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1933, The Art of Listening

2nd Public Talk. Alpino, Italy; 4th July, 1933

Friends, today I am going to talk about what is called evolution. It is a subject difficult to discuss, and you may misunderstand what I am going to say. If you don't quite understand me, please ask me questions afterwards.

To most of us the idea of evolution implies a series of achievements, that is, achievements born of continual choice between what we call the unessential and the essential. It implies leaving the unessential and moving towards the essential. This series of continual achievements resulting from choice we call evolution. Our whole structure of thought is based on this idea of advancement and spiritual attainment, on the idea of growing more and more into the essential, as the result of continual choice. So then, we think of action as merely a series of achievements, don't we?

Now when we consider growth or evolution as a series of achievements, naturally our actions are never complete; they are always growing from the lower to the higher, always climbing, advancing. Therefore, if we live under that conception, our action enslaves us; our action is a constant, ceaseless, infinite effort, and that effort is always turned toward a security. Naturally, when there is this search for security, there is fear, and this fear creates the continual consciousness of what we call the "I". Isn't that so? The minds of most of us are caught up in this idea of achievement, attainment, climbing higher and higher, that is, in the idea of choosing between the essential and the unessential. And since this choice, this advancement which we call action, is but a ceaseless struggle, a continual effort, our lives are also a ceaseless effort and not a free, spontaneous flow of action.

I want to differentiate between action and achievement or attainment. Achievement is a finality, whereas action, to me, is infinite. You will understand that distinction as I continue. But first, let us understand that this is what we mean by evolution: A continual movement through choice, towards what we call the essential, ever pursuing greater and greater achievement.

The highest bliss - and to me this is not a mere theory - is to live without effort. Now I am going to explain what I mean by effort. For most of you, effort is but choice. You live by choice; you have to choose. But why do you choose? Why is there a necessity that urges you, impels you, forces you to choose? I say that this necessity for choice exists as long as one is conscious of emptiness or loneliness within oneself; that incompleteness forces you to choose, to make an effort.

Now the question is not how to fill that emptiness, but rather, what is the cause of that emptiness. To me, emptiness is action born of choice, in search of gain. Emptiness results when action is born of choice. And when there is emptiness, the question arises, "How can I fill that void? How can I get rid of that loneliness, that feeling of incompleteness?" To me, it is not a question of filling the void, for you can never fill it. Yet that is what most people are trying to do. Through sensation, excitement, or pleasure, through tenderness or forgetfulness, they are trying to fill that void, to lessen that feeling of emptiness. But they will never fill that emptiness, because they are trying to fill it with action born of choice.

Emptiness exists as long as action is based on choice, on like and dislike, attraction and repulsion. You choose because you don't like this and you like that; you are not satisfied with this but you want to satisfy yourself with that. Or you are afraid of something and run away from it. For most people action is based on attraction and repulsion, and therefore on fear.

Now what happens when you discard this and choose that? You are basing your action merely on attraction or repulsion, and thereby you are creating an opposite. Hence there is this continual choice which implies effort. As long as you make a choice, as long as choice exists, there must be duality. You may think that you have chosen the essential; but because your choice is born out of attraction and repulsion, want and fear, it merely creates another unessential.

That is what your life is. One day you want this - you choose it because you like it and want it because it gives you joy and satisfaction. The next day you are surfeited with it; it means nothing more to you, and you discard it in order to choose something else. So your choice is based on continuous sensation; you choose through the consciousness of duality, and this choice merely perpetuates the opposites.

As long as you choose between opposites, there is no discernment, and hence there must be effort, ceaseless effort, continually opposites and duality. Your choice, therefore, is ceaseless, and your effort is continuous. Your action is always finite, always in terms of achievement, and hence that emptiness which you feel will always exist. But if the mind is free of choice, if it has the capacity to discern, then action is infinite.

I shall explain this again. As I have said, if you say, "I want this thing", in that choosing you have created an opposite. Again, after that choice you create another opposite, and so you go on from one opposite to another through a process of continual effort. That process is your life, and in that there is ceaseless struggle and pain, conflict and suffering. If you realize that, if you really feel with your whole being - that is, emotionally as well as mentally - the futility of choice, then you no longer choose; then there is discernment; then there is intuitive response which is free from choice, and that is awareness.

