a town; if I want to understand this extraordinary thing called life, I must have the capacity to approach it totally. It seems to me that we cannot approach it totally because our minds are so very limited, and from that limitation we respond to the challenge of life; therefore there is everlasting conflict, misery, strife. So the problem is, surely, whether the mind is capable of a total response, so that it does not create problems and is not in constant conflict with itself.

Most of us do not seem to realize to what an extent the mind is a slave, both outwardly and inwardly; and I do not think it is possible for the mind to free itself from this slavery until it is aware of its own slavishness. The mind is a slave to tradition, to experience, to habit, and without understanding the whole process of how habit enslaves the mind, merely trying to free the mind from a particular habit, has no value at all.

Do please listen to this a little attentively, at least for the time being, because wive shall tackle as we go along the many questions that will inevitably arise in your minds in the course of these talks. Unless live grasp from the very beginning the importance of seeing what is, which is to perceive the actual state of one's own mind, merely to ask questions and try to find answers is utterly futile. There are these many problems - the problem of starvation, the problem of freedom, the problem of relationship, the problem of whether truth, reality exists or does not exist, the problem of meditation, and the extraordinary problem of creation, the movement of life. All these problems do affect us, superficially or most profoundly, and we cannot find an answer to any of them if we do not understand the actual fact of what is. Most of us are unwilling to face the fact of what is, we want to escape from it; and there are many escapes which have become traditional. So, the important thing is not how to free the mind - what is the means, the method, the discipline, and all the rest of it - but to understand the fact of one's own slavery to habit. It is the perception of this fact that is going to bring freedom to the mind, and not the resolution or determination to free the mind.

Most of us would be horrified if we were really aware of what slaves we are to habit. We want to get into good habits, which are called virtues; but habit is mechanical, and a virtue ceases to be a virtue when it becomes habitual. A mind that practises humility and makes a habit of it, has ceased to be humble; it has lost the quality of that strange thing called humility. And yet, if you observe very carefully the movements of your own mind, you will see that the mind almost invariably creates for itself a pattern of habit, and then functions mechanically in that habit.

We divide habit into the good and the bad, the good being the respectable, that which is recognized as virtue by society. But virtue which is recognized by society, which has become respectable, is no longer virtue. The mind is everlastingly seeking a mode of activity which is purely mechanical, and when it finds such a state, it is satisfied; because in that state of mechanical functioning, mechanical thinking, there is a minimum of friction, of conflict. That is why habit becomes very important to the mind, and why the mind becomes a slave to habit.

Actually, habit is the mind, just as time is the mind. After all, we are the result of time, not only in the chronological sense, but inwardly, psychologically live are the result of time, of many centuries. We are slaves to tradition, not only to the tradition of a thousand years, but to the tradition of yesterday. Again, if you go into yourself, observe your own mind, you will see that such functioning in accordance with tradition is always mechanical, whether the tradition is ancient, or recently set going by the demands of the present, the immediate.

Sirs, may I suggest that you do not just listen to the talk, but actually be aware of yourselves. The talk is useful only as a mirror to reflect the functioning of your own minds. If the description becomes all-important, and you are merely accepting or denying the description, then you are not observing your own minds; and if you are not observing your own minds, then these talks are utterly futile and a waste of time. The description, the symbol is never the real. The word `mind' is not the mind, and if you merely cling to the word, then the extraordinary quality, the subtlety, the deep movement of the mind will pass you by.

So, what is it you are actually doing? You are listening, surely, in order to observe your own mind in action, and to be aware of the nature of your own thought. In thus being aware of your mind and its activities, you neither accept nor deny. There is no conviction, one way or the other. You are merely observing the fact; and the observation of a fact does not demand any previous conclusion.

As I said, our minds are the result of time. Our minds are the result of influence, whether it be the Communist influence, or any other. Our minds are bound by tradition, which is a form of influence. Our minds are the result of experience, and experience has become tradition. To all this our minds are slaves. Through so called progress, culture and education, through political activities, through propaganda, through various forms of adjustment and conformity, the margin of freedom is getting narrower and narrower. I do not know if you are aware of how little freedom we have. The politicians, the specialists, the various professions, the radio and television, the books and newspapers we read - all these things are influencing, conditioning the mind, and so depriving us of this extraordinary feeling of freedom. That is the fact; and we are concerned with the fact, not with what we should do in order to be free. We shall understand what is to be done when we are sensitive to what is; and sensitivity to what is depends on the quality of the mind that gives attention to what is. One may say, "Yes, I am a slave, but I cannot change, because I am tied to my job; my whole existence is committed". Surely, that is a very superficial observation. Or one may say, "To live in this way is natural, inevitable". Again, such a statement is very superficial. So, on the sensitivity of your mind depends the depth to which you understand the fact of what is.

Look, sirs, let us suppose that I have been trained from my youth to be a bureaucrat. I now function somewhat easily but mechanically in that profession - and I have been a slave to it for the past forty years. Most of us are in that position, and very few of us are aware of our slavery. A doctor who practises as a specialist, is a slave to his speciality; that is his haven, to which he has given many years of his life. We are slaves to what we have been educated to do. We are slaves to our occupations, our professions. That is the actual fact; and the mind rebels against looking at the fact. If you observe your own mind, you will see how it wants to push the fact aside. Now, I am suggesting that you merely look at the fact, which is to be aware that you are a slave; and then you will find that such awareness, such perception, brings its own action.

But that raises another issue. Most of us, when we are confronted with a problem, want to do something about it. In other words, there is a thinker who acts upon the problem. But the thinker is himself the problem.

I wonder if I am making myself clear?

