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1933, The Art of Listening

4th Public Talk. Alpino, Italy; 9th July, 1933

Friends, before answering some of the questions that have been asked me, I shall give a brief talk concerning memory and time.

When you meet an experience wholly, completely, without bias or prejudice, it leaves no scar of memory. Every one of you goes through experiences, and if you meet them completely, with your whole being, then the mind is not caught up in the wave of memory. When your action is incomplete, when you do not meet an experience fully, but through the barriers of tradition, prejudice, or fear, then that action is followed by the gnawing of memory.

As long as there is this scar of memory, there must be the division of time as past, present and future. As long as mind is tethered to the idea that action must be divided into the past, present, and future, there is identification through time and therefore a continuity from which arises the fear of death, the fear of the loss of love. To understand timeless reality, timeless life, action must be complete. But you cannot become aware of this timeless reality by searching for it; you cannot acquire it by asking, "How can I obtain this consciousness?"

Now what is it that causes memory? What is it that prevents your acting completely, harmoniously, richly in every experience of life? Incomplete action arises when mind and heart are limited by hindrances, by barriers. If mind and heart are free, then you will meet every experience fully. But most of you are surrounded by barriers - the barriers of security, authority, fear, postponement. And since you have these barriers, you naturally act within them, and therefore you are unable to act completely. But when you become aware of these barriers, when you become aware with your heart and mind in the midst of a crisis, that awareness frees your mind without effort from the barriers that have been preventing your complete action,

Thus, as long as there is conflict, there is memory. That is, when your action is born of incompleteness, then the memory of that action conditions the present. Such memory produces conflict in the present and creates the idea of consistency. You admire the man who is consistent, the man who has established a principle and acts in accordance with that principle. You attach the idea of nobility and virtue to a person who is consistent. Now consistency results from memory. That is, because you have not acted completely, because you have not understood the whole significance of experience in the present, you establish artificially a principle according to which you resolve to live tomorrow. Therefore your mind is being guided, trained, controlled by the lack of understanding, which you call consistency.

Now please don't go to the other extreme, to the opposite, and think that you must be utterly inconsistent. I am not urging you to be inconsistent; I am talking of your freeing yourself from the fetish of consistency which you have set up, freeing yourself from the idea that you must fit into a pattern. You have established the principle of consistency because you have not understood; from your lack of understanding you evolve the idea that you must be consistent, and you measure any experience that confronts you by the idea that you have established, by the idea or principle that is born only through the lack of understanding.

So consistency, living according to a pattern, exists as long as your life lacks richness, as long as your action is not complete. If you observe your own mind in action, you will see that you are continually trying to be consistent. You say, "I must", or "I must not."

I hope that you have understood what I have said in my former talks; otherwise what I say today will have little meaning for you.

I repeat that this idea of consistency is born when you do not meet life wholly, completely, when you meet life through a memory; and when you constantly follow a pattern, you are but increasing the consistency of that memory. You have created the idea of consistency by your refusal to meet freely, openly, and without prejudice, every experience of life. That is, you are always meeting experiences partially, and out of that arises conflict.

To overcome that conflict you say that you must have a principle; you establish a principle, an ideal, and strive to condition your action by it. That is, you are constantly trying to imitate; you are trying to control your daily experience, the actions of your everyday life, through the idea of consistency. But when you really understand this, when you understand it with your heart and mind, with your complete being, then you will see the falsity of imitation and of being consistent. When you are aware of this, you begin to free your mind without effort from this long- established habit of consistency, though this does not mean that you must become inconsistent.

To me, then, consistency is the sign of memory, memory that results from lack of true comprehension of experience. And that memory creates the idea of time; it creates the idea of the present, past, and future, on which all our actions are based. We consider what we were yesterday, what we shall be tomorrow. Such an idea of time will exist as long as mind and heart are divided. As long as action is not born of completeness, there must be the division of time. Time is but an illusion, it is but the incompleteness of action.

A mind that is trying to mould itself after an ideal, to be consistent to a principle, naturally creates conflict, because it constantly limits itself in action. In that there is no freedom; in that there is no comprehension of experience. In meeting life in that way you are meeting it only partially; you are choosing, and in that choosing you lose the full significance of experience. You live incompletely, and hence you seek comfort in the idea of reincarnation; hence your question, "What happens to me when I die?" Since you do not live fully in your daily life, you say, "I must have a future, more time in which to live completely."

Do not seek to remedy that incompleteness, but become aware of the cause that prevents you from living completely. You will find that this cause is imitation, conformity, consistency, the search for security which gives birth to authority. All these keep you from the completeness of action because, under their limitation, action becomes but a series of achievements leading to an end, and hence to continued conflict and suffering.

Only when you meet experiences without barriers will you find continual joy; then you will no longer be burdened by the weight of memory that prevents action. Then you will live in the completeness of time. That to me is immortality.