If you are aware that your choice born of opposites but creates another opposite, then you perceive what is true. But most of you have not the intensity of desire nor the awareness, because you want the opposite, because you want sensation. Therefore you never attain discernment; you never attain that rich, full awareness that liberates the mind from opposites. In that freedom from opposites, action is no longer an achievement, but a fulfillment; it is born of discernment which is infinite. Then action springs from your own fullness, and in such action there is no choice and hence no effort.

To know such fullness, such reality, you must be in a state of intense awareness, which you can attain only when you are faced by a crisis. Most of you are faced by some kind of crisis, with regard to money, or people, or love, or death; and when you are caught up in such a crisis you have to choose, to decide. How do you decide? Your decision springs from fear, want, sensation. So you are merely postponing; you are choosing what is convenient, what is pleasant, and therefore you are merely creating another shadow through which you have to pass. Only when you feel the absurdity of your present existence, feel it not just intellectually, but with your whole heart and mind - when you really feel the absurdity of this continual choice - then out of that awareness is born discernment. Then you do not choose: you act. It is easy to give examples, but I shall give none, for they are often confusing.

So to me, awareness does not result from the struggle to be aware; it comes of its own accord when you are conscious with your whole being, when you realize the futility of choice. At present you choose between two things, two courses of action; you make a choice between this and that; one you understand, the other you do not. With the result of such choice, you hope to fill your life. You act according to your wants, your desires. Naturally, when that desire is fulfilled, action has come to an end. Then, since you are still lonely, you look for another action, another fulfillment. Each one of you is faced with a duality in action, a choice between doing this or that; but when you are aware of the futility of choice, when you are aware with your whole being, without effort, then you will truly discern.

You can test this only when you are really in a crisis; you cannot test it intellectually, when sitting at your ease and imagining a mental conflict. You can learn its truth only when you are face to face with an insistent demand for choice, when you have to make a decision, when your whole being demands action. If in that moment you realize with your whole being, if in that moment you are aware of the futility of choice, then out of that comes the flower of intuition, the flower of discernment. Action born of that is infinite; then action is life itself. Then there is no division between action and actor; all is continuous. There is no temporary fulfillment which is soon over.

Question: Please explain what you mean by saying that self-discipline is useless. What do you mean by self-discipline?

Krishnamurti: If you have understood what I have been saying, you will see the futility of self-discipline. But I shall explain this again, and try to make it clear.

Why do you think that you must discipline yourself? To what do you want to discipline yourself? When you say, "I must discipline myself", you hold before you a standard to which you think you must conform. Self-discipline exists as long as you want to fill the emptiness within you; it exists as long as you hold a certain description of what God is, what truth is, as long as you cherish certain sets of moral standards which you force yourself to accept as guides. That is, your action is regulated, con- trolled, by the desire to conform. But if action is born of discernment, then there is no discipline.

Please understand what I mean by discernment. Don't say, "I have learnt to play the piano. Doesn't that involve discipline?" Or, "I have studied mathematics. Is not that discipline?" I am not talking about the study of technique, which cannot be called discipline. I am talking about conduct in life. Have I made that clear? I am afraid most of you have not understood this, for to be free of the idea of self-discipline is most difficult, since from childhood we have been slaves of discipline, of control. To get rid of the idea of discipline does not mean that you must go to the opposite, that you must be chaotic. What I say is that when there is discernment, there need be no self-discipline; then there is no self-discipline.

Most of you are caught up in the habit of discipline. First of all, you hold a mental picture of what is right, of what is true, of what good character should be. To this mental picture you try to fit your actions. You act merely according to a mental picture that you hold. As long as you have a preconceived idea of what is true - and most of you have this idea - you must act according to that. Most of you are unconscious that you are acting according to a pattern, but when you become aware that you are acting thus, then you no longer copy or imitate: then your own action reveals what is true.

You know, our physical training, our religious and moral training, tend to mould us after a pattern. From childhood, most of us have been trained to fit into a pattern - social, religious, economic - and most of us are unconscious of this. Discipline has become a habit, and you are unconscious of that habit. Only when you become aware that you are disciplining yourself to a pattern, will your action be born of discernment.

So first of all, you must realize why you discipline yourself, not why you should or should not discipline. What has happened to man through all the centuries of self-discipline? He has become more of a machine and less of a human being; he has merely attained greater skill in imitation, in being a machine. Self-discipline, that is, conforming to a mental picture established either by you yourself or by someone else, does not bring about harmony; it only creates chaos.

