Saanen 2nd Public Talk 9th July 1963
I feel it is always rather difficult to communicate exactly what one wants to say. One has to use words. There are other forms of communication, but they are apt to be misleading and must be distrusted. Words, too, can be distorted; there are so many shades of meaning to each word, and when one is communicating something which is not purely objective, it demands a certain flexibility on the part of the listener, a certain subtlety of mind, a quality that the words themselves do not possess. Whatever the language that is being used, whether it is French, Italian, or English, it is always difficult, I think, to go beyond the words and really capture the significance of what the speaker wants to convey. It requires a great deal of determined consideration, a penetrative quality, an insight rather than mere argumentation, clever explanation, or subtle analysis.
To me, the most important thing in life is to have a religious mind, because then everything else comes into right relationship - everything; jobs, health, marriage, sex, love - and the innumerable problems and travails of life are understood. The religious mind is not something that you can easily get at by reading a few books, by attending a series of talks, or by drilling yourself into a certain attitude. But I feel one must have such a mind, and perhaps, during these talks, we may come upon it - not deliberately, not through any form of cultivation, or by developing a certain capacity, but come upon it darkly, unexpectedly, unknowingly.
The mind - which includes both the conscious and the unconscious - is, as we have observed, the field of a great deal of contradiction. It is caught up in an enormous striving, torn by many conflicts, struggles, clashes of desire; and such a mind can never understand what it is to be religious. Do what it will - go to church, read the sacred books, or do any of the other things we do in our juvenile attempts to find out if there is God, if there is a hereafter, and so on - such a mind can never come upon that extraordinary religious state. That is why I feel it is very important, especially during these three weeks, that we should be deeply aware of this inward field of conflict. I think that very few are fully conscious of this ceaseless battle which is going on within each one of us; and as I was pointing out the other day, the important thing is not what to do about it, but rather to see it, because the very act of seeing the thing is freedom from it.
So I want to discuss this morning the fact of conflict and degeneration - for the two go together, they are not separate. Where there is conflict, whether it is conscious or unconscious, deep or superficial, it does destroy the subtlety, the quickness, the sensitivity of the mind. Conflict makes for dullness, insensitivity. By conflict I mean having problems; and to be free of conflict, of contradictions, one has to understand, surely, this thing called consciousness, the mind, the thing which we are.
I am going to go into all this, not theoretically, not abstractly, or merely by way of explanation, but I am going to go into it, I hope, with your co-operation. That is, you and I are going to take the journey together; you are not merely listening to me, but in the very act of listening you are observing the processes of your own consciousness.
You know, there are two ways of looking at something. Either you look at it because you have been told to look, and what to look for; or you look because you want to find out, and you begin to discover. When you are hungry, you eat, you do not have to be told. But to be told that you should eat, and to feel hungry, are two quite different matters. So we must be very clear on this point. I am not telling you that you should look, or what to look for, but together we are going to look, and together we are going to discover. it will be a firsthand experience for both of us, because neither is directing the other. I hope this is clear.
This is a very complex problem, and to go into it one requires a mind that is able to look, to observe, to consider, without immediately saying, "What I see pleases me, I like it", or, "it does not please me, I don't like it". One requires a scientific mind, a mind that does not distort, that does not give colour to what it sees. The important thing is to bring about a transformation in the very process of our thinking, in the very matrix, the very make-up of the mind. A revolution is necessary - not an economic or a sociological revolution, but a revolution in consciousness, at the very centre of our being; and such a revolution can take place only if we understand this question of conflict. Conflict at any level of consciousness, superficial or deep down, is the factor of deterioration.
Don't just accept this - don't accept anything the speaker says. But let us examine together this problem of conflict, by which I mean self-contradiction, self-pity, and the urge to fulfil with its inevitable frustration. There is conformity, imitation, and the contradiction of wanting to change what is into something which we call the ideal - the contradiction between what I am and what I think I should be. Contradiction implies competition, the desire to be somebody marvellous, famous, with all the striving that goes with it, the battling, the anxiety, the fear of not being something, the agony of despair - all this, and much more, is implied in the word `contradiction', and it is the factor of deterioration.
We are educated to live in perpetual conflict: economically, morally, spiritually, our society is based on conflict, and all the religious teachers have told us to discipline ourselves, to struggle to be or to become something. We always have the example, the national or religious hero; we imitate the saint, the Saviour, the one who has attained; there is always this gulf between the one who knows and the one who does not know, with the one who does not know everlastingly struggling to know - the stupid trying to become clever. That is the psychological structure of our society. We are driven by ambition, we worship success and condemn failure; there is the multiplication of sorrow, and a ceaseless trying to get out of sorrow. This constant battle goes on, whether we are asleep or awake, whether we are going for a walk or sitting still. This is our lot, it is what we have been educated to, what we have accepted; it is the state in which we live. So the mind is never clear, it is always confused, always self-contradictory.