Question: Meditation and the discipline of mind have greatly helped me in life. Now by listening to your teaching I am greatly confused, because it discards all self-discipline. Has meditation likewise no meaning to you? Or have you a new way of meditation to offer us? Krishnamurti: As I have already explained, where there is choice there must be conflict, because choice is based on want. Where there is want there is no discernment, and therefore your choice merely creates a further obstacle. When you suffer, you want happiness, comfort, you want to escape from suffering; but since want prevents discernment, you blindly accept any idea, any belief that you think will give you relief from conflict. You may think that you reason in making your choice, but you do not.

In this way you have set up ideas which you call noble, worthy, admirable, and you force your mind to conform to these ideas; or you concentrate on a particular picture or image, and thereby you create a division in your action. You try to control your action through meditation, through choice. If you do not understand what I am saying, please interrupt me, so that we can discuss it.

As I have said, when you experience sorrow, you immediately begin to search for the opposite. You want to be comforted, and in your search you accept any comfort, any palliative, that will give you momentary satisfaction. You may think that you reason before you accept such comfort, such relief, but in reality you accept it blindly, without reason, for where there is want there cannot be true discernment.

Now meditation, for most people, is based on the idea of choice. In India, the idea is carried to its extreme. There the man who can sit still for a long period of time, dwelling continuously on one idea, is considered spiritual. But, actually, what has he done? He has discarded all ideas except the one that he has deliberately chosen, and his choice gives him satisfaction. He has trained his mind to concentrate on this one idea, this one picture; he controls and thereby limits his mind and hopes to overcome conflict.

Now to me, this idea of meditation - of course I have not described it in detail - is utterly absurd. It is not really meditation; it is a clever escape from conflict, an intellectual feat that has nothing whatever to do with true living. You have trained your mind to conform to a certain rule according to which you hope to meet life. But you will never meet life as long as you are held in a mould. Life will pass you by because you have already limited your mind by your own choice.

Why do you feel that you must meditate? Do you mean by meditation, concentration? If you are really interested, then you do not struggle, force yourself to concentrate. Only when you are not interested do you have to force yourself brutally and violently. But in forcing yourself, you destroy your mind, and then your mind is no longer free, nor is your emotion. Both are crippled. I say that there is a joy, a peace, in meditation without effort, and that can come only when your mind is freed from all choice, when your mind is no longer creating a division in action.

We have tried to train the mind and heart to follow a tradition, a way of life, but through such training we have not understood, we have merely created opposites. Now I am not saying that action must be impetuous, chaotic. What I say is that when the mind is caught up in division, that division will continue to exist even though you strive to suppress it by means of consistency. to a principle, even though you try to dominate and overcome it by establishing an ideal. What you call the spiritual life is a continual effort, a ceaseless striving, by which the mind tries to cling to one idea, one image; it is a life, therefore, which is not full, complete.

After listening to this talk you may say: "I have been told that I should live fully, completely; that I must not be bound by an ideal, a principle; that I must not be consistent - therefore I shall do what I like." Now that is not the idea that I wish to leave with you in this last talk. I am not talking about action that is merely impetuous, impulsive, thoughtless: I am talking about action that is complete, which is ecstasy. And I say that you cannot act fully by forcing your mind, by strenuously moulding your mind, by living in conformity with an idea, a principle, or a goal.

Have you ever considered the person who meditates? He is a person who chooses. He chooses that which he likes, that which will give him what he calls help. So what he is really seeking is something that will give him comfort, satisfaction - a kind of dead peace, a stagnation. And yet, the man who is able to meditate we call a great man, a spiritual man.

Our whole effort is concerned with this superimposition of what we call right ideas on what we consider wrong ideas, and by this attempt we continually create a division in action. We do not free the mind from division; we do not understand that that continuous choice born of want, of emptiness, of craving, is the cause of this division. When we experience a feeling of emptiness, we want to fill that emptiness, that void; when we experience incompleteness, we want to escape that incompleteness which causes suffering. For this purpose we invent an intellectual satisfaction which we call meditation.

Now you will say that I have given you no constructive or positive instruction. Beware of the man who offers you positive methods, for he is giving you merely his pattern, his mould. If you really live, if you try to free the mind and heart from all limitation - not through self-analysis and introspection, but through awareness in action - then the obstacles that now hinder you from the completeness of life will fall away. This awareness is the joy of meditation - meditation that is not the effort of an hour, but which is action, which is life itself.

You ask me: "Have you a new way of meditation to offer us?" Now you meditate in order to achieve a result. You meditate with the idea of gain, just as you live with the idea of reaching a spiritual height, a spiritual altitude. You may strive for that spiritual height; but I assure you that, though you may appear to attain it, you will still experience the feeling of emptiness. Your meditation has no value in itself, as your action has no value in itself, because you are constantly looking for a culmination, a reward. Only when mind and heart are free of this idea of achievement, this idea born of effort, choice, and gain - only when you are free of that idea, I say, is there an eternal life which is not a finality, but an everbecoming, an everrenewing.

Question: I recognize a conflict within me, yet that conflict does not create a crisis, a consuming flame within me, urging me to resolve that conflict and realize truth. How would you act in my place?

