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Talks with American Students. University of Puerto Rico

Talks with American Students, Chapter 3 3rd Talk at The University of Puerto Rico, San Juan 17th September, 1968

One of our great difficulties is that we never ask fundamental questions. And if we do ask them, we look to somebody else to answer them. We never find out for ourselves the complete understanding of any problem. But perhaps this evening we may have time to take three of four fundamental problems, and see if we can answer them for ourselves, neither depending on the speaker nor on anyone else. Most of us accept authority too easily as we think that is the easiest way. But, if one has observed, authority in these matters invariably brings about a great deal of confusion and contradiction. So there is no authority to tell us what to do or how to think about fundamental questions. We are apt to slur them over or pass them by, not being very deeply concerned by them. I will try to expose the fundamental questions and go into them. It is your responsibility to work as hard as the speaker, to go into these questions intimately, for yourself, and not to accept the authority of the speaker at a single moment of time.

I think there are three fundamental problems, which we could answer or explore them in our own lives, by this very exploration the confusions and sorrows of the world might perhaps be answered. Then these questions may cease to have the enormous importance that one now gives to them. These fundamental questions are, what is living, what is death, and what is life? We shall have to go into these questions very deeply and answer them for ourselves, because they are a great challenge and we cannot possibly escape from them. One has to answer them very seriously. And in ex- ploring these issues, there must be first a quality of freedom to explore, to investigate, otherwise no one can possibly see or discover where the truth lies. One cannot have theories or ideologies. To find out the truth about these matters there must be freedom to look, to observe and to investigate. Otherwise we merely tread the path of tradition, authority and obedience, which has not in any way solved the problems of our life.

So, what is living? What does it mean to live? To find out what it means we must examine what living actually is. If we say that living should be this or that, then that is merely a supposition, a theory. Whereas, if we could look at what our life really is, the daily life that we live, year in and year out, if we could see it as it actually is, then we could deal with it, come to grips with it. But if we say it `should be that', or think according to certain conditions, principles or ideologies, then we shall be wasting our time. Whereas if we could look at our life as it is, not as we would like it to be, then perhaps our life, as it is could be fundamentally altered. When we observe what it is, we can see that we are pursuing pleasure. To us, pleasure is one of the most important things, almost an essential thing. And pleasure is what most of us are seeking. Our values, morals, ethics, inward laws, are based on this pleasure principle. And when there is pleasure, and when we are seeking that as the highest form of existence, then there will be not only fear but also sorrow. Our whole life is concentrated in the pursuit of pleasure (as it is now) and we are not condemning this, we are merely looking at it, observing it, exploring why man everlastingly seeks pleasure.

What is pleasure? This must be answered by each one of us, and we must also find out why we seek pleasure, not saying that we should not seek it or that it must be suppressed. Why is it that most of us seek pleasure? And what is pleasure? Why should we seek or not seek pleasure? So there are three questions in that. Our values are based on pleasure. And why is it that pleasure has become such an urgent, all-demanding pursuit. What is pleasure? (There is physical pleasure, having good health, sexual pleasure, pleasure of achievement, of success or of being somebody famous. Please do observe yourself, not merely listen to the speaker. Watch how your own mind invariably turns to pleasure). We have accepted pleasure as part of our life. Why is it that pleasure has become such an extraordinarily important thing? You know, life is a series of experiences. All the time we are having experiences, and we avoid any experience that gives us pain, or we resist it. And any experience that gives us pleasure we pursue, doggedly, earnestly. What is pleasure? How does it come about? You see a sunset, and when you see it, it gives you great delight. You experience it and that experience leaves a memory. That experience has been of great delight and pleasure, to look at that marvellous sunset, over the hills, with the clouds lighted up. That experience leaves a memory of pleasure and tomorrow you will want that pleasure repeated, it is not only a case of looking at the sunset but also of the pleasure that you have had through sex; all this you want to repeat. This repetition takes place, as you can observe, when thought thinks about it. You have seen that sunset and there is pleasure in it; thought thinks about it and gives it vitality, continuity. The same with sex, the same with other forms of physical and psychological pleasure. Thought thinks or creates the image of that pleasure and keeps on thinking about it. And thought also, as we observe, breeds fear. I am afraid of what is going to happen tomorrow. I am afraid of the things I did some years ago being discovered, thinking about what might happen in the future and what has happened in the past - which I do not like, of which I am ashamed - and this breeds fear.

