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1933, The Art of Listening

3rd Public Talk. Alpino, Italy; 6th July, 1933

Friends, in these talks I have been trying to show that where action involves effort, self-control - and I have explained what I mean by these terms - there must be diminution and limitation of life, but where action is effortless, spontaneous, there is completeness of life. What I say, however, concerns the fullness of life itself, not the chaos of misunderstood liberation. I shall again explain what I mean by effortless action.

When you are conscious of incompleteness, you have the desire to find a goal or an end which will be your authority, and thereby you hope to fill that emptiness, that incompleteness. Most of us are continually seeking a goal, an end, an image, an ideal for our comfort. We are ceaselessly working towards that goal because we are conscious of the struggle which arises from incompleteness. But if we understood incompleteness itself, then we would no longer seek a goal, which is but substitution.

To understand incompleteness and its cause you must find out why you seek a goal. Why do you work towards a goal? Why do you want to discipline yourself according to a pattern? Because the incompleteness, of which you are more or less conscious, gives rise to continued effort, continued struggle, from which mind tries to escape by establishing the authority of a comforting ideal which it hopes will serve as a guide. Thereby action in itself has no significance; it becomes merely a steppingstone towards an end, a goal. In your search for truth you use action merely as a means towards an end, and the significance of action is lost. You make great effort to attain a goal, and the importance of your action lies in the end which it achieves - not in the action itself.

Most people are caught up in the search for reward, in the attempt to escape punishment. They are working for results; they are urged forward by a motive, and therefore their action cannot be complete. Most of you are caught in this prison of incompleteness, and therefore you have to become conscious of that prison.

If you don't understand what I mean, please interrupt me, and I shall explain again.

I say that you must become conscious that you are a prisoner; you must become aware that you are continually trying to escape from incompleteness and that your search for truth is but an escape. What you call the search for truth, for God, through self-discipline and achievement, is but an escape from incompleteness.

The cause of incompleteness is in the very search for attainment, but you are continually escaping from this cause. Action born of self-discipline, action born of fear or of the desire for achievement, is the cause of incompleteness. Now when you become aware that such action is itself the cause of incompleteness, you are freed of that incompleteness. The moment you become aware of poison, the poison ceases to be a problem to you. It is a problem only as long as you are unaware of its action in your life.

But most people do not know the cause of their incompleteness, and from this ignorance arises ceaseless effort. When they become aware of the cause - which is the search for achievement - then in that awareness there is completeness, completeness that demands no effort. In your action then there is no effort, no self-analysis, no discipline.

From incompleteness arises the search for comfort, for authority, and the attempt to reach this goal deprives action of its intrinsic significance. But when you become fully aware with your mind and your heart of the cause of incompleteness, then incompleteness ceases. Out of this awareness comes action that is infinite because it has significance in itself.

To put it differently, as long as mind and heart are caught up in want, in desire, there must be emptiness. You want things, ideas, persons, only when you are conscious of your own emptiness, and that wanting creates a choice. When there is craving there must be choice, and choice precipitates you into the conflict of experiences. You have the capacity to choose, and thereby you limit yourself by your choice. Only when mind is free from choice is there liberation.

All want, all craving, is blinding, and your choice is born of fear, of the desire for consolation, comfort, reward, or as the result of cunning calculation. Because of the emptiness within you, there is want. Since your choice is always based on the idea of gain, there can be no true discernment, no true perception; there is only want. When you choose, as you do choose, your choice merely creates another set of circumstances which result in further conflict and choice. Your choice, which is born of limitation, sets up a further series of limitations, and these limitations create the consciousness which is the "I", the ego. The multiplication of choice you call experiences. You look to these experiences to deliver you from bondage, but they can never deliver you from bondage because you think of experiences as a continual movement of acquisition.

Let me illustrate this by an example, which will perhaps convey my thought. Suppose that you lose by death some one whom you love very much. That death is a fact. Now at once you experience a sense of loss, a craving to be again near that person. You want your friend back, and since you cannot have him again, your mind creates or accepts an idea to satisfy that emotional craving.

The person whom you love has been taken from you. Then, because you suffer, because you are aware of an intense emptiness, a loneliness, you want to have your friend again. That is, you want to end your suffering, or put it aside, or forget it; you want to deaden the consciousness of that emptiness, which is hidden when you are with the friend whom you love. Your want arises from the desire for comfort; but since you cannot have the comfort of his presence, you think of some idea that may satisfy you - reincarnation, life after death, the unity of all life. In such ideas - I do not say that they are right or wrong, we will discuss them another time - in such ideas, I say, you take comfort. Because you cannot have the person whom you love, you take mental consolation in such ideas. That is, without true discernment, you accept any idea, any principle, that seems for the moment to satisfy you, to put aside that consciousness of emptiness which causes suffering.