Krishnamurti: The questioner says that he recognizes the conflict within him, but that that conflict causes no crisis and therefore no action. I feel that is the case with the majority of people. You ask what you should do. Whatever you try to do, you do intellectually, and therefore falsely. It is only when you are really willing to face your conflict and understand it fully, that you will experience a crisis. But because such a crisis demands action, most of you are unwilling to face it.

I cannot push you into the crisis. Conflict exists in you, but you want to escape that conflict; you want to find a means whereby you can avoid it, postpone it. So when you say, "I cannot resolve my conflict into a crisis", your words merely show that your mind is trying to avoid the conflict - and the freedom that results from facing it completely. As long as your mind is carefully, surreptitiously avoiding conflict, as long as it is searching for comfort through escape, no one can help you to complete action, no one can push you into a crisis that will resolve your conflict. When you once realize this - not see it merely intellectually, but also feel the truth of it - then your conflict will create the flame which will consume it.

Question: This is what I have gathered from listening to you: One becomes aware only in a crisis; a crisis involves suffering. So if one is to be aware all the time, one must live continually in a state of crisis, that is, a state of mental suffering and agony. This is a doctrine of pessimism, not of the happiness and ecstasy of which you speak.

Krishnamurti: I am afraid you haven't listened to what I have been saying. You know, there are two ways of listening: there is the mere listening to words, as you listen when you are not really interested, when you are not trying to fathom the depths of a problem; and there is the listening which catches the real significance of what is being said, the listening that requires a keen, alert mind. I think that you have not really listened to what I have been saying.

First of all, if there is no conflict, if your life has in it no crises and you are perfectly happy, then why bother about conflicts and crises? If you are not suffering, then I am very glad! Our whole system of life is arranged so that you may escape from suffering. But the man who faces the cause of suffering, and is thereby freed from that suffering, you call a pessimist.

I shall again explain briefly what I have been saying, so that you will understand. Each one of you is conscious of a great void, an emptiness within you, and being conscious of that emptiness, you either try to fill it or to run away from it; and both acts amount to the same thing. You choose what will fill that emptiness, and this choosing you call progress or experience. But your choice is based on sensation, on craving, and hence involves neither discernment, nor intelligence, nor wisdom. You choose today that which gives you a greater satisfaction, a greater sensation than you received from yesterday's choice. So what you call choice is merely your way of running away from the emptiness within you, and hence you are merely postponing the understanding of the cause of suffering.

Thus, the movement from sorrow to sorrow, from sensation to sensation, you call evolution, growth. One day you choose a hat that gives you satisfaction; the next day you tire of that satisfaction, and want another - a car, a house, or you want what you call love. Later on, as you become tired of these, you want the idea or the image of a god. So you progress from the wanting of a hat to the wanting of a god, and therein you think you have made admirable spiritual advancement. Yet all these choices are based merely on sensation, and all that you have done is to change your objects of choice.

Where there is choice there must be conflict, because choice is based on craving, on the desire to complete the emptiness within you or to escape from that emptiness. Instead of trying to understand the cause of suffering, you are constantly trying to conquer that suffering or to escape from it, which is the same thing. But I say, find out the cause of your suffering. That cause, you will discover, is continual want, continual craving that blinds discernment. If you understand that - if you understand it not just intellectually, but with your whole being - then your action will be free from the limitation of choice; then you are really living, living naturally, harmoniously, not individualistically, in utter chaos, as now. If you live fully, your life does not result in discord, because your action is born of richness and not of poverty.

Question: How can I know action and the illusion from which it springs if I do not probe action and examine it? How can we hope to know and recognize our barriers if we do not examine them? Then why not analyze action?

Krishnamurti: Please, since my time is limited, this is the last question that I shall be able to answer.

Have you tried to analyze your action? Then, when you were analyzing it, that action was already dead. If you try to analyze your movement when you are dancing, you put an end to that movement; but if your movement is born of full awareness, full consciousness, then you know what your movement is in the very action of that movement; you know without attempting to analyze. Have I made that clear?

I say that if you analyze action, you will never act; your action will become slowly restricted and will finally result in the death of action. The same thing applies to your mind, your thought, your emotion. When you begin to analyze, you put an end to movement; when you try to dissect an intense feeling, that feeling dies. But if you are aware with your heart and mind, if you are fully conscious of your action, then you will know the source from which action springs. When we act, we are acting partially, we are not acting with our whole being. Hence, in our attempt to balance the mind against the heart, in our attempt to dominate the one by the other, we think that we must analyze our action.

Now what I am trying to explain requires an understanding that cannot be given to you through words. Only in the moment of true awareness can you become conscious of this struggle for domination; then, if you are interested in acting harmoniously, completely, you become aware that your action has been influenced by your fear of public opinion, by the standards of a social system, by the concepts of civilization. Then you become aware of your fears and prejudices without analyzing them; and the moment you become aware in action, these fears and prejudices disappear.

When you are aware with your mind and heart of the necessity for complete action, you act harmoniously. Then all your fears, your barriