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The Impossible Question

Part 1, Public Talks Saanen 1970

Impossible Question Part I Chapter 1 1st Public Talk Saanen 16th July 1970 'The Act of Looking'

In a world that is so utterly confused and violent, where there is every form of revolt and a thousand explanations for these revolts, it is hoped that there will be social reformation, different realities and greater freedom for man. In every country, in every clime, under the banner of peace, there is violence; in the name of truth there is exploitation, misery; there are the starving millions; there is suppression under great tyrannies, there is much social injustice. There is war, conscription and the evasion of conscription. There is really great confusion and terrible violence; hatred is justified; escapism in every form is accepted as the norm of life. When one is aware of all this, one is confused, uncertain as to what to do, what to think, what part to play. What is one to do? join the activists or escape into some kind of inward isolation? Go back to the old religious ideas? Start a new sect, or carry on with one's own prejudices and inclinations? Seeing all this, one naturally wants to know for oneself what to do, what to think, how to live a different kind of life.

If during these talks and discussions we can find a light in ourselves, a way of living in which there is no violence whatsoever, a way of life which is utterly religious and therefore without fear a life that is inwardly stable, which cannot be touched outward events, then I think they will be eminently worthwhile. Can we give complete and sensitive attention to what we are going to discuss? We are working together to find out how to live in peace. It is not that the speaker tells you what to do, what to think - he has no authority, no `philosophy'.

There is the difficulty that one's brain functions in old habits, like a gramophone record playing the same tune over and over again. While the noise of that tune, of that habit is going on, one is not capable of listening to anything new. The brain has been conditioned to think in a certain way, to respond according to our culture, tradition and education; that same brain tries to listen to something new and is not capable of it. That is where our difficulty is going to lie. A talk recorded on a tape can be wiped out and begun again; unfortunately the recording on the tape of the brain has been impressed on it for so long that it is very difficult to wipe it out and begin again. We repeat the same pattern, the same ideas and physical habits, over and over again, so we never catch anything fresh.

I assure you one can put aside the old tape, the old way of thinking, feeling, reacting, the innumerable habits that one has. One can do it if one really gives attention. If the thing one is listening to is deadly serious, tremendously important, then one is bound to listen so that the very act of listening will wipe out the old. Do try it - or rather do it. You are deeply interested, otherwise you would not be here. Do listen with full attention, so that in the very act of listening the old memories, the old habits, the accumulated tradition, will all be wiped away.

One has to be serious when confronted with the chaos in the world, the uncertainty, warfare and destruction, where every value has been thrown away in a society which is completely permissive, sexually and economically. There is no morality, no religion; everything is being thrown away and one has to be utterly, deeply serious; if you have that seriousness in your heart, you will listen. It depends on you, not on the speaker, whether you are sufficiently serious to listen so completely as to find out for yourself a light that can never be put out, a way of living that does not depend on any idea, on any circumstance, a way of life that is always free, new, young, vital. If you have the quality of mind that wants to find out at any price, then you and the speaker can work together and come upon this strange thing that will solve all our problems - whether they be the problems of the daily monotony of life or problems of the most serious nature.

Now how do we go about it? I feel there is only one way, that is: through negation to come to the positive; through understanding what it is not, to find out what it is. To see what one actually is and go beyond that. Start looking at the world and all the events of the world, at the things that are going on; see if one's relation to that is either with or without separation. One can look at the world's events as though they did not concern one as an individual, yet try to shape them, try to do something about them. In that way, there is a division between oneself and the world. One can look that way with one's experience and knowledge, with one's particular idiosyncrasies, prejudices and so on; but it is looking as one separated from the world. One has to find out how to look so that one sees all the things that are happening, outside or inside oneself, as a unitary process, as a total movement. Either one looks at the world from a particular point of view - taking a stand verbally, ideologically, committed to a particular action and therefore isolated from the rest - or one looks at this whole phenomenon as a living, moving process, a total movement of which one is a part and from which one is not divided. What one is, is the result of culture, religion, education, propaganda, climate, food - one is the world and the world is oneself. Can one see the totality of this not what one should do about it? Does one have this feeling of the wholeness of mankind? It is not a question of identifying oneself with the world, because one is the world. War is the result of oneself. The violence, the prejudice, the appalling brutality that is going on, is part of oneself.

It depends on how you look at this phenomenon, both inwardly and outwardly, and also on how serious you are. If you are really serious, then when you look, the old momentum - the repetition of the old patterns, the old ways of thinking, living and acting - come to an end. Are you serious to find out a way of life in which all this turmoil, this misery and sorrow does not exist? For most of us the difficulty lies in being free of the old habits of thought: `I am something', `I want to fulfil myself', `I want to become',`I believe in my opinions', `This is the way', `I belong to this particular sect'. The moment you take a stand you have separated yourself and have therefore become incapable of looking at the total process.

As long as there is the fragmentation of life, both outwardly and inwardly, there must be confusion and war. Do please see this with your heart. Look at the war that is going on in the Middle East. You know all this; there are volumes written explaining it all. We are caught by the explanations - as though any explanation is ever going to solve anything. It is essential to realize that one must not be caught in explanations, it does not matter who gives them. When you see `what is' it does not demand an explanation; the man who does not see `what is, is lost in explanations. Please do see this; understand this so fundamentally that you are not caught by words.

In India it is the custom to take their sacred book, the Gita, and explain everything according to that. Thousands upon thousands listen to the explanations as to how you should live, what you should do, how God is this or that - they listen enchanted and yet carry on with their usual life. Explanations blind you, they prevent you from actually seeing `what is'.