Please observe your own state. Now, how do you observe yourself? Do you observe as a watcher looking at something apart from himself, which means that there is a division, a contradiction between the observer and the observed? Or do you observe without the observer? Please follow this, it is important. When we are looking into the enormously complex process of our own consciousness, whose very essence is conflict, we must understand what we mean by looking, observing. I am sure most of us observe as someone from the outside looking inward. You are aware of your conflicts, and you are watching them as a censor, as a judge, as an observer apart from the observed. That is what most of us do, and that prevents us from understanding this very complex thing called conflict - the enormous weight, the content, the varieties of it. When you observe as an outsider looking in, you actually create conflict, do you not? You are not understanding conflict, but only increasing it. Being aware of conflict within himself, the observer says, "I must change that; I do not like conflict, I like pleasure". So the observer always has this attitude of judging, censoring, and when you so observe, you are not understanding conflict; on the contrary, you are multiplying it. Have I made myself clear on that point?
To me, the whole psychoanalytical process is the intensification of conflict, and it cannot bring about freedom from conflict. I wish you would see this fact once and for all, see the truth, the beauty of it, and then you would know what it is to look, not with the eyes of the censor, but just to look. If you look with the eyes of the censor, you are going to increase your conflict; but if you observe, not from a centre, then you will begin to understand this extraordinary process called consciousness, which is the very essence of conflict, of struggle, a ceaseless striving to become, to suppress, to achieve.
You observe those snowcapped mountains, those hills and valleys, the green earth; and how do you observe them? Do you see them from an analyzing centre? Or do you just see their extraordinary beauty? There is a difference, surely, between perception and analysis. If that difference is somewhat clear, then it will also be clear that analysis does not bring about a revolution. Analysis may help you to adjust yourself to society, it may remove some of your peculiarities, your idiosyncrasies, your neuroses; but we are not talking of that. We are talking of something much more fundamental than mere adjustment to a rotten society. Analysis implies the analyzer and the analyzed. The analyzer is the censor, the judge who examines, interprets, who condemns or approves what is seen, and therefore brings about further conflict. We are not doing that at all; we are doing something entirely different, which is to understand conflict, not only outwardly in the world, but inwardly. I am using the word `understand' in the sense of observing without taking any position. When you do that, you already have a field of observation in which there is no conflict. I do not know if you see the truth of that.
You know as well as I do that there is conflict outwardly. Nation is set against nation, and sovereign governments, with their armies, are constantly on the verge of war. There is competition, the antagonism of race and class divisions, and the battle that is going on between East and West, between those who are well-fed and the hungry millions of Asia. There is the population explosion, with its threat of total starvation, and the overshadowing fear of a nuclear war. All this is obvious, it is on the lips of every politician, of every reformer - the `cold' war that is going on, and that may at any moment become `hot'.
Then there is this inward battle that is going on in each one of us: the self-contradictions, the unresolved problems, and the problems that have been temporarily resolved, all of which leave their mark on the mind. We want to be somebody, we want to be famous as a painter, a writer, a speaker, a big business man, and if we cannot be, we are frustrated-which brings on still another form of conflict.
So there is the outer and the inner conflict; and the outer is not essentially different from the inner. They are both part of the same movement, which is like a tide that goes out and comes in. To separate them is absurd, stupid, because they are one and the same thing. You must deal with the problem as a whole and not divide it as the outer and the inner, otherwise you will never be able to understand it. The moment you divide the outer from the inner, you have increased the conflict in which you are caught.
Now, seeing this ceaseless battle, this self-contradiction in which one is caught, what is one to do? This inner conflict may produce a certain effort, a certain result. It may and often does produce paintings, poems, literature, so-called religious movements; but they are all within the field of conflict, and a man who produces a book, a poem, a picture out of this tension of conflict, is a factor of degeneration. He helps other people to degenerate. This is very obvious. So, conflict in any form, whether one is conscious of it or not, and any action arising from that conflict, is a factor of degeneration.
Please do not accept what I am saying, because if you accept it, it is merely verbal agreement; and we are not here to verbally agree or disagree. This is not a debating society.