So your action is based on the idea of consolation, on the idea of multiplication of experiences; your action is determined by choice which has its roots in want. But the moment you become aware with your mind and heart, with your whole being, of the futility of want, then emptiness ceases. Now you are only partly conscious of this emptiness, so you try to get satisfaction by reading novels, by losing yourself in the diversions that man has created in the name of civilization; and this search for sensation you call experience.

You must realize with your heart as well as with your mind that the cause of emptiness is craving, which results in choice, and prevents true discernment. When you become aware of this, there is then cessation of want.

As I have said, when one feels an emptiness, a want, one accepts without true discernment. And most of the actions that make up our lives are based on this feeling of want. We may think that our choices are based on reason, on discernment; we may think that we weigh possibilities and calculate chances before making a choice. Yet because there is in us a longing, a want, a craving, we cannot know true perception or discernment. When you realize this, when you become aware of it with your whole being, emotionally as well as with the mind, when you realize the futility of want, then want ceases; then you are freed from that feeling of emptiness. In that flame of awareness there is no discipline, no effort.

But we do not perceive this fully; we do not become aware, because we experience a pleasure in want, because we are continually hoping that the pleasure in want shall dominate the pain. We strive to attain the pleasure even though we know it is not free from pain. If you become fully aware of the whole significance of this, you have wrought a miracle for yourself; then you will experience freedom from want, and therefore liberation from choice; then you will no longer be that limited consciousness, the "I".

Where there is dependency or the looking to another for support, for encouragement, where there is reliance on another, there is loneliness. In your looking to another for fulfillment, for happiness or well-being, in your looking to another for consolation, in your dependence on any person or idea as an authority in matters of religion - in all this there is utter loneliness. Because you are thus dependent and hence lonely, you seek comfort, or a way of escape; you seek authority and support from another to give you consolation. But when you become aware of the falseness of all this, when you become aware with your heart as well as with your mind, then there is cessation of loneliness, for then you no longer rely on another for your happiness.

So where there is choice there can be no discernment, for discernment is choiceless. Where there is choice and the capacity to choose, there is only limitation. Only when choice ceases is there liberation, fullness, richness of action, which is life itself. Creation is choiceless, as life is choiceless, as understanding is choiceless. Likewise is truth; it is a continuous action, an everbecoming, in which there is no choice. It is pure discernment.

Question: How can we get rid of incompleteness without form- ing some ideal of completeness? After the realization of completeness there may be no need for an ideal, but before the realization of completeness some ideal seems inevitable, although it will have to be provisional and will change according to the growth of understanding.

Krishnamurti: Your very saying that you need an ideal in order to overcome incompleteness shows that you are merely trying to superimpose that ideal on incompleteness. That is what most of you are trying to do. It is only when you find out the cause of incompleteness and are aware of that cause that you become complete. But you do not find out that cause. You do not understand what I am saying, or rather, you understand only with your minds, only intellectually. Anyone can do that, but really to understand demands action.

Now you feel incompleteness, and therefore you seek an ideal, the ideal of completeness. That is, you are seeking an opposite to incompleteness, and in wanting that opposite you merely create another opposite. This may sound puzzling, but it is not. You are continually seeking what seems to you the essential. One day you think this essential; you choose it, strive for it, and possess it, but meanwhile it has already become the unessential. Now if mind is free from all sense of duality, free from the idea of essential and nonessential, then you are not confronted by the problem of choice; then you act from the fullness of discernment, and you no longer seek the image of completeness.

Why do you cling to the ideal of freedom when you are in a prison? You create or invent that ideal of freedom because you cannot escape from your prison. So also with your ideals, your gods, your religions: they are the creation of the desire for escape into comfort. You yourself have made the world into a prison, a prison of suffering and conflict; and because the world is such a prison, you create an ideal god, an ideal freedom, an ideal truth.

And these ideals, these opposites, are but attempts at emotional and mental escape. Your ideals are means of escape from the prison in which you are confined. But if you become conscious of that prison, if you become aware of the fact that you are trying to escape, then that awareness destroys the prison; then, instead of pursuing freedom, you will know freedom.

Freedom does not come to him who seeks freedom. Truth is not found by him who searches for truth. Only when you realize with your whole mind and heart the condition of the prison in which you live, when you realize the significance of that prison, only then are you free, naturally and without effort. This realization can come only when you are in a great crisis, but most of you try to avoid crises. Or, when you are confronted by a crisis, you at once seek comfort in the idea of religion, the idea of God, the idea of evolution; you turn to priests, to spiritual guides, for consolation; you seek diversion in amusements. All of these are but escapes from conflict. But if you really confront the crisis before you, if you realize the futility, the falseness of escape as a mere means of postponement of action, then in that awareness is born the flower of discernment.

So you must become aware in action, which will reveal the hidden pursuits of craving. But this awareness does not result from analysis. Analysis merely limits action. Have I answered that question?