So thought creates, gives continuity to pleasure as well as continuity to fear. That is obvious. So, thought breeds sorrow, invites sorrow and thought also searches out pleasure. So our life - which we live every day, apart from theories, apart from what we should do, apart from the religions we belong to, apart from ideologies - our life is a constant struggle between these two things, pleasure and fear. And our life, as we observe it, is full of sorrow, not only caused physically by pain, but also brought about psychologically, inwardly. So, our life, as it is, is the battle between pleasure, fear and sorrow. Our life is a conflict, a struggle, psychologically, inwardly, which is expressed outwardly as society. Our life, actually `as it is' is constant contradiction, pain and sorrow, with occasional flashes of joy.

And one asks oneself - and I hope you ask yourself this too - whether such a life can end, with its hate, jealousy, envy, ambition, greed, whether it can be transformed into a different kind of life, of a different dimension. Can one die to all the past? For if you observe, pleasure is in the past or in the future. The actual moment of pleasure is translated in terms of the past or of tomorrow. I don't know if you ever observed this. And one asks oneself seriously whether it is possible to live a life in which there is no conflict at all, no conflict between pleasure and fear. Not that there is not pleasure when you see something beautiful - a sunset, a cloud, a lovely face, a tree in the moonlight - there is great delight in seeing such things, such experiences cannot be denied. But thought comes in and says: what a lovely thing that was, I must have it again. And so thought thinks about it, as it does with regard to pain and sorrow.

So the question is, whether thought, which gives continuity to pain and to pleasure, can stop giving sustenance to the past and the future as pleasure, pain, or fear. Am I making myself clear?

We were asking what the function of thought is. Thought has a reality, thought must function. In the whole of the technological field, in all inventions thought is extraordinarily important. The more one thinks clearly, logically, sanely, without any prejudice or sentimentality, thought has such extraordinary importance that without it one could not go to one's home; you could not go to your office; all the scientific, accumulated knowledge would come to an end, if we did not exercise thought. But has thought any other existence? You are following my question? I know I must think, to tell you something, to learn a new language, I must think, accumulate words, grammar and so on in order to use thought as a medium of expression. Thought is necessary. But psychologically, inwardly, has thought any place at all? Please, this is a very serious question. Why should thought interfere or give continuity to an experience that has given delight? You saw that sunset yesterday, a marvellous thing with extraordinary colours, vitality, beauty. You saw it, and that is the end of it. But why should thought come in and think about it and turn it into a pleasure which you want to be repeated tomorrow? When you look at it you want this thing and then you are not actually looking at the sunset. What you are looking at is the memory of the sunset which you enjoyed yesterday. It is exactly the same with sex, it is exactly the same with every form of pleasure.

And has thought, which breeds fear and sorrow and pleasure, any place psychologically, inwardly? Thought must exist, for our lives to function. But inwardly, psychologically as thought breeds pain, sorrow and this constant drive for pleasure - bringing its own frustrations, disappointments, anger, jealousy and envy - thought has no place at all in that dimension, at that level. If one could actually do this: only exercise thought when it is absolutely necessary, and the rest of the time, observe, look. So that thought which is always old, which now prevents the actual experience of looking, could drop away and it would be possible to live totally in that moment, which is always the `now'.