You see, for centuries upon centuries we have been brought up on this idea that we must struggle to be or to achieve something. We struggle to be successful in this world, and we also think that through conflict we can arrive at godhead, or create something in the artistic or religious sense. Look at the innumerable saints who have battled with themselves to arrive at a state which they call spiritual, and which is recognized as such by the churches. So conflict is a time-honoured institution, a thing that we worship. You see conflict represented in ancient Egyptian pictures, and in the caves of Lescaux, where man is portrayed as battling with the animals, the good against the evil, with the hope that the good will prevail. Conflict is an historic process; it is like an enormous wave that is always overtaking us, and we are part of that wave.
Now, to see conflict - this historical, sociological process of which we are a part - as a deteriorating factor, requires close attention, real intelligence. Most of us do not recognize conflict as a deteriorating factor, because we are used to it. At school, in business, in everything that we do, conflict, competition is our way of life, and nobody will admit that it is deeply destructive. A few may admit it theoretically, but not factually; so let us go into it. As I said, there are many varieties of conflict. The so-called religious people have their various disciplines. They control, subjugate themselves; they conform to a pattern which they call spiritual, or imitate some hero; they accept the authority of a Saviour, a teacher, according to whose dictates they struggle to live. If they are at all serious - like the Christian monks, or like those people in India, who have given up the world - their life is a battle to control, to discipline themselves.
And look at our own lives. Perhaps some of you smoke. You may feel it is absurd to be a slave to any habit; but how extraordinarily difficult it is for you to give up a little thing like smoking, what tortures you go through! It becomes a conflict; and, of course, with more emotional things like sex, and so on, it becomes untold misery. But you are used to conflict, it is your habit, your way of life. Conflict has been made holy, respectable; and when a person like me comes along and says that one can live totally without conflict, you either become cynical and say, "Poor chap", or you try to imitate the way he lives, and therefore you are again caught in conflict.
As I said, whether one is aware of it or not, the whole of consciousness, the whole of what we call thought, is conflict - thought as the word, the symbol, thought which is the response of memory, not only the memory of yesterday, but of many thousands of yesterdays. And if you did not think at all, what would happen? Would you vegetate, be satisfied with what you are, like a cow? Or is not to think at all an extraordinarily vital state, because it means that you have understood and are free of this whole mechanical response of memory, which is the brain responding with all its accumulations of experience as knowledge?
Most of us give up the effort to be free of conflict and allow ourselves to drift, thereby making the mind dull; and if the pain of conflict becomes too great, we resort to a belief in God, hoping in this way to find peace; but sooner or later that too becomes a source of conflict. Or, being afraid that if we had no conflict we would vegetate, become dull, satisfied, we maintain the sharpness of conflict by intellectually arguing with others, by reading and being informed about every subject on earth. But there is an approach to this problem which requires the highest form of intelligence, the highest sensitivity, and it is to observe, to be aware of this whole process of conflict, without choice. If you go into it you will find that in this state of awareness your mind understands immediately every problem as it arises, so that conflict has no soil in which to take root.
Now, that is what I am going to talk about: not how to escape from conflict - which you do anyhow by running to your favourite god, or to your favourite analyst - but how to understand negatively this whole process of conflict. By negative understanding I mean the state of a mind that looks at a problem, or at a mountain, without verbalizing: it just looks. It is the state of a mind that doesn't interpret, censor, or choose, but is aware without choice. Such a mind does not say, "I like this and I don't like that", but merely observes with an attention that is total; and in this state of mind you will find that conflict of every kind, at any level of your being, comes to an end. The mind that has no conflict is the only religious mind - but this state you do not yet know. However much you may be enchanted by my description, it will have no value.
For a man or a woman who would really understand the beauty, the extraordinary significance of a life without conflict - and I say that such a life is possible - the first thing is to be totally aware of the whole content of consciousness. To be totally aware is not to analyze, but simply to observe. And that is our greatest difficulty, because we have been trained through a thousand years of habit to judge, to condemn, to compare, to identify; that is our instinctive response, and therefore we never really observe.
So, living in this world, which is made up of conflict, which maintains conflict through fulfilments and frustrations, and which demands that you also live in conflict, in a state of self-contradiction - living in this world, can you, by understanding, by being sensitive to that whole process, be totally free of conflict? Surely, only the mind that has no problems, no scars of conflict, is innocent; and only an innocent mind can know that which is immeasurable.
Well, let us discuss what I have talked about this morning.
Questioner: What is the real function of thought?