Question: You have enumerated the successive steps of the process of creating authorities. Will you enumerate the steps of the inverse process, the process of liberating oneself from all authority.

Krishnamurti: I am afraid the question is wrongly stated. You do not ask what creates authority, but how to free yourself from authority. Please, let me say this again: Once you are aware of the cause of authority, you are free from that authority. The cause of the creation of authority is the important thing - not the steps leading to authority or the steps leading to the overthrow of authority.

Why do you create authority? What is the cause of your creating authority? It is, as I have said, the search for security, and I shall have to say this so often that it will become almost a formula for you. Now you are searching for a security in which you think you will need to make no effort, where you will not need to struggle with your neighbour. But you will not attain this state of security by searching for it. There is a state which is fulfillment, which is the assurance of bliss, a state in which you act from life; but that state you attain only when you no longer seek security. Only when you realize with your whole being that there is no such thing as security in life, only when you are free from this constant search, can there be fulfillment. So you create authority in the shape of ideals, in the shape of religious, social, economic systems, all based on the search for individual security. And you yourself are therefore responsible for the creation of authority, to which you have become a slave. Authority does not exist by itself. It has no existence apart from him who creates it. You have created it, and until you are aware with your whole being of the cause of its creation, you will be a slave to it. And you can become aware of that cause only when you are acting, not through self-analysis or intellectual discussion.

Question: I do not want a set of rules for being "aware", but I should very much like to understand awareness. Must not great effort be made to be aware of each thought as it arises, before one arrives at the state of effortlessness?

Krishnamurti: Why do you want to be aware? What is the need of being aware? If you are perfectly satisfied as you are, continue in that way. When you say, "I must be aware", you are merely making awareness another end to be attained, and by that means you will never become aware. You have disposed of one set of rules, and now you are creating another set, instead of trying to be aware when you are in a great crisis, when you are suffering.

As long as you seek comfort and security, as long as you are at your ease, you merely consider the matter intellectually, and say, "I must be aware." But when in the midst of suffering you try to find out the significance of suffering, when you do not try to escape from it, when in a crisis you arrive at a decision - not born of choice, but of action itself - then you really become aware. But when you are trying to escape, your attempt to be aware is futile. You don't really want to be aware, you don't want to discover the cause of suffering; your whole concern is with escape.

You come here and listen to my telling you that to escape from conflict is futile. Yet you desire to escape. So you really mean, "How can we do both?" Surreptitiously, cunningly, in the back of your minds you want the religions, the gods, the means of escape that you have cleverly invented and built up through the centuries. Yet you listen to me when I say that you will never find truth through the guidance of another, through escape, through the search for security, which results only in eternal loneliness. Then you ask, "How are we to attain both? How are we to compromise between escape and awareness?" You have confused the two and you seek a compromise; therefore you ask, "How am I to become aware?" But if, instead of this, you frankly say to yourself, "I want to escape, I want comfort", then you will find exploiters to give you want you want. You yourself have created exploiters because of your desire to escape. Find out what you want, become aware of what you crave; then the question of awareness will not arise. Because you are lonely you want consolation. But if you seek consolation, be honest, be frank, be aware of what you want and conscious that you are seeking it. Then we can understand the matter.

I can tell you that from dependence on another, from the search for comfort, results eternal loneliness. I can make this plain to you, and you, in turn, may agree or disagree. I can show you that in want there is eternal emptiness and nothingness. But you derive satisfaction from sensation, from pleasure, from passing joys that fill your wants, your desires. Then, when I show you the falsity of want, you do not know how to act. So, as a compromise, you begin to discipline yourself, and this attempt to discipline destroys your creative living. When you really perceive the absurdity, the emptiness of want, then that want falls away from you without your effort. But as long as you are enslaved to the idea of choice, you have to make an effort, and from this arises as an opposite the desire for awareness, the problem of living without effort.

Question: You speak to man, but man has first been a child. How can we educate a child without discipline?

Krishnamurti: Do you agree that discipline is futile? Do you feel the futility of discipline?

Comment from the audience: But you start from the point at which man is already man. I want to begin with the child as a child.

Krishnamurti: We are all children; all of us have to begin, not with others, but with ourselves. When we do this, then we shall find out the right way with children. You cannot begin with children because you are the parents of children, you must begin with yourselves. Say that you have a child. You believe in authority and train him according to that belief; but if you understood the futility of authority, you would liberate him from it. So first of all, you yourselves have to find out the significance of authority in your life.

What I say is very simple. I say that authority is created when the mind seeks comfort in security. Therefore, begin with yourselves. Begin with your own garden, not with someone else's. You want to create a new system of thought, a new system of ideas, a new system of behaviour; but you cannot create something new by reforming something old. You must break away from the old in order to begin the new; but you can break away from the old only when you understand the cause of the old.

1933, The Art of Listening

3rd Public Talk. Alpino, Italy; 6th July, 1933

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


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