Think on These Things
This Matter of Culture Chapter 17
I DON'T KNOW IF on your walks you have noticed a long, narrow pool beside the river. Some fishermen must have dug it, and it is not connected with the river. The river is flowing steadily, deep and wide, but this pool is heavy with scum because it is not connected with the life of the river, and there are no fish in it. It is a stagnant pool, and the deep river, full of life and vitality, flows swiftly along.
Now, don't you think human beings are like that? They dig a little pool for themselves away from the swift current of life, and in that little pool they stagnate, die; and this stagnation, this decay we call existence. That is, we all want a state of permanency; we want certain desires to last for ever, we want pleasures to have no end. We dig a little hole and barricade ourselves in it with our families, with our ambitions, our cultures, our fears, our gods, our various forms of worship, and there we die, letting life go by - that life which is impermanent, constantly changing, which is so swift, which has such enormous depths, such extraordinary vitality and beauty.
Have you not noticed that if you sit quietly on the banks of the river you hear its song - the lapping of the water, the sound of the current going by? There is always a sense of movement, an extraordinary movement towards the wider and the deeper. But in the little pool there is no movement at all, its water is stagnant. And if you observe you will see that this is what most of us want: little stagnant pools of existence away from life. We say that our pool-existence is right, and we have invented a philosophy to justify it; we have developed social, political, economic and religious theories in support of it, and we don't want to be disturbed because, you see, what we are after is a sense of permanency. Do you know what it means to seek permanency? It means wanting the pleasurable to continue indefinitely and wanting that which is not pleasurable to end as quickly as possible. We want the name that we bear to be known and to continue through family through property. We want a sense of permanency in our relationships, in our activities, which means that we are seeking a lasting, continuous life in the stagnant pool; we don't want any real changes there, so we have built a society which guarantees us the permanency of property, of name, of fame.
But you see, life is not like that at all; life is not permanent. Like the leaves that fall from a tree, all things are impermanent, nothing endures; there is always change and death. Have you ever noticed a tree standing naked against the sky, how beautiful it is? All its branches are outlined, and in its nakedness there is a poem, there is a song. Every leaf is gone and it is waiting for the spring. When the spring comes it again fills the tree with the music of many leaves, which in due season fall and are blown away; and that is the way of life.
But we don't want anything of that kind. We cling to our children, to our traditions, to our society, to our names and our little virtues, because we want permanency; and that is why we are afraid to die. We are afraid to lose the things we know. But life is not what we would like it to be; life is not permanent at all. Birds die, snow melts away, trees are cut down or destroyed by storms, and so on. But we want everything that gives us satisfaction to be permanent; we want our position, the authority we have over people, to endure. We refuse to accept life as it is in fact.
The fact is that life is like the river: endlessly moving on, ever seeking, exploring, pushing, overflowing its banks, penetrating every crevice with its water. But, you see, the mind won't allow that to happen to itself. The mind sees that it is dangerous, risky to live in a state of impermanency, insecurity, so it builds a wall around itself: the wall of tradition, of organized religion, of political and social theories. Family, name, property, the little virtues that we have cultivated - these are all within the walls, away from life. Life is moving, impermanent, and it ceaselessly tries to penetrate, to break down these walls, behind which there is confusion and misery. The gods within the walls are all false gods, and their writings and philosophies have no meaning because life is beyond them.
Now, a mind that has no walls, that is not burdened with its own acquisitions, accumulations, with its own knowledge, a mind that lives timelessly, insecurely - to such a mind, life is an extraordinary thing. Such a mind is life itself, because life has no resting place. But most of us want a resting place; we want a little house, a name, a position, and we say these things are very important. We demand permanency and create a culture based on this demand, inventing gods which are not gods at all but merely a projection of our own desires.
A mind which is seeking permanency soon stagnates; like that pool along the river, it is soon full of corruption, decay. Only the mind which has no walls, no foothold, no barrier, no resting place, which is moving completely with life, timelessly pushing on, exploring, exploding - only such a mind can be happy, eternally new, because it is creative in itself.
