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1933, The Art of Listening

1st Public Talk. Alpino, Italy; 1st July, 1933

Friends, I should like you to make a living discovery, not a discovery induced by the description of others. If someone, for instance, had told you about the scenery here, you would come with your minds prepared by that description, and then perhaps you would be disappointed by the reality. No one can describe reality. You must experience it, see it, feel the whole atmosphere of it. When you see its beauty and loveliness, you experience a renewing, a quickening of joy.

Most people who think that they are seeking truth have already prepared their minds for its reception by studying descriptions of what they are seeking. When you examine religions and philosophies, you find that they have all tried to describe reality; they have tried to describe truth for your guidance.

Now I am not going to try to describe what to me is truth, for that would be an impossible attempt. One cannot describe or give to another the fullness of an experience. Each one must live it for himself.

Like most people, you have read, listened and imitated; you have tried to find out what others have said concerning truth and God, concerning life and immortality. So you have a picture in your mind, and now you want to compare that picture with what I am going to say. That is, your mind is seeking merely descriptions; you do not try to find out anew, but only try to compare. But since I shall not try to describe truth, for it cannot be described, naturally there will be confusion in your mind.

When you hold before yourself a picture that you are trying to copy, an ideal that you are trying to follow, you can never face an experience fully; you are never frank, never truthful as regards yourself and your own actions; you are always protecting yourself with an ideal. If you really probe into your own mind and heart, you will discover that you come here to get something new; a new idea, a new sensation, a new explanation of life, in order that you may mould your own life according to that. Therefore you are really searching for a satisfactory explanation. You have not come with an attitude of freshness, so that by your own perception, your own intensity, you may discover the joy of natural and spontaneous action. Most of you are merely seeking a descriptive explanation of truth, thinking that if you can find out what truth is, you can then mould your lives according to that eternal light.

If that be the motive of your search, then it is not a search for truth. It is rather for consolation, for comfort; it is but an attempt to escape the innumerable conflicts and struggles that you must face every day.

Out of suffering is born the urge to seek truth; in suffering lies the cause of the insistent inquiry, the search for truth. Yet when you suffer - as every one does suffer - you seek an immediate remedy and comfort. When you feel momentary physical pain, you obtain a palliative at the nearest drug store to lessen your suffering. So also, when you experience momentary mental or emotional anguish, you seek consolation, and you imagine that trying to find relief from pain is the search for truth. In that way you are continually seeking a compensation for your pains, a compensation for the effort you are thus forced to make. You evade the main cause of suffering and thereby live an illusory life.

So those people who are always proclaiming that they are searching for truth are in reality missing it. They have found their lives to be insufficient, incomplete, lacking in love, and think that by trying to seek truth they will find satisfaction and comfort. If you frankly say to yourself that you are seeking only consolation and compensation for the difficulties of life, you will be able to grapple with the problem intelligently. But as long as you pretend to yourself that you are seeking something more than mere compensation, you cannot see the matter clearly. The first thing to find out, then, is whether you are really seeking, fundamentally seeking truth.

A man who is seeking truth is not a disciple of truth. Suppose that you say to me, "I have had no love in my life; it has been a poor life, a life of continuous pain; therefore, in order to gain comfort, I seek truth." Then I must point out that your search for comfort is an utter delusion. There is no such thing in life as comfort and security. The first thing to understand is that you must be absolutely frank.

But you yourself are not certain what you really want: you want comfort, consolation, compensation, and yet, at the same time, you want something that is infinitely greater than compensation and comfort. You are so confused in your own mind that one moment you look to an authority who offers you compensation and comfort, and the next moment you turn to another who denies you comfort. So your life becomes a refined hypocritical existence, a life of confusion. Try to find out what you really think; do not pretend to think what you believe you ought to think; then, if you are conscious, fully alive in what you are doing, you will know for yourself, without self-analysis, what you really desire. If you are fully responsible in your acts, you will then know without self-analysis what you are really seeking. This process of finding out does not necessitate great will power, great strength, but only the interest to discover what you think, to discover whether you are really honest or living in illusion.