It is vitally important to find out for yourself how you look at this problem of existence. Do you do so from an explanation, from a particular point of view, or do you look non-fragmentarily? Do find out. Go for a walk by yourself and find out, put your heart into finding out how you look at all these phenomena. Then we can work out the details together; and we will go into the most infinite details to find out, to understand. But before we do that you must be very clear that you are free from fragmentation, that you are no longer an Englishman, an Ameri- can, a Jew - you follow? - that you are free from your conditioning in a particular religion or culture, which tethers you, according to which you have your experiences, which only lead to further conditioning.

Look at this whole movement of life as one thing; there is great beauty in that and immense possibility; then action is extraordinarily complete and there is freedom. And a mind must be free to find out what reality is, not a reality which is invented imagined. There must be total freedom in which there is no fragmentation. That can only happen if you are really completely serious - not according to somebody who says `This is the way to be serious; throw that all away, do not listen to it. Find out for yourself, it does not matter whether you are old or young.

Would you like to ask questions? Before you ask, see why you are asking and from whom you expect the answer. In asking are you satisfied merely with the explanation which may be the answer? If one asks a question - and one must enquire always about everything - is one asking it because in that very asking one is beginning; to enquire and therefore share, move, experience together, create together?

Questioner: If there is someone, say a madman, loose and killing people, and it is within one's power to stop him by killing him, what should one do?

Krishnamurti: So let us kill all the Presidents, all the rulers, all the tyrants, all the neighbours, and yourself! (Laughter) No, no, do not laugh. We are part of all this. We have contributed by our own violence to the state the world is in. We don't see this clearly. We think that by getting rid of a few people by pushing aside the establishment, we are going to solve the whole problem. Every physical revolution has been based on this, the French, the Communist and so on and they have ended up in bureaucracy or tyranny. So my friends, to bring about a different way of living is to bring it about not for others but for oneself; because the `other' is oneself, there is no `we' and `they', there is only ourselves. If one really sees this, not verbally, not intellectually, but with one's heart, then one will see there can be a total action having a completely different kind of result, so there will be a new social structure, not the throwing out of one establishment and the creating of another.

One must have patience to enquire; young people do not have patience, they want instant results - instant coffee, instant tea, instant meditation - which means that they have never understood the whole process of living. If one understands the totality of living there is an action which is instantaneous, which is quite different from the instant action of impatience. Look, see what is going on in America, the racial riots, the poverty, the ghettos, the utter meaninglessness of education as it is - look at the division in Europe, and how long it takes to bring about a Federated Europe. And look at what is happening in India, Asia, Russia and China. When one looks at all that and the various divisions of religion, there is only one answer, one action, a total action, not a partial or fragmentary action. That total action is not to kill another but to see the divisions that have brought about this destruction of man. When one really seriously and sensitively sees that, there will be quite a different action.

Questioner: For someone who is born in a country where there is complete tyranny so that he is totally suppressed, having no opportunity of doing anything himself - I feel most people here cannot imagine it - he is born in this situation and so were his parents, what has he done to create the chaos in this world?

Krishnamurti: Probably he has not done anything. What has the poor man done who lives in the wilds of India, or in a small village in Africa, or in some happy little valley, not knowing anything that is happening in the rest of the world? In what ways has he contributed to this monstrous structure? Probably he has not done anything, poor fellow, what can he do?

Questioner: What does it mean to be serious? I have the feeling that I am not serious.

Krishnamurti: Let us find out together. What does it mean to be serious - so that you are completely dedicated to something, to some vocation, that you want to go right to the end of it. I am not defining it, do not accept any definition. One wants to find out how to live quite a different kind of life, a life in which there is no violence, in which there is complete inward freedom; one wants to find out and intends giving time, energy, thought, everything, to that. I would call such a person a serious person. He is not easily put off - he may amuse himself, but his course is set. This does not mean that he is dogmatic or obstinate, that he does not adjust. He will listen to others, consider, examine, observe. He may in his seriousness become self-centred; that very self-centredness will prevent him from examining; but, he has got to listen to others, he has got to examine, to question constantly; which means that he has to be highly sensitive. He has to find out how and to whom he listens. So he is all the time listening, pursuing, enquiring; he is discovering and with a sensitive brain, a sensitive mind, a sensitive heart they are not separate things - he is enquiring with the totality and the sensitivity of all that. Find out if the body is sensitive; be aware of its gestures, its peculiar habits. You cannot be sensitive physically if you overeat, nor can you become sensitive through starvation or fasting. One has to have regard for what one eats. One has to have a brain that is sensitive; that means a brain that is not functioning in habits, pursuing its own particular little pleasure, sexual or otherwise.

Questioner: You have told us not to listen to explanations. What is the difference between your talks and explanations?

Krishnamurti: What do you think? Is there any difference or is it just the same verbiage going on?

Questioner: Words are words.

Krishnamurti: We explain, giving the description of the cause and the effect, saying, for example: man has inherited brutality from the animal. Someone points that out; but if in the very pointing out you act, you cease to be violent, is there not a difference? Action is what is demanded; but will action come about through explanations, through words? Or does this total action come about only when you are sensitive enough to observe, see the whole movement of life, the whole of it? What are we trying to do here? Give explanations of `why' and the cause of `why'? Or are we trying to live so that our life is not based on words but on the discovery of what actually is - which is not dependent on words. There is a vast difference between the two - even though I point it out. It is like a man who is hungry; you can explain to him the nature and the taste of food, show him the menu, show him through the window the display of food. But what he wants is actual food; and explanations do not give him that. That is the difference.

16th July 1970

The Impossible Question

Part 1, Public Talks Saanen 1970

Impossible Question Part I Chapter 1 1st Public Talk Saanen 16th July 1970 'The Act of Looking'

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