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Talks with American Students. New School For Social Research, New York

Talks with American Students, Chapter 9 1st Talk at New School for Social Research, New York 1st October, 1968

We have a great many problems, not only in this country but right throughout the world and they seem to be getting worse. One sees the necessity of change - economic, social, individual, communal and so on; also one sees that the more one changes the worse it seems to get. Obviously there must be a radical inward revolution, a total psychological mutation and we do not seem to be able to achieve this. There are all the specialists who say you must do this and you must do that, and the intellectuals who write innumerable articles, who, I suppose, are leaders. But I am afraid no one pays very much attention; we either accept or reject, we pick out the little bits that we like, hoping that somehow this wretched society will change.

First of all, I would like to say, if I may, that I am not a specialist of any kind, I do not represent India and its philosophy, its Gods, its meditations, its gurus and all that business. We are human beings, you and I, and we are trying to find out - not only what to do in the world, in the society in which we live - but also to find out for ourselves what it is all about, to find out for ourselves what meditation is and what is the way of emptying the mind so that it is vulnerable and innocent and fresh. Also, we are trying to find out whether it is at all possible to uncondition ourselves completely, so that we can look at life entirely differently, with a different feeling, a feeling in which all contradiction and all striving has come to an end. If we are alert to all these problems that confront us, then we want to know how to bring about the unity of man, so that there can be one government - not run by politicians, which, of course, can never be - where there can be a different way of acting and living, so that this division as the Hindu, the Muslim, the Christian, the Catholic, the Negro, the Chinese, disappears.

We have an immense and complex problem in front of us. It is not a problem outside of us; it is a problem that is part of us for it is we who are nationalistic, Catholic, Protestant - God knows what else! - communist, socialist and so on, all broken up into fragments, each accepting a fragment and living ideologically according to that fragment, in opposition to other fragments, to other ideas.

Being humans, living with a great deal of travail, we want to know what death is and if there is anything beyond the measure of the mind - not some mystical nonsense, not some invention of a shoddy little mind. We also want to find out for ourselves - if we are at all serious, purposeful - if there is a timeless state, if there is such a dimension within ourselves.

During these talks we are going to learn - not from me, the speaker has no value whatsoever - we are going to discover for ourselves the joy of coming upon our own intricacies; to discover does mean to learn and learning is a joy, not something painful; such joy releases energy; you must have that energy to go much further, much deeper.

If I may suggest, do not merely listen to a talk, to a lot of words and ideas; the description is never the described and unfortunately we generally get caught in the description and think we have found the whole thing. We must bear in mind that the word is not the thing, nor is the description the described. If that is somewhat clear then we can start to learn. Learning is one of the most difficult things. Book learning and the repetition of what you have learned from the book, in that there is no joy, no life; our education is based on that. The computer can do far better than the intellectually trained human being with his great deal of knowledge and ideas; but we do not call that learning. Learning implies discovery, from moment to moment, so that each discovery about ourselves brings with it a certain enthusiasm, a certain joy, a certain quality of energy and the drive to find out more. All that involves the love of discovery and the joy of it.

So, we are not merely going to accept the description, but rather go beyond and deeper, seeing that what is important is the learning about ourselves, which is self-knowledge, the knowing of our ways of life, our motives, our demands, the attachments, the despairs, the agony and so on - to learn. In that way we are human beings that are discovering and not secondhand human beings, repeating what others have said, however cleverly, however logically or sanely. Such learning is not analysis; it is direct perception. You cannot possibly observe, have direct perception, if you have secondhand information about yourself. The secondhand information becomes,the authority'.

We are not going to indulge in the analytical process - and this is going to be rather difficult. The analytical process involves time; I have to look at myself, analyse myself, find out the cause of my particular demands, neuroses, complexities and so on; through that analytical process I hope to find out the cause and thereby free the mind from both that cause and its effect. Is this somewhat clear? What we are going to go into demands serious attention, it is not a case of acceptance or denial, or a fanciful conclusion. We are examining and learning and learning is not an accumulative process. If one examines with the accumulation of what one has learnt, then the discovery of that which is fresh and new, is not possible because one is translating everything in the terms of that accumulation and one never looks anew and totally at this whole process of relationship and living.

One might ask: what is the difference between the analytical process, the professional analysis, and so on, taking months, years, and what you are talking about? The one involves a duration, time, the step by step examination of yourself by another, the analyst being also conditioned, like ourselves. We are not pursuing that particular method, or particular way, of understanding ourselves. I think there is a totally different approach to this whole problem of knowing oneself. Without knowing yourself you have no raison d'etre, your relationship with another is merely the relationship between images.

To bring about a radical revolution in society - and there must be a total revolution, not economic or social, not according to the democrat or the republican, but a revolution that has a different structure and quality - there must be a deep and fundamental revolution in the mind itself.

The society which we have created is us; it is not a fantastic thing which has come into being through pressure and time; it is what we are, our greed, our envy, our despairs, our competitive aggressive spirit, our fears, our demands for security - all that has created this society. To bring about a change in that, we must change; merely lopping off a few branches of the tree which we call society - which is what is being done by the politician, by the economist and so on - will not change us. We are society; society is not different from us. We are the world which we have divided into - oh, so many fragments.

Life is for those who are earnest, serious, not for those who are flippant, not for those who are casually, occasionally serious, but who are consistently, purposefully serious and earnest. If we are at all serious we see that there is no such thing as the community and the individual, there is only the human being who is conditioned by society, by the culture in which he lives; that culture and that society has been put together by man. So the question `what is the good if I change, will it affect society?' has no value at all. What has value is to find a way (I do not like to use the words `a way', it implies method, time, an end and all the rest of it, but one will have to use these words, we will break them down afterwards) we must find a way of instantly changing so that our minds are innocent and fresh, so that tomorrow with all its agonies and fears has no meaning any more. So that is one of the fundamental questions: is it possible, living in this stupid, mad, insane world, not by going into some monastery, or retiring to some retreat of the Zen Buddhists and so on, but living in this world with all the turmoil, with its wars, with its chicanery, the politicians manoeuvreing for their personal position and power, living here, is it possible to live a totally different kind of life, where there is love? Love is not pleasure, love is not desire; it comes into being only when we understand pleasure - and this is not the moment to go into that.

So, we are concerned with the human being, not with the individual. There is no such thing as `the individual' - he may be the local entity with all his superstitions and conditioning, but that is part of the human being. We are concerned with freeing the human being from his conditioning, from the society in which he lives and which degrades him, a society that is perpetually at war, a society that breeds antagonism, hate, violence. So our question is: is it at all possible for us to change, not gradually, not eventually; when you use time there is only decay, there is only a withering away.

We are enquiring together, as to whether you and I, on the instant, can completely change and enter into a totally different dimension - and that involves meditation. Meditation is something that demands a great deal of intelligence, a sensitivity and the capacity of love and beauty - not just the following of a system invented by some guru. So all this is involved in an enquiry into life and death. You enquire when you have freedom, otherwise you cannot enquire - obviously. One cannot have prejudices, set conclusions, opinions, judgments and evaluations; if you want to discover there must be freedom to look. To look at things as they actually are in ourselves without finding any excuse, without justifying, lying to ourselves or pretending - is one of the most difficult things. Observation and the seeing of ourselves is one of the major problems - to see. I think we have to go into that question: what is it, to see?

When you look at a tree - I do not know if you ever do in New York - when you look at a tree, do you actually look at it, or do you have an image of the tree and the image is looking? It is not you, yourself, looking at the tree directly. You know, when you look at a cloud, at the stars of an evening or the lovely light of the setting sun, you have already judged it, you have said `How beautiful it is' - the very statement `How beautiful it is' prevents you from looking. You want to communicate it to another, but that very communication at the moment of looking prevents you from being actually in contact with the things at which you look. Is this somewhat clear? If you have an image about the speaker, an image put together by propaganda and so on, you look at him through the image which you have and therefore you are actually not looking or listening; you are looking and listening through a screen of words and images which prevent the actual perception of `what is'. And that is one of the major issues in all our talks - how to observe. Is it possible to observe without the accumulated knowledge and experience: which is the past? Observation is always in the present; if you look at the present with the past memories - all memories are obviously the past, as knowledge is - then you are looking at the new thing with eyes that have been spotted with all the experience of the old and therefore with eyes that have become dull.

