New Delhi 1960
New Delhi 6th Public Talk 2nd March 1960
Before inquiring into revolution and religion which is what I would like to talk about this evening, I think we should understand what we mean by learning. It is only when we look at facts as they actually are that we can learn about them. But most of us are incapable of looking at facts as they are, without trying to interpret or do something about them. When we are confronted with a fact, most of us approach it with prejudice, with a temperamental bias, with our particular knowledge or experience, whether it be scientific, bureaucratic, business, religious, or what you will; so we never do look at the fact. And it seems to me that we can learn about anything in life only when we cease to approach the fact with conclusions, ideas and opinions, for it is only then that the fact begins to reveal its own significance.
So I would suggest this evening that we approach the problem of religion and the problem of revolution with the intention of seeing, first of all, what the facts are, which means that we must look at them without our conditioning. This is going to be very difficult, because we are so heavily conditioned - conditioned as Hindus, as Moslems, as Christians, conditioned politically, technologically, and in other ways. But if we can put aside our various conditionings and look at the facts, then I think we shall be able to learn immeasurably.
This extraordinary movement which we call life is a thing to be learnt about, and in learning there is no beginning and no end. We cease to learn only when we approach life with our narrow prejudices and predilections. Life is vast, is it not? With all its beauty, its sorrows, miseries and contradictions, its poverty, degradation and fear, its anxieties, hopes and despairs, life is really immeasurable; and to understand all that, we must surely have a mind that is capable of immeasurable comprehension. But unfortunately, most of us have no such comprehension, and when we are confronted with a vital problem, our response is always determined by our conditioning, by our prejudices, and so on.
So, this evening let us see if we cannot seriously, with full intent, put aside all that we know or think we know, all the things with which we are familiar, and look at the actual facts. Then, perhaps, we shall be able to learn; and learning is action. Action and learning are not separate. The movement of learning implies comprehension, seeing the significance of the problem - its width, its depth, its height. The very perception of the problem is action. Action and perception are not separate. But when we have an idea about the problem, the idea is separate from action, and then the further problem arises of how to approximate action to the idea. So, what matters is to look at the problem without fear, without anxiety, without our temperamental evaluations, for then we shall be able to learn; and that very movement of learning is action.
I think we should see this very clearly before we proceed; because we must act, we must bring about a tremendous revolution in our thinking, in our morality, in our relationships. There must obviously be a radical transformation, a total revolution in all the ways of our life. But we cannot be in that state of revolution if we do not see the fundamental fact that where there is understanding there is action. Action is not separate from understanding or perception. When I understand a problem, that very understanding includes action. When I perceive deeply, that very perception brings an action of itself. But if I merely speculate, if I have an idea about the problem, then the idea is separate from action, and the further problem arises of how to carry out the idea. So let us bear very clearly in mind that understanding is action, that understanding is not separate from action. Now, what are the facts? One of the major facts is that, all over the world, the religious and political leaders are as confused as their followers. The religious leaders may say, "We are not confused. We have our faith, our belief; we know, we perceive what is true". But the religious leaders are Christians, or Hindus, or Moslems; their minds are shaped according to a pattern, conditioned by the culture in which they happen to have been brought up. Dislodge them from their conditioning, and they are completely lost. Each religious leader has a group of followers who accept his authority, and that authority is based on their mutual conditioning. No Hindu will follow the Pope, and no Catholic will follow a Hindu guru - though a Hindu who is disturbed, disillusioned, may take shelter in Christian authority, and vice versa.
So, like the political leaders, the religious leaders are fundamentally confused. They are all in a state of contradiction. Though the political leaders may talk about peace, world unity, and trot out all the rest of those easy words which they employ to exploit people, they are in confusion, in a state of contradiction. That is one fact. Another fact is that you who follow them are also confused. You choose your leaders out of your confusion, and those whom you choose out of your confusion are bound to be equally confused. The mind that is very clear in itself, that sees everything totally, in true proportion, does not follow and does not become a leader.
It is a major fact that we are all confused. Very few of us are aware of this total confusion - total in the sense that our whole being is confused. Most of us say, "We are only partially confused. There are areas in us which are very clear, and by means of this light we are trying to bring about the cessation of our partial confusion". But a confused mind can think only in terms of confusion. It may project ideas of clarity, but it is still confused; and where there is confusion, there is bound to be deterioration. You may have better agricultural methods, rockets that will go to the moon, and all the rest of it, but inwardly there is a sense of deterioration. We have tried various methods of approach to the problem of existence, and they have all failed. Religion has failed, education has failed, and politics really make very little sense, because the politician always deals with the partial, never with the totality of man. The politician is concerned with the immediate, and not with the whole of time. So there is confusion and a sense of deterioration; there is unexpressed sorrow and immense, unfathomable despair.
I do not know if you are at all aware of this fact of despair, the feeling that there is no way out. Man has tried in various ways. He has tried knowledge, he has tried organized religion, he has tried various systems of philosophy; and after all this he has come to a blank wall, so there is a feeling of despair. Man has reached the end of his tether. I wonder if you are at all aware of this! Perhaps you know despair only in terms of your own life. There is despair when you want something very badly and cannot get it; there is despair when your wife or husband, your son or brother dies. If you are a little man who longs to be rich and famous, you may despair of ever achieving what you want. All this is part of a wider, deeper despair in which action has lost its meaning, in which temples, philosophies, gurus have ceased to have any significance. There is, of course, the world of entertainment, amusement, superficiality, the world of escape; but with that we do not have to deal, because those of us who are at all serious have already seen through it.
So, faced as we are with confusion, deterioration, with corruption and an overwhelming sense of despair, what do we do? Most of us turn to faith as a means of solving our problems - faith in religious authority, or faith in the authority of the State. Do please follow all this, because we have to bring about a new quality of mind; a fundamental revolution, a deep mutation has to take place, and it cannot take place if we are not aware of all these facts.
As I was saying, being faced with the present crisis, most of us turn to faith - faith in the idea of God, or faith in the State, or faith in a future Utopia, a marvellous new world to be created by the Communists, the Socialists, the politicians. Faith is an extraordinary thing if you observe it, because it indicates that we want to cling to something which has been created for us by a leader, by an expert, by the politician or the priest. That is, being confused, uncertain, in a state of despair, we want something to which we can cling; so either we turn to the revival of a dead religion, or we dream of creating a new state with the help of the politician, with the help of the economist, the scientist, and so on. By worshipping God through the priest, through an organized religion, or by working to bring about a so-called new society, we hope to have something on which we can rely to solve all our problems. So, faith invariably implies authority, does it not? - the authority which hope creates.
Do please follow this - not just the words, but, if you will, observe your own minds. Because, what is it we are doing this evening? We are trying to commune with each other. In thinking aloud, I am not moralizing - that is a terrible, an ugly thing to do. Nor am I laying down the law, which is another horror of the so-called leaders. We are trying to commune with each other about these difficulties. So you have to watch your own mind, you have to observe your own life, you have to be aware of your own conditioning. I am merely describing, and if you are satisfied with mere description, then what is being said will have very little meaning.
Now, most of us, when we are confused, in despair, want to follow someone, so we have faith in a leader, whether religious or political. But when a confused, despairing mind follows another, it only creates greater misery, greater confusion. You choose a leader out of your confusion, so the leader himself is confused; therefore your following has no value at all. Seeing the truth of this, what is one to do?
Religion, as we know it, the religion to which we have been conditioned, is not the real solution, though real religion is the solution. Let us go into that. We see that, like our own lives, the world is in a state of chaotic misery, and we do not understand it; therefore we turn to religion in the hope of understanding life, in the hope of understanding truth, God, or what you will; and what happens? Religion, with all its superstitions, with its beliefs and sanctions, tells us that there is a God, that we must be this, live must not be that, and so on and so on. In other words, we are conditioned by the religion in which we have been brought up, or to which we turn in the hope of finding a solution. This conditioning is not a conscious process, it is generally unconscious; but the moment we become conscious of our conditioning, we see that religion, as it is, is not the answer.