The next issue we are going to talk over together is `what is death'? Why is the mind so afraid of dying. We are all going to die. Science may invent some medicine or other medical practice to give man a longer time to live in his wretched misery. But there is always death to follow. Nowadays nobody talks about it because they are too frightened. And we want to find out the truth of death, actually, to find out why thought has created this image of fear. You see there is our life, our life which is so ugly, messy, contradictory with wars, destruction and hate. And if you have a talent, a skill of some kind which gives you pleasure, in that there is fear pain. That is our life, and we are tuned to it. And thought says to itself: `I do not know what death is. I will put it far away from me as possible'. Being frightened of the unknown, that invents a great many theories. The whole Asiatic world believes in reincarnation, that is, being reborn, with all the complex theories involved in this. And the Christian world also has its own means of escape from the actual fact of death. The fear of it is created by thought, because thought says: `I know only the past, the known, the everyday life, the memories, the remembrance of things, of pleasure and pain. I only know the past, the old. I do not know what is going to happen, tomorrow or thirty years time. So I keep the idea of death as far away as possible.' And therefore thought is fragmented.

So is it possible to find out psychologically what it means to die. The physical organism, by constant usage, strain and so on will inevitably deteriorate, through disease, accident or old age. That is what we are, aren't we? And as we grow old, how ugly we become, how we cover ourselves with jewels, with fanciful hairdos and pretend that we are young again. There is great sadness in all this, because it means that we have never lived, we do not even know what living is, and we are therefore frightened of old age. So, is it possible, psychologically, to die to every thing we know? And that is what is going to happen when we die. We are going to leave our family, our experiences, our ambitions, our achievements. God knows what else. We cannot argue with death, ask him to postpone the inevitable hour. We can escape by thinking about it and say, `I will live hereafter or I will be resurrected or I will be this or that'. Those are just theories, fanciful, psychological concepts, without any reality.

But is it possible to die to every thing psychologically known? Have you ever tried it, to die to a pleasure, to die to a particular experience that you hold very dear, to drop it, easily, happily, without struggle. This would be a morbid, masochistic state, unless accomplished without effort. But, if you do not do this, you do not know what living is. Look at the terrible mess that we have made of life; the fragmentation, the ugliness, the brutality of it all. But if we could die, inwardly, to all attachments of family, position, achievement, then we should be free from the known which is always the past, projecting itself as the future, but still remaining the past. If we can die to the known then perhaps we shall know what it means to live. Living then becomes quite a different thing; it is then possible to create quite a different kind of society, different from this murderous society, full of injustice, wars and immorality. Because when you die to the known, then perhaps you will know what love is. Love is not the thing that we have now - jealous, envious, suspicious, intriguing, anxious and pleasure seeking. When there is real love, pleasure is quite a different thing. But if you put pleasure first, then love goes out of the window. And without this foundation of love, dying every minute to the things that you have accumulated, you cannot live a life of righteous behaviour. This is the foundation. And then we can go into a different dimension altogether. And then meditation has quite a different meaning. Because meditation is not all the fanciful things that are talked about; meditation is emptying the mind of the known and then the mind is young, fresh, innocent, alive, no longer caught in the known but using the known as a tool, not for itself.

Then, in that emptiness, truth has quite a different meaning - it is not a thing of the mind, of the intellect. Now can we, as our time is limited, talk over what has been said; or you can ask questions about something else.

Questioner: I fear death because I love life.

Krishnamurti: I fear death because I love life, that is the question. Comment on it. Do you love life? Do you? There is that soldier in Vietnam, and in Czechoslovakia, the Czechs are suppressed, denied freedom. The man on the battlefield may be killed at any moment, and as for you, going to the office every day of your life for thirty, forty years, think of the boredom of it. Is the thing that you love this life of conflict and misery? Is this love; this hideous mess that we are making? Do not say it is not a mess - you may either have a very comfortable house, with plenty of money, or you may be fighting for a job, competing, struggling, envious - is that what you love? And is love life? Would you hate somebody else? Would you kill some other life? Surely when we say we `love life', we who say it are all this mess of life which we have formed as pleasure, pain and sorrow. That is how it is.

If the mind could be free of all that, free of it, empty of the known! Most of us are frightened to be alone; we want to be surrounded by people, we are afraid to go out alone and be ourselves, by ourselves, because we might then see ourselves as we are and we are frightened of that. So we surround ourselves with television, telephone, God knows what else, with gods, scriptures, quotations and with an infinite knowledge of things that really do not matter. And that is what we call life and that is what we cling to.

We are naturally frightened of death, not because we love, but because our little ambitions, work and enjoyments come to an end. And that is the sad part of our existence, how frightened we are. Being frightened we invent lovely theories, because we have never said to ourselves that living means dying. To live fully, completely, means dying to all these absurdities. Do you want to ask a question?

Questioner: Is fear ever justified?

Krishnamurti: I do not know quite what this means, do you? Are you saying that self-preservation, physically, is necessary? You do not throw yourself under a bus unless you are a little bit odd. Is fear ever justified? I do not see why it should be justified. Is fear justified, is fear justifiable? To be afraid of something which I have done, which I do not want you to know, there is fear in that. I do not want you to know that I have been a fool or done anything shameful in the past; well, if you know, what of it? Why should I be frightened of what you think? You see I have an image about myself; I have a very righteous, noble, marvellous image about myself. And I do not want you to find out that that image is not as I think it is.

To ask a question is fairly easy. You can throw out any question fairly easily. But to ask the right question is one of the most difficult things. Which does not mean I am preventing you from asking questions. To ask a right question is only possible when you yourself have gone into all this and gone into it very closely. Then when you ask the right question the right answer is there, and you do not even have to ask it. But you must, mustn't you, ask questions, not only about the government, or about your relationship with your wife, your husband and all the rest of it, but also ask questions that are really vital. Like `what is relationship'? I do not know if you have ever asked it. I am now asking it. What is relationship, not only with your wife and husband but also relationship with your neighbour, with society? What is relationship? Can we go into that? Do you want to go into it? Are you sure it will not be disturbing? I am afraid it is going to be disturbing. Oh! yes it will - I will show you in a minute.

What is relationship? What is the relationship between the stars and yourself - not astrology and all that - just the stars. What is the relationship between you and the cloud in the evening when you see it lit up. What is the relationship between you and your wife, your neighbour. Are you related to your wife? Have you a relationship with your wife, or husband? You have a relationship between that cloud and yourself because you have seen clouds before, you have the memory and the word. And when you say, it is my wife, my husband, what is that relationship? You have an image about your wife and she has an image about you. The husband has built, through many years, an image about her with its pleasure, sex, comfort, annoyance, greed, nagging and all that. And she has an image about you. There is relationship, between the two images, the one you have about her and the other one she has about you. The relationship is between those two images. (No? You are very silent!) And that is what you call relationship. That relationship breeds anxiety, fear, jealousy, the fear of loneliness, the fear of not having a companion. So we establish that relationship legally, it becomes highly respectable. But the relationship is between two images. And when you look at a cloud, at a tree, at the lovely flower, you look at it with the image you have about that flower, cloud or tree.

Now, have we actually a relationship with another? To be related means to be in contact. You may be sexually, physically in contact but that does not constitute a relationship We are talking of a relationship in which there is no image between you and another. I do not know if you have ever tried it. Do. Have no image about your wife, your husband, your neighbour, or about another; just look, just see, directly, without the image, the symbol, the memory of yesterday, of what she said to you, what you said to her, how she annoyed you and all the rest of it. Stripped of these things there is a possibility of right relationship. Because then everything in that relationship is new; relationship is no longer of the dead past.

Questioner: What does one feel after death?