So that is the first thing, if I may suggest, that we have to learn: to be able to look at your wife, or husband, without the image that you have built through many years about her, or about him: and that is extraordinarily difficult. Our life is a series of experiences; we have had a thousand experiences and all those experiences have become knowledge, they have left their mark on the mind, the very brain cells themselves are loaded with these memories and when we look at our wife, or at a friend or the clouds, or the light of the rising sun, we look with the memories of experiences, therefore the looking is of the past - with the eyes of the past we look and therefore there is no understanding of life as it is in the present.

To look demands a great deal of attention; I want to look at myself not according to any pattern, but I find I am conditioned heavily, I am a slave already to the specialist, my education has been directed, controlled by the specialist. If I want to learn about myself and to look at myself, to see myself as I am actually, I cannot do so without freedom, freedom from judgments, explanations, justifications. And this is not possible because my mind is heavily conditioned by the analyst, by the society and the culture in which I live and so on. I look at myself with past knowledge and therefore I am not looking at myself at all. Now is it possible to put aside all that knowledge - technological knowledge, the practical knowledge, is necessary - is it possible to put aside the accumulation of experience, judgments and evaluations through which we look and for which reason there is never a change?

There is always a division between the observer and the observed. Relationship is direct contact, mentally, physically and so on; direct, not through a series of images or conclusions or ideologies. So is it possible to be completely free, free from your conditioning as Christian, Communist, Catholic, whatever it is? Otherwise you cannot possibly look, whatever you look at will be translated in terms of what you already know; change then becomes a struggle of conforming to the past conditioning. After all, conflict, inwardly and outwardly, is between two things, conceptual thinking and what actually is. So, inwardly, the whole art of seeing and learning, and the joy and energy which are the outcome of that seeing, involves a tremendous challenge. That is, can the mind, so heavily conditioned by magazines, the radio, so many influences, can it break through? - not eventually but immediately. Now this involves attention; to give your mind and heart to understanding yourself, because that is of primary importance, that demands not concentration but attention.

When there is a radical change within yourself you are bound to bring about a radical change in the corrupt society in which we live. To understand oneself there must be freedom from the conditioning of yesterday and the projection of yesterday, which is tomorrow; today is only the passage between the two for most of us. Attention implies awareness, being aware sensitively. You cannot be sensitively aware if you have any conclusions, that this must be, this not be, according to an ideology. The people who have ideologies and principles and live according to them, are the most insensitive people because they are living in the future, trying to make the present conform to that. The ideology becomes the `authority', whether it is the ideology of the Communist, Socialist or Capitalist and so on. So can the mind be free of ideals, of conclusions? - do please investigate, do find out for yourself why we have these ideals, this conceptual thinking the Utopias and all the religious structures that have divided man throughout the world; they are all based on these conceptual ideologies and they are obviously idiotic, they have no meaning. And yet we indulge in them - I wonder why! Concepts - all thinking is conceptual, is it not? I think about something which has given me pleasure or pain and thinking about it, wishing it were or were not so, conforming to the pattern which I have set for myself, is conceptual thought. And one asks oneself: why do I live in the future, or in the past? Why do I look with all the accumulation of knowledge, which is me, which is words and memory and nothing else? - why do I live according to that which is called tradition, culture and so on? - why? Most of us are totally unaware that we are conditioned. One is a Catholic, he is conditioned through propaganda of two thousand years - to me it is a most fantastic thing - another through `words' as a Protestant, as a Hindu, as a Muslim and all the rest throughout the world. We grow up in it, we accept conditioning; but we do not live what it requires; we accept the verbal statement that we must love our neighbour, yet obviously we do not love our neighbour, we kick him, n we destroy him in the office, on the battlefield and so on.