What happens when you attempt to discipline yourself? Your action is ever creating emptiness within you because you are trying to fit your actions to a pattern. But if you become aware that you are acting according to a pattern - a pattern of your own or some one else's making - then you will perceive the falseness of imitation and your action then will be born of discernment, that is, from the harmony of your mind and heart.

Now, mentally you want to act in a certain way, but emotionally you do not desire the same end, and hence conflict results. In order to conquer that conflict you seek security in authority, and that authority becomes your pattern. Hence, you do not act what you really feel and think; your action is motivated by fear, by desire for security, and from such action is born self-discipline. Do you understand?

You know, understanding with the whole intensity of your being is a very different thing from understanding merely intellectually. When people say, "I understand", they usually understand only intellectually. But intellectual analysis will not free you from this habit of self-discipline. When you are acting, do not say, "I must see if this act is born of self-discipline, if it is according to a pattern." Such an attempt only prevents true action. But if, in your acting, you are aware of the imitation, then your action will be spontaneous.

As I have said, if you examine every act to determine whether it is born of self-discipline, of imitation, your action becomes more and more limited; then there is hindrance, resistance. You do not truly act at all. But if you become aware, with your whole being, of the futility of imitation, the futility of conformity, then your action will not be imitative, hampered, bound. The more you analyze your action, the less you act. Isn't that so? To me, analysis of action does not free the mind of imitation, which is conformity, self-discipline; what frees the mind of imitation is being aware with your whole being in your action.

To me, self-analysis frustrates action, it destroys complete living. Perhaps you do not agree with this, but please listen to what I have to say before you decide whether or not you agree. I say that this continuous process of self-analysis, which is self-discipline, constantly puts a limitation on the free flow of life, which is action. For self-discipline is based on the idea of achievement, not on the idea of the completeness of action. Do you see the distinction? In the one there is a series of achievements and therefore always a finality; whereas in the other, action is born of discernment, and such action is harmonious and therefore infinite. Have I made this clear? Watch yourself the next time you say, "I must not." Self-discipline, the "I must", the "I must not", is based on the idea of achievement. When you realize the futility of achievement - when you realize this with your whole being, emotionally as well as intellectually - then there is no longer an "I must" and an "I must not."

Now you are caught up in this attempt to conform to a picture in your mind, you have the habit of thinking "I must" or "I must not." Therefore, the next time you say this, become aware of yourself, and in that awareness you will discern what is true, and free yourself from the hindrance of "I must" and "I must not."

Question: You say that nobody can help any one else. Why then are you going around the world addressing people?

Krishnamurti: Need that be answered? It implies a great deal if you understand it. You know, most of us want to acquire wisdom or truth through another, through some outside agency. No one else can make you into an artist; only you yourself can do that. That is what I want to say: I can give you paint, brushes, and canvas, but you yourself have to become the artist, the painter. I cannot make you into one. Now in your attempts to become spiritual, most of you seek teachers, saviours, but I say that no one in the world can free you from the conflict of sorrow. Some one can give you the materials, the tools, but no one can give you that flame of creative living.

You know, we think in terms of technique, but technique does not come first. You must first have the flame of desire, and then technique follows. "But, " you say, "let me learn. If I am taught the technique of painting, then I shall be able to paint." There are many books that describe the technique of painting, but merely learning technique will never make you a creative artist. Only when you stand entirely alone, without technique, without masters, only then can you find truth.

Let us understand this first of all. Now you are basing your ideas on conformity. You think that there is a standard, a way, by which you can find truth; but if you examine, you will discover that there is no path that leads to truth. In order to be led to truth, you must know what truth is, and your leader must know what it is. Isn't that so? I say that a man who teaches truth may have it, but if he offers to lead you to truth and you are led, then both are in illusion. How can you know truth if you are still held by illusion? If truth is there, it expresses itself. A great poet has the desire, the flame for creative writing, and he writes. If you have the desire, you learn the technique.

I feel that no one can lead another to truth, because truth is infinite; it is a pathless land, and no one can tell you how to find it. No one can teach you to be an artist; another can only give you the brushes and canvas and show you the colours to use. Nobody taught me, I assure you, nor have I learnt what I am saying from books. But I have watched, I have struggled, and I have tried to find out. It is only when you are absolutely naked, free from all techniques, free from all teachers, that you find out.

1933, The Art of Listening

2nd Public Talk. Alpino, Italy; 4th July, 1933

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

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