In talking to groups of listeners all over the world, I find that more and more people seem not to understand what I am saying, because they come with fixed ideas; they listen with their biased attitude, without trying to find out what I have to say, but only expecting to find what they secretly desire. It is vain to say, "Here is a new ideal after which I must mould myself." Rather find out what you really feel and think.

How can you find out what you really feel and think? From my point of view, you can do that only by being aware of your whole life. Then you will discover to what extent you are a slave to your ideals, and by discovering that, you will see that you have created ideals merely for your consolation.

Where there is duality, where there are opposites, there must be the consciousness of incompleteness. The mind is caught up in opposites, such as punishment and reward, good and bad, past and future, gain and loss. Thought is caught up in this duality, and therefore there is incompleteness in action. This incompleteness creates suffering, the conflict of choice, effort and authority, and the escape from the unessential to the essential.

When you feel that you are incomplete, you feel empty, and from that feeling of emptiness arises suffering; out of that incompleteness you create standards, ideals, to sustain you in your emptiness, and you establish these standards and ideals as your external authority. What is the inner cause of the external authority that you create for yourself? First, you feel incomplete, and you suffer from that incompleteness. As long as you do not understand the cause of authority, you are but an imitative machine, and where there is imitation there cannot be the rich fulfillment of life. To understand the cause of authority you must follow the mental and emotional process which creates it. First of all, you feel empty, and in order to get rid of that feeling you make an effort; by that effort you only create opposites; you create a duality which but increases the incompleteness and the emptiness. You are responsible for such external authorities as religion, politics, morality, for such authorities as economic and social standards. Out of your emptiness, out of your incompleteness, you have created these external standards from which you now try to free yourself. By evolving, by developing, by growing away from them you want to create an inner law for yourself. As you come to understand external standards, you want to liberate yourself from them, and to develop your own inner standard. This inner standard, which you call "spiritual reality", you identify with a cosmic law, which means that you create but another division, another duality.

So you first create an external law, and then you seek to outgrow it by developing an inner law, which you identify with the universe, with the whole. That is what is happening. You are still conscious of your limited egotism, which you now identify with a great illusion, calling it cosmic. So when you say, "I am obeying my inner law", you are but using an expression to cover your desire to escape. To me, the man who is bound either by an external or an inner law is confined in a prison; he is held by an illusion. Therefore such a man cannot understand spontaneous, natural, healthy action.

Now why do you create inner laws for yourself? Is it not because the struggle in everyday life is so great, so inharmonious, that you want to escape from it and to create an inner law which shall become your comfort? And you become a slave to that inner authority, that inner standard, because you have rejected only the outward picture, and have created in its place an inner picture to which you are a slave.

By this method you will not attain true discernment, and discernment is quite other than choice. Choice must exist where there is duality. When the mind is incomplete and is conscious of that incompleteness, it tries to escape from it and therefore creates an opposite to that incompleteness. That opposite can be either an external or an inner standard, and when one has established such a standard, he judges every action, every experience by that standard, and therefore lives in a continual state of choice. Choice is born only of resistance. If there is discernment, there is no effort.

So to me this whole conception of making an effort toward truth, toward reality, this idea of making a sustained endeavour, is utterly false. As long as you are incomplete you will experience suffering, and hence you will be engaged in choice, in effort, in the ceaseless struggle for what you call"spiritual attainment." So I say, when mind is caught up in authority, it cannot have true understanding, true thought. And since the minds of most of you are caught up in authority - which is but an escape from understanding, from discernment - you cannot face the experience of life completely. Therefore you live a dual life, a life of pretence, of hypocrisy, a life in which there is no moment of completeness.

1933, The Art of Listening

1st Public Talk. Alpino, Italy; 1st July, 1933

Jiddu Krishnamurti. The Art of Listening. The collected works of J.Krishnamurti, 1933.

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