We are broken up as Christians, Muslims, Hindus, one system against another, yet knowing intellectually that these divisions have brought man such immense misery - the religious wars and so on - yet we go on why? Do please observe - why? What would happen if we had no ideologies at all? Would we be materialistic? - I am afraid we are materialistic, very, even though we have ideologies; ideologies are just playthings, they are of no importance in our life at all. What has importance is this constant battle of ambition, greed, envy and all the rest of it, that is what is real, not whether you believe in God, or this, or that.

Unless there is a fundamental change in what is actually in our daily life, we are not serious at all. And the situation demands serious minds, serious people, not lopsided, fragmented human beings. So, are we aware of our conditioning? After all, our conditioning is the whole psyche, it is the background of the way we live, the thoughts, the activities, the feelings - from the psyche. (Love is not from our conditioning, but it becomes conditioned when we translate it in terms of pleasure - which we will go into, perhaps, another time.) So what am I to do? I know I am conditioned as a Hindu and so on; also I know that unconditioning myself is not a matter of time, not something I will achieve gradually. In the meantime, when I say `gradually', I am sowing the seed of misery for others and for myself, for to have an ideology of non-violence and be violent all the time is obviously stupid. One may use the propaganda of non-violence as a political instrument but why does one have the ideal of non-violence? It is because of tradition, one has accepted it as part of one's life, as one accepts eating meat or going to war, saluting the flag; one accepts - and that acceptance has become habit. Can one be aware of that habit, aware, just to be aware that one is conditioned, that one has cultivated innumerable habits, just to look at them? Look at them freely, so that in that freedom the habits flower - see all the implications. If you condemn a habit you have choked it. If you say, `I must not have that habit' you are caught in it, you have controlled it and it will not tell you a thing.

Can one be aware without time? Can I be aware of this conditioning, this habit, this accepted norm, the tradition, without saying to myself `I'll get rid of it slowly, peel off layer after layer?' Is it possible to look so completely, without any fragmentation? To look so entirely, wholly, so that there is no division between the observer and the observed. Because in this division between the observer and the observed, in that space, in that interval, lies the whole problem.

Look Sirs, we live with resistance and conflict - that is all we know; and the resistance brings about a certain form of energy, as conflict does. Where there is conflict and resistance there is a mind that is broken, tortured, not clear, confused. Conflict - both inwardly and outwardly, in all relationships - is obviously detrimental, obviously destructive and yet as long as there is the division between the observer and the observed, the thinker and the thought, there must be conflict. When you say, I love somebody, is there not a division in that? for in that division there is jealousy, possessiveness, domination, aggressiveness - you know all the rest of it - which breed conflict. So, is it possible to look so that the division between these two, the observer and the ob- served, comes to an end? - this is meditation. As to why this division exists at all demands a great deal of investigation, a great deal of enquiry into oneself. One of the reasons why it exists is because we are educated wrongly, because we have ideals, we conform to a pattern, respectability and all the rest. To find out for oneself why it exists - not occasionally, but all the time, in the bus, in the car, when you are talking to somebody - brings a tremendous joy. Then the observer is the observed - and he is more than that. And that does not mean that when you observe a tree, you become the tree - God forbid! it would be stupid to identify yourself with the tree. But when this division ceases you are in quite a different dimension - which is not a promise, which is not a hope. But to actually see this division disappear, for that there is neither the observer nor the observed, but only observation. For all this there must be peace and freedom - freedom from fear.

I think it is time we stopped. Are there any questions relevant to what we have talked about?

Questioner: How can we be free from fear?

Krishnamurti: That would take a long time to answer. We will go into it next time we meet.