Religion, as it is, is essentially based on ideas, on faith, on authority. A man who goes every day to the temple, who reads the Gita, the Bible, or the Namaz, who performs certain ceremonies, who everlastingly repeats certain words, the names of Krishna, Rama, this one or that, who wears the so-called sacred thread and aspires to go on some pilgrimage - him you consider a religious man. But surely, that is not religion. It is an ugly, dreadful, stupid thing. But most of us are caught in it and we cannot get out. To get out, to break through our conditioning requires a great deal of energy, which we do not have, because our energy goes into earning a livelihood and resisting any form of change. To change demands going against society, does it not? And if, in a Hindu society, you were not a Hindu, or if you were not a Brahmin in a Brahmin society or a Christian in a Protestant or Catholic society, you might find it difficult to get a job.
So, one of our difficulties is that to bring about a revolution in oneself requires tremendous energy, which very few of us have; because energy, in this sense, implies perception. To see anything very clearly, you must give to it your whole attention; and you cannot give your whole attention if there is any shadow of fear - economic fear, or social fear, which is fear of public opinion. Being in a state of fear, we think of reality or God as something far away, unearthly, something which we have to struggle after, grope for - you know, all the tricks we use to escape from the conflict of our daily life to something which we call peace, goodness, God. That is our actual state, is it not?
We see, then, that organized religion, with its superstitions, beliefs and dogmas, is not religion at all, and never has been. We have merely been educated, conditioned from childhood to accept these things as religion; so organized religion is actually a detriment to the discovery of what is the true religious life.
Then there is the organized revolution, which is supposed to bring about a new and marvellous state on earth - but which is actually a reactionary movement, because the people who organize it are themselves as conditioned as the priests. They are the Marxists, the Communists, the Socialists; they too belong to something, and they too have a pattern of thought and action to which they want you to conform.
Do you realize, sirs, what is happening in the world? Man is losing his freedom; and he is willing to lose his freedom in the hope of having a better economic society. Tyranny in the guise of Communism, or some other form of so-called socialism, is spreading; and you don't care, because you say, "At least my children will be better off than I am, and the poor will have something to eat". You don't mind being slaves as long as you have food, clothing and shelter; so you live a very superficial life, and with that you are content. But man is not all on the surface, he is an extraordinarily complex entity; and without understanding this complex entity, merely to bring about a reformation on the surface has no meaning, because it will only create still more misery, still more confusion and slavery. Do please understand this. We are now in a worldwide crisis, and you cannot meet this crisis by saying that we must go back to Hinduism, or to Islam, or to Christianity. That is a silly answer, it is not a mature response.
Seeing the truth of all this, what is one to do? Please put that question to yourself. What is one to do? You cannot join any organized religion, you cannot belong to any social-reform group, to any political party, because they are all dealing only with the partial. There is no leader, religious or political, who is going to save you. By following a leader you may have bread; but you are not going to be satisfied with bread. You too are ambitious, you want power, position, prestige. To be free, you have to understand the whole complex entity which is yourself, and not accept the partial response of a political or religious leader.
So, what is one to do? Being in despair, being confused and in a state of misery, being appallingly apprehensive of both living and dying, what is one to do? I wonder if we have ever asked ourselves this question? We have all had minor challenges in our lives, with correspondingly minor responses. But this challenge is not a minor one. Do you understand what I mean? Seeing poverty, you say, "I must do something about it", and your action is then the minor response to a minor challenge. Or, being in despair, you turn to some hope which is again a minor response. We have all had these minor challenges and minor responses in our lives. And seeing the futility of all that, we are now putting to ourselves the question, what is one to do? So this is a major challenge, to which we cannot respond in a minor way. Do you understand?
Sirs, we have lost our smile, we have lost our laughter, we no longer see beauty. Our world is split up into Indian and Chinese, capitalist and Communist, German and English, Russian and American, Hindu and Islamic. But the earth is ours, it does not belong to the Communists or the capitalists, to the Hindus or the Christians. It is our earth, yours and mine, to live upon, to enrich. The earth is wide and beautiful, a lovely thing to behold - and we have divided it. Through politics, through possessiveness, through ambition and religious bigotry, we have made it narrow. We think in terms of the North and the South, the East and the West, in terms of your country and my country, your property and my property; and we are all seeking power, position, prestige.