Krishnamurti: I really do not know, but let us find out. Has thought any importance? If it has, what is its place in our life? We are not offering opinions about it. It is not a question of what you think, or what I think, or what somebody else thinks - that has no value at all. We are going to find out the truth of the matter. To do that, one has to hesitate, one has to wait, to look, to listen, to feel around, and not just repeat a reaction or a memory. Having read some book on philosophy, or on thinking, you may remember and quote from it; but we are not here to quote what others have said. That gentleman has asked a very serious question. I have been saying that thought is conflict, that thought is destructive, and he has picked it up, and he is asking, "What do you mean by that? If thought is destructive, then what is the real function of thought? What is the right place of thought in our life?"
Now, before we answer that question, we must find out what thinking is, must we not? Then we can place it, we can give it right significance. But without understanding the whole process of thinking, just to offer a few words in reply does not answer the question.
So, what is thinking? Please don't answer me - it is very easy to say what thinking is, but that puts an end to our inquiry. I ask you a question: what is thinking? And what then takes place? There is a challenge in the form of a question, and you respond to it. Between my question and your answer there is a lag, a time interval in which your memory is operating. You say to yourself, "What does he mean? Where did I read about that?", and so on and so on. If the question is very familiar, if I ask you what your name is, your response is immediate, because you do not have to think. But if I ask you something which you don't quite know, you hesitate, there is a time interval during which you are searching, looking into your memory to find out. So, your thinking is the response of your memory, is it not? Please go slowly - it is very interesting if you go into it slowly.
When the question is one with which you are familiar, your answer is instantaneous. When you are not too familiar with the question, you need time, and during that period you are searching your memory for the answer. And when a question is asked on which your memory has gathered no information at all, you look, search, and you say, "I don't know-'. (a) Your answer is instantaneous. (b) You take time to answer. (c) You say, "I don't know". But when you say, "I don't know", you are waiting to know, waiting to be informed, waiting to go to the library and look it up; you are expecting an answer. So when you say, "I don't know", it is a conditional "I don't know". You expect to know in a few days, or in a few years - which is conditional. There is also (d), which is to say, "I don't know", and which is not conditional; the mind is not waiting, not looking in the hope of finding an answer. It just says, "I don't know".
Now, (a), (b) and (c) are all a process of thinking, are they not? If you ask a Christian if there is a God, he will immediately say, "Of course there is". If you ask a communist the same question, he will say, "What are you talking about? Of course there isn't". His god is the State, but that's a different matter. So our response to any challenge is according to our conditioning; our thinking is according to our conditioning, according to our memory. If memory is sharp, clear, active, vivid, our responses are strong, and that is the whole process of what we call thinking. Whether our thinking is simple or elaborate, whether it is unlearned or very erudite and scientific, it is based on that process.
But there is the point where you say, "I really don't know", and you are not waiting for an answer. No book can tell you. There is no memory that will say, "This is it". Surely that is entirely different from the other three processes; (a), (b) and (c) are not the same as (d), in which all thinking has stopped because you don't know and are not waiting to be told.
Now, from what point of view are you asking the question, "What is the right value of thought?" Are you asking it in order to receive a reply, as in (a), (b) and (c)? Or are you asking this question in the state of mind represented by (d), in which there is no thought? And what relationship has thought to the state of mind represented by (d)?
Am I explaining myself, or is this becoming too complex?
Thought has value at a certain level, has it not? When you go to the office, when you do something in any field of activity, thought obviously has value; in all such matters there must be thought. But has thought any value when you say, "I don't know", that is, when the mind has gone through (a), (b) and (c), and is completely in a state of not-knowing?
As I have pointed out, if you are a Christian and someone asks you if there is a God, you will answer according to your conditioning, you will say that there is, and your thinking then has a certain value depending on your code of morality, how you behave, whether you go to church, and all the rest of it. But the man who says, "I don't know whether there is a God or not", who neither affirms nor denies that there is a God, and who is really in a state of not-knowing - such a man does not exercise his thought to discover; because if he uses his thought to discover, he comes back to the known. Are you getting it?
Now, I must deny the three, (a), (b) and (c), to find out. Do you understand? I must deny the whole structure of knowledge and belief, and be in a state of not-knowing. There is then no exercising of thought at all, and therefore my mind gives no value to thought. But thought obviously has value in every other field.
You see, knowledge has been accumulated through experience, through thought; and thought, which is itself the outcome of knowledge, has importance in the field of knowledge. In the field of knowledge you must have thought. But knowledge, which is the known, is not going to help you to find the unknown. So the mind must be free of the known - and that is one of our difficulties.
I hope all this means something to you all.
July 9, 1963
Saanen 2nd Public Talk 9th July 1963
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