Do you understand what I am talking about? You should, because all this is part of real education and, when you understand it, your whole life will be transformed, your relationship with the world, with your neighbour, with your wife or husband, will have a totally different meaning. Then you won't try to fulfil yourself through anything, seeing that the pursuit of fulfilment only invites sorrow and misery. That is why you should ask your teachers about all this and discuss it among yourselves. If you understand it, you will have begun to understand the extraordinary truth of what life is, and in that understanding there is great beauty and love, the flowering of goodness. But the efforts of a mind that is seeking a pool of security, of permanency, can only lead to darkness and corruption. Once established in the pool, such a mind is afraid to venture out, to seek, to explore; but truth, God, reality or what you will, lies beyond the pool.
Do you know what religion is? It is not the chant, it is not in the performance of puja, or any other ritual, it is not in the worship of tin gods or stone images, it is not in the temples and churches, it is not in the reading of the Bible or the Gita, it is not in the repeating of a sacred name or in the following of some other superstition invented by men. None of this is religion,
Religion is the feeling of goodness that love which is like the river living moving everlastingly. In that state you will find there comes a moment when there is no longer any search at all; and this ending of search is the beginning of something totally different. The search for God, for truth, the feeling of being completely good - not the cultivation of goodness, of humility, but the seeking out of something beyond the inventions and tricks of the mind, which means having a feeling for that something, living in it, being it - that is true religion. But you can do that only when you leave the pool you have dug for yourself and go out into the river of life. Then life has an astonishing way of taking care of you, because then there is no taking care on your part. Life carries you where it will because you are part of itself; then there is no problem of security, of what people say or don't say, and that is the beauty of life.
Questioner: What makes us fear death?
Krishnamurti: Do you think a leaf that falls to the ground is afraid of death? Do you think a bird lives in fear of dying? It meets death when death comes; but it is not concerned about death, it is much too occupied with living, with catching insects, building a nest, singing a song, flying for the very joy of flying. Have you ever watched birds soaring high up in the air without a beat of their wings, being carried along by the wind? How endlessly they seem to enjoy themselves! They are not concerned about death. If death comes, it is all right, they are finished. There is no concern about what is going to happen; they are living from moment to moment, are they not? It is we human beings who are always concerned about death - because we are not living. That is the trouble: we are dying, we are not living. The old people are near the grave, and the young ones are not far behind.
You see, there is this preoccupation with death because we are afraid to lose the known, the things that we have gathered. We are afraid to lose a wife or husband, a child or a friend; we are afraid to lose what we have learnt, accumulated. If we could carry over all the things that we have gathered - our friends our possessions, our virtues, our character - then we would not be afraid of death, would we? That is why we invent theories about death and the hereafter. But the fact is that death is an ending, and most of us are unwilling to face this fact. We don't want to leave the known; so it is our clinging to the known that creates fear in us, not the unknown. The unknown cannot be perceived by the known. But the mind, being made up of the known, says, "I am going to end", and therefore it is frightened.
Now, if you can live from moment to moment and not be concerned about the future, if you can live without the thought of tomorrow - which does not mean the superficiality of merely being occupied with today; if, being aware of the whole process of the known, you can, relinquish the known, let it go completely, then you will find that an astonishing thing takes place. Try it for a day - put aside everything you know, forget it, and just see what happens. Don't carry over your worries from day to day, from hour to hour, from moment to moment; let them all go, and you will see that out of this freedom there comes an extraordinary life that includes both living and dying. Death is only the ending of something, and in that very ending there is a renewing.
Questioner: It is said that in each one of us truth is permanent and timeless, but, since our life is transitory, how can there be truth in us?
Krishnamurti: You see, we have made of truth something permanent. And is truth permanent? If it is, then it is within the field of time. To say that something is permanent implies that it is continuous; and what is continuous is not truth. That is the beauty of truth: it must be discovered from moment to moment, not remembered. A remembered truth is a dead thing. Truth must be discovered from moment to moment because it is living, it is never the same; and yet each time you discover it, it is the same.