Questioner: (Inaudible on tape)

Krishnamurti: I said, Sir, that observation demands looking - does it not? - to observe. There can only be looking when the mind is free to look and to learn about what it is looking at. Learning is a discovery and there is a tremendous joy in discovering; that joy gives you energy. You see, Sir, for example, the monk, throughout the world, has taken the vow of celibacy and poverty and obedience - God only knows why, but he has - and he thinks that by taking a vow of that kind he will have great energy to live the life of a Christian or whatever it is. He does it, but he is sexual, he is ambitious, he is a monkey like the rest of us and he battles with himself inwardly. That battle within himself in a waste of energy; he is conforming to a pattern set by the church or by the tradition and so on and that conformity is a form of resistance; when you resist there must be a battle; and that does not give you energy. We are talking of something entirely different.

Most of us have very little energy because our lives are spent in struggle. In the office and at home we are driven by our ambitions, there is constant conflict, opinion against opinion and so on. And although that conflict gives a certain quality of energy, that energy is most destructive, as is seen in the world. In every office there is the competitive spirit, which, though it gives such energy, is creating a society where there are those who are on top and those who are below - so there is a battle. When one asks oneself: is life meant to be that way? - the battle between my wife and my neighbour, battle, battle, battle; is there not another form of energy which is not the outcome of pain, suffering, turmoil, anxiety, fear, guilt? There is, if one knows how to learn, how to look actually at `what is'. One cannot look at ,what is, if there is no freedom - therefore one must be aware of one's conditioning. It is fairly simple to be aware, while you think this or that. If you can give time - time in the sense of chronological time - if you can give five minutes a day to look you will learn a great deal. You do not have to go to an analyst, unless of course you are terribly neurotic - then you are stuck. But most of us are somewhat balanced, perhaps not entirely, and to be aware of the imbalance - as you were aware of this hall when you came in, the proportions, the height, the light, the seats, aware of the people, the colour of their coats, jerseys, whatever they are wearing, the various colours and your reaction to those colours makes the mind highly sensitive. And you can look at your- self, all history is there and all knowledge, books then become quite irrelevant.

Questioner: My question is: a man spends eight hours a day cutting hair, or forty years of his life in an office - it becomes terribly boring, what is he to do?

Krishnamurti: Think of a man spending forty years in an office - I don't know why he does it! (laughter) Young people are revolting against all this - to end up as an executive or as an office clerk - my God, they must be in revolt! Be aware of boredom, of why one is bored, go into it and one may find that one does not want to be a barber any more, or to struggle to get to the top of the heap - one may not want to do any of those things. One may want to be a real human being, not a machine; but find that out, do not allow oneself to be told in the papers and so on, find out the whole problem of boredom. Boredom invites entertainment, whether you go to the church to be entertained or go to the football - they are both the same. Find out what is implied in entertainment and in stopping it - go into it so vitally that you are cleansed of boredom.

Questioner: I have a concern I would like to share. All the awareness in the world cannot create a mutual relationship. I see that bishops always bless marriage and family life. Something in me, time and again, balks at any approach which does not see something essential about mutual relationship. I find something essential about having mutual relationships.

Krishnamurti: Agreed. If you have no relationship you cease to exist - right? Life is relationship. So we must find out what relationship is; I know we must have relationships; I know most of us are not related. We live in isolation; though one may be married with children, one lives in isolation in oneself, therefore one has no relationship with another. So, going further into it we find out what relationship is actually and what is merely called relationship. What is called relationship is the relation between two images, one which I have about her and another which she has about me, these images are the conclusions and the memories of the insults, the nagging, the domination, and all that. That is, then, what is called the relationship. Now, is it possible to have relationship without any of that? That is, to ask if love must always be a conflict? Is love an idea? - is it a form of pleasure which we have called love? To understand this problem - again we come back to the essential issue - I have to understand why I build images? My wife has insulted me, has nagged me; why do I have the memory of it? Why can I not die to it - die to it as she is inferring it, not afterwards? Is that possible? Never to have the gathering of all these insults, experiences, nagging - all that stored up. It means that one has to be extraordinarily aware at the moment she is being insulting, aware of the words, the implication of these words and go into it completely at that moment, not later - one has to be very sensitive, very alert.

1st October, 1968


Talks with American Students. New School For Social Research, New York

Talks with American Students, Chapter 9 1st Talk at New School for Social Research, New York 1st October, 1968

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