Now, when one sees all this horror, this misery, this degradation, corruption and violence, what is one to do? I think there is a total answer; and a total answer is necessary, because partial answers are no good any more. The guru, the so-called religious person says, "Seek God, and you will have all the answers". That is sheer nonsense, because you have got to live in this world. You can no longer run away to the Himalayas, or to a monastery, or lose yourself in the Cross, or the Crescent, or in any other symbol. Those days are over. You will have to find out for yourself what to do, because there is no escape. Reason cannot open the door to you any more; no amount of intellectual cunning will bring you quietness, peace, a sense of love. Intellect has become barren, and all that is born of intellect is sterile. You cannot rely on knowledge, you cannot rely on the Gita, on the Bible, or on any other book, because to rely on authority has no meaning. Do please realize this. You have relied on authority all your life, and you are still miserable, ridden by fear, by anxiety, despair.
So, what is one to do? As I said, I think there is a total answer; but first we must be very clear that no partial answer can ever meet the total challenge. Through exclusive concentration on a part you can never understand the whole. The whole is the true. Life is not only joy, nor is it just the beauty of a sunset, or of the evening star, or of a bird on the wing. Life is also ugliness and despair, it is this fearful anxiety and frustration which we all know. So we have to put a question to ourselves that will awaken the total answer to the whole of this. Do you understand, sirs? If you ask, "What am I to do?" only because you have quarrelled with your boss, or your wife has run away, that is a very superficial question which will find a superficial answer. There is a complete answer to that and every other question only when we approach the problem totally - which is to understand our own immense loneliness and poverty of being. That is why we must be very clear as to the manner in which we are putting this question to ourselves.
If an answer is not total, it is no answer at all; and I say there is a total answer to all these problems. There is a complete way of looking at life, with all its problems, and that is with a mind that has understood itself. When there is no self-knowledge, no understanding of the ways of thought - not somebody else's thought, but your own - , then all your responses to the demands of life are bound to be partial, self-contradictory, and therefore productive of further misery. By self-knowledge I mean the understanding of yourself, the understanding of your own behaviour, your own motives, prejudices, fears. I do not mean your ideas about the Atman, the higher self, and all that business, which is still within the field of thought, within the field of your conditioning.
Now, knowledge is one thing, and knowing is another. Please, this may be a little difficult, but just follow it. Knowledge is of time. Knowledge, being cumulative, is always partial; it has a beginning and an end. Knowledge, or accumulated experience, is memory; and the response of that memory is what we call thought - thought expressed in words, or thought without words. This whole process is knowledge.
Then there is the state or movement of knowing. A mind that is in the movement of knowing, learning, has no beginning and no end; it is timeless. So we have to be very clear about the difference between knowledge and knowing.
Knowledge is of time. I know, and I shall know more; I am violent, and I shall be non-violent. That implies an additive process in time. The man who says, "I know", is always within the field of time. But knowing is timeless. Do please comprehend this, otherwise you won't understand what follows.
All knowledge is within the field of time; so knowledge is not the answer. It is knowledge that has created the people who say, "We know, you don't know. We have heard the voice of God. We are the leaders, you follow us". Such people belong to time, which is knowledge; and knowledge is obviously not the way out of our mess.
Now, I think there is a movement of knowing, learning, which has nothing to do with time. When you are learning there is no time, is there? In that movement there is no beginning and no end. You don't know: you are learning. I wonder if you see the difference! When you are in the movement of learning, there is no entity who is accumulating knowledge and thereby creating the differences of accumulation and the conflict between them.
Look, sirs: when you are learning, there is no time involved at all, is there? Because learning or knowing is infinite, it has no beginning and no end. In that same way, without any sense of accumulation, there must be the knowing of oneself. Words are extraordinarily difficult. I am knowing you, I am knowing myself. In knowing, there is never a moment of contradiction, never a moment of conflict. When the mind is in the movement of knowing, it has removed the source of conflict; and when you remove the source of conflict, you are then able to respond totally to life.
So, knowing about oneself is the beginning of freedom, because it brings about a mind which is not caught in time. The mind that has this quality of timelessness can answer all our human problems, because it is in a state of creation; and only such a mind is open to receive that which is not measurable by knowledge.
March 2, 1960
New Delhi 1960
New Delhi 6th Public Talk 2nd March 1960
Texts and talks of Jiddu Krishnamurti. Krishnamurti quotes. Books about
J Krishnamurti. Philosophy.