Krishnamurti: He says, what is your notion, what is your opinion, what do you think happens when you die. Right, Sir? I am afraid you have not followed what I said previously. Sir, when we do not know what living is, we want to know what dying is, and what happens after death. We do not know how to live. When we know how to live, then we know how to die. Then living is dying, otherwise you cannot live. Feeling is something actual, in the immediate; to feel anger, to feel intensely is actual, in the present. But what happens? I feel anger, there is a state of what I call anger - please listen to this - that very word anger is related to the past, you recognise it as anger and give it a name, because you have already experienced it as anger. So when you call it anger you are looking at it with the memory of others angers. Can you look at the present feeling without classifying it, without giving it a name? What happens after death? - that is the question. We can indulge in opinions and say `this is what I think and that is what you think'. On the one hand there is the intellectual, rational, materialistic opinion, `that is the end of it, when you die you die'. On the other hand are the so-called spiritual people who have ideas, opinions, beliefs. But neither the materialistic person who says, `life is lived and when you die you die and that is the end of it', nor the man who says `there is something extraordinary after death, you are going to live on a cloud or you are going to reincarnate" is giving you the truth; these are only opinions. To find out be truth of the matter you must neither belong to the be- lievers nor to the purely intellectual, rationalistic explainers; the mind must be much more subtle, much more sensitive to find out. Such a mind knows what it means to live by dying every day.

Questioner: What value do you place on social sciences and the understanding of man?

Krishnamurti: Sir, when you have got the whole laboratory inside you, why do you want to `study man'? Study yourself, the whole human being, you, the whole complexity, beauty, extraordinary sensitivity which is you. Why do you want to study what somebody else says about man? The whole of mankind is you. And you in relationship with another is society. You have created this terrible, ugly world which has become so utterly meaningless, and that is why young people are revolting throughout the world. To me it is such a meaningless life. The society which man has created is the outcome of his own demands, his own urgencies, instincts, ambitions, greed and envy. You think that by reading all the books about man and going in for social study, you are going to understand yourself. Would it not be much more simple to begin with yourself? Look at yourself, without any condemnation or justification, just look, observe the way you talk, the way you argue, discuss, look at all your prejudices, your ambitions - just look. You have the whole history of man right inside yourself, and without knowing yourself firsthand you cannot possibly create a new social order. Not that you must not study society and what other people have written about man and all the rest of it. I, personally, have not studied any of this - you have got the whole thing inside you; look, and you will know a great deal. Sir?

Questioner: Are human beings equal?

Krishnamurti: Are we? You are very clever, I am not. You are highly sensitive and odd. You can think clearly, ration- ally, beautifully and I am full of prejudices, idiosyncracies, temperament, and these hinder me - you have got a much better job, a bigger car, a bigger house. Your brain is bigger than mine. Is there equality? There may be equality of opportunity. But, why do we compare, why do I say to myself, you have got a much better brain than I have, why? Why am I jealous of you? Through comparison? Obviously we are conditioned to compare from childhood, in school, in business, in the Church where the hierarchical system exists, from the lowly priest to the Pope and so on, but why do we live always comparing? Can the mind cease to compare? Then only would there be a possibility of equality, but not as we are.

Questioner: We have said that living is dying, but what happens to the soul after you die?

Krishnamurti: First: living is dying. Let us look at that. Am I living when I am always living in the past, when the past is always there with its memories, remembrances, is that living? Or when I am living in the future, thinking of what I should be, what I must become, what my position will be or how I was more powerful in the past or will be in the future, am I living? I am living only when there is dying to the past and to the future. Then there is a possibility of living completely in the present, which means living timelessly. And when I live timelessly, is there death? There is this division about soul and spirit and there is the whole Communist world brought up on different ideologies, conditioned differently - they do not believe in spirit and body or spirit and soul. You do because that's how you are conditioned. Is there a soul? Please follow this, do not say it is all nonsense but look at it, examine it. `The soul', what does that mean? Is it some. thing permanent, to which you can add or subtract but in which there is a quality of permanency; as the Hindus in the Asiatic world say there is `the Atman'? They are conditioned by that word in the East and you are conditioned by this word,soul, here. We have to examine it very closely, without fear, questioning it, finding out the truth of the matter, which means being free from conditioning, able to look. Is there in you a permanent state, a permanent quality which you call ,the soul', a permanent spirit? Is there anything permanent? Or does thought give a permanency to a particular thing? You give permanency to the past by thinking about it, the past, your wife, your husband, your house, your whatever it is. And that becomes permanent. Thought gives permanency to anything. I do not know if you ever tried putting a piece of stick on the mantlepiece every day with a flower in front of it. Do this for a while, do it with great devotion, great respect for that stick and see how extraordinarily important that stick becomes. So do our gods and our souls, if we think about them. We are amongst people who are full of soul and spirit - the Hindus with their `Atman' are most materialistic people, because they worship thought, and thought is always old, it is never new, thought is the response of memory and memory is the dead ashes of yesterday.