You see, sirs, I feel that freedom is absolutely necessary - not a conditional freedom, but a total freedom. For only a free mind is creative; only a free mind will know what love is; only a free mind is in that state of goodness which is not a cultivated virtue. So freedom is essential. But if you observe you will see that freedom is being denied to every human being through knowledge, through experience, through habit, through the various functions that we perform.

Now, is it possible for the mind to be free? - which is not the opposite of slavery. Do you understand? The opposite is always a reaction, is it not? The opposite of violence is non-violence. It is a reaction, therefore it has the quality of violence. But if the mind understands its own violence, then it is free of violence, which is a state entirely different from non-violence. Similarly, when the mind goes into this whole process of slavery, when it understands in what way and to what extent it is a slave, then there is no reaction, because that very understanding brings a freedom which is not the opposite of slavery.

Sirs, let me put the problem differently. Surely, love is not the opposite of hate. In love there is no jealousy, no competition. Where there is ambition, there is no love; where the mind is seeking power, position, prestige, there is no love. One can comprehend the quality of love only through negation of what is called the positive. In other words, the state of love can be found, understood, felt, or that state is, only when the mind is not ambitious, no longer caught in the conflict of jealousy. And if we would understand what it is to be free, or to be in that state of perception which is freedom, then we must comprehend, we must be totally aware of the implications of slavery.

Sirs, I am afraid we are not in communion with each other. Do you know what it means to commune with another? Between two people who love each other, words are often unnecessary. When they look at each other, there is a common attention at that moment which is total; words are unnecessary, because there is instant communion at the same level, at the same time. Now, you and I are not in that state of communion, because you do not really see that this problem is your problem. It is not something I am imposing on you. I am merely pointing it out. Some of you may be aware of your slavery, but most of you don't want to look at it, so there is a separation, a cleavage; there is a distance between the speaker and yourself, because freedom to you means something entirely different. You translate it in your own terms, according to the tradition in which you were brought up, and thereby you completely miss the significance of what is being said. If there were communion between us with regard to the problem, then the mind would be in a state of attention all the time at its profoundest depth.

Do you understand what I mean?

Look, sirs: our lives are very petty, very narrow, full of strife and misery. Whatever we touch, with the hand or with the mind, is destroyed, perverted, corrupted. Everything about us indicates corruption. Being small, our minds are struggling, struggling, struggling all the time. To understand this problem, you must give it your full attention; you must be earnest, not just at this moment, but right through life. I think there is a difference between earnestness and seriousness. A man with a conclusion, with a dogmatic belief, is very serious, and so is a man who is somewhat unbalanced. But I am talking about the earnestness of a mind which wants to penetrate as deeply as possible into every problem of life, and therefore cuts off all the escapes. Surely, to such a mind, this question of freedom and slavery is very important.

On every side, governments are destroying our freedom. Education is conditioning us, and so-called progress, with its mass-production, is also reducing us to slavery. Though you may not regard this as a problem, the problem exists. There are tyrannies in the world, dictators, rulers who are out to control the mind of man. This is a problem which is confronting each one of us every day. The question of how to interpret the Gita, or the Upanishads, is no problem at all. It is not a problem to an earnest mind. What somebody has said - whether it be Marx, or the Buddha, or the Christ - is not important. What is important is to understand for ourselves the things we are faced with, and not translate them in terms of the past; and that requires our attention, our complete earnestness.

This question of freedom is an immense problem that is actually confronting each one of us; it is not a mere theoretical problem to be discussed by the philosopher, or by the politician who is everlastingly talking about freedom and peace. It is a problem to the earnest mind that is seeking to disentangle itself from sorrow; but you cannot give your attention to it if you are not deeply aware of it, if it is not a direct challenge to you.

I do not know, sirs, if you realize in what a state of despair man is. He has tried everything; he has committed himself to various activities, to various movements, to various philosophies, religions, and at the end of it he has found nothing. He may believe, he may speculate, but that is all without understanding; so there is despair. Do you understand, sirs? There is despair when the mind sees the spread of tyranny, when it is aware that politics have become all-important, when it perceives that organized religion is controlling the thought of man. Turn where you will, you are bound to come upon this sense of despair. Those who have their backs to the wall invent philosophies, and by their cleverness capture other people in their net of despair.

So, being aware of this whole process which is life, as a human being you have to face it; you cannot say, "It is not my problem". It is your problem; and you can resolve the problem totally only when you begin to understand the quality, the movement, the extraordinary activity of your own mind. If you do not understand yourself, whatever you are, consciously or unconsciously you are in a state of despair; and the more intellectual you are, the deeper and wider is your despair. Of course, shallow minds very quickly forget their despair by going to the temple, or reading a book, or turning on the radio, or repeating certain futile words; but the despair is still there.

Now, can the mind confront this enormous problem without despair? Surely, despair arises only when the mind clings to the hope of resolving the problem. I think it is possible, without going through the process of hope and despair, to understand the problem - that is, to understand the mind, to understand oneself; but that is exactly what most of us do not want to do, because it entails work, it demands attention, a constant perception of every thought and every feeling. Yet without self-knowledge, do what you ill, there can be no freedom. By self-knowledge I mean an awareness and understanding of every movement of thought and feeling from moment to moment. I am not referring to the higher self and the lower self, to the Atman, the self that is supposed to be supreme, and all that business. I am talking about the mind that functions in everyday life, the mind that is enslaved, that is envious, ambitious, cruel, the mind that knows joy and sorrow, that is caught in a method, in a symbol, in an illusion. What matters is to understand your own mind, the mind that is functioning in you at every moment of the day, because only through the clarity of that understanding is there freedom. I say the mind can be totally free; and it is only the totally free mind that knows if there is reality, if there is God, a state which cannot be measured by the mind.

February 14, 1960


New Delhi 1960

New Delhi 1st Public Talk 14th February 1960

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