What is important is not to make a theory of truth, not to say that truth is permanent in us and all the rest of it - that is an invention of the old who are frightened both of death and of life. These marvellous theories - that truth is permanent, that you need not be afraid because you are an immortal soul, and so on - have been invented by frightened people whose minds are decaying and whose philosophies have no validity. The fact is that truth is life, and life has no permanency. Life has to be discovered from moment to moment, from day to day; it has to be discovered, it cannot be taken for granted. If you take it for granted that you know life, you are not living. Three meals a day, clothing, shelter, sex, your job, your amusement and your thinking process - that dull, repetitive process is not life. Life is something to be discovered; and you cannot discover it if you have not lost, if you have not put aside the things that you have found. Do experiment with what I am saying. Put aside your philosophies, your religions, your customs, your racial taboos and all the rest of it, for they are not life. If you are caught in those things you will never discover life; and the function of education, surely, is to help you to discover life all the time.
A man who says he knows is already dead. But the man who thinks, "I don't know", who is discovering, finding out, who is not seeking an end, not thinking in terms of arriving or becoming - such a man is living, and that living is truth.
Questioner: Can I get an idea of perfection?
Krishnamurti: Probably you can. By speculating, inventing, projecting, by saying, "This is ugly and that is perfect", you will have an idea of perfection. But your idea of perfection, like your belief in God, has no meaning. Perfection is something that is lived in an unpremeditated moment, and that moment has no continuity; therefore perfection cannot be thought out, nor can a way be found to make it permanent. Only the mind that is very quiet, that is not premeditating, inventing, projecting, can know a moment of perfection, a moment that is complete.
Questioner: Why do we want to take revenge by hurting another who has hurt us?
Krishnamurti: It is the instinctive, survival response, is it not? Whereas, the intelligent mind, the mind that is awake, that has thought about it very deeply, feels no desire to strike back - not because it is trying to be virtuous or to cultivate forgiveness, but because it perceives that to strike back is silly, it has no meaning at all. But you see, that requires meditation.
Questioner: I have fun in teasing others, but I myself get angry when teased.
Krishnamurti: I am afraid it is the same with older people. Most of us like to exploit others, but we don't like it when we in our turn are exploited. Wanting to hurt or to annoy others is a most thoughtless state, is it not? It arises from a life of self-centredness. Neither you nor the other fellow likes being teased, so why don't you both stop teasing? That means being thoughtful.
Questioner: What is the work of man?
Krishnamurti: What do you think it is? Is it to study, pass examinations, get a job and do it for the rest of your life? Is it to go to the temple, join groups, launch various reforms? Is it man's work to kill animals for his own food? Is it man's work to build a bridge for the train to cross, to dig wells in a dry land, to find oil, to climb mountains, to conquer the earth and the air, to write poems, to paint, to love, to hate? Is all this the work of man? Building civilizations that come toppling down in a few centuries, bringing about wars, creating God in one's own image, killing people in the name of religion or the State, talking of peace and brotherhood while usurping power and being ruthless to others - this is what man is doing all around you, is it not? And is this the true work of man?
You can see that all this work leads to destruction and misery, to chaos and despair. Great luxuries exist side by side with extreme poverty; disease and starvation, with refrigerators and jet planes. All this is the work of man; and when you see it don't you ask yourself, "Is that all? Is there not something else which is the true work of man?" If we can find out what is the true work of man, then jet planes, washing machines, bridges, hostels will all have an entirely different meaning; but without finding out what is the true work of man merely to indulge in reforms, in reshaping what man has already done, will lead nowhere.
So, what is the true work of man? Surely, the true work of man is to discover truth, God; it is to love and not to be caught in his own self-enclosing activities. In the very discovery of what is true there is love, and that love in man's relationship with man will create a different civilization, a new world.
Questioner: Why do we worship God?
Krishnamurti: I am afraid we don't worship God. Don't laugh. You see, we don't love God; if we did love God, there would not be this thing we call worship. We worship God because we are frightened of him; there is fear in our hearts, not love. The temple, the puja, the sacred thread - these things are not of God, they are the creations of man's vanity and fear. It is only the unhappy, the frightened who worship God. Those who have wealth, position and authority are not happy people. An ambitious man is a most unhappy human being. Happiness comes only when you are free of all that - and then you do not worship God. It is the miserable, the tortured, those who are in despair that crawl to a temple; but if they put aside this so-called worship and understand their misery, then they will be happy men and women, for they will discover what truth is, what God is.
Think on These Things
This Matter of Culture Chapter 17
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