When we can look without division at the soul, the spirit, the `Atman', then we can look at the whole of life without fragmenting it, without breaking it up. Then you will see that there is a beauty that is beyond time and beyond thought.

Questioner: Am I right when I say life is eternal, death does not exist?

Krishnamurti: Does death not exist? You are going to die, one of these days. I may hope you won't but (laughter) we are all going to die. And you say that death does not exist. Those people in Vietnam are being killed. Do they say that death does not exist? When my son, brother, sister, wife dies, do I say that death does not exist? I cry, I am lonely, I am miserable; do I say that life is eternal? Life, this life? The life of going to the office every day? Struggle, prejudice, hate, envy, agony, sorrow - do you want that to be eternal? That is all we know, unless we die to all that, not merely in theory but actually put an end to a particular ambition, greed, envy, prejudice, or opinion. If you do this, then you can go very far, then the mind can travel limitlessly. But to live the life we live and call that eternal, merely leads to division, hypocrisy, to an unrealistic state.

Questioner: Man knows he is going to die, so why not put an end to it now, and drop out of society altogether?

Krishnamurti: Are you suggesting that as I am going to die in ten, or fifteen years, I might just as well commit suicide now? Is that it? And can I drop out of society? Can you drop out of society? Do you know what it means to be an outsider in society. By this I mean to have no part, no position, to deny completely and totally the morality of society with its hates and envies, to deny it and be outside it; this would mean, not to hate, not to have prejudice, then you can be an outsider, then you have really dropped out of society. Can you do all that? Sir, dying to the past does not mean committing suicide. If you die to all the stupidities, all the brutality, the arrogance, the pride, the violence, if you do that, you are outside society immediately, psychologically, inwardly, though you may put on a tie and trousers and go to the office to earn money. When you do that you do not belong to this structure.

Questioner: I know how the past works out, but I still continue in the same way.

Krishnamurti: Why? Do you know the past? Do you know what is implied in it? Look, you - not you personally madame, I am speaking impersonally - you are married and you have a husband, you have an image about him and he about you; can you break that image, put an end to that image, immediately? You cannot because you cling to that image; you would be terribly upset if you had no image at all, There is a particular remembrance of a pleasure and it goes on living with you and you are this, you are part of it. And so, you are asking, why it is that though you know the past is obviously in part silly, you go on with it, keeping it. Because there is fear in giving up something, because you are afraid of being lonely, because what you are is the memory of what you have been. Please do listen to this. What you are now is the sum of your memories, and without those memories you are not. What are you? I do not know if you have ever looked at yourself. If you have looked at yourself you see that you are a bundle of memories, wither the memories of the past or of what you may be in the future, projected from the past. That is all that you are, a bundle of words, memories. Sorry to put it so bluntly. And if you say that you won't or will die, or will put away all the past and the future, what are you then? That is the real question - what are you then? To find out what you are then you have to die to the past and to the future. Then you will find out for yourself what it is, in that region where thought doesn't pervade, in that state which is something totally new, instant.

17th September 1968


Talks with American Students. University of Puerto Rico

Talks with American Students, Chapter 3 3rd Talk at The University of Puerto Rico, San Juan 17th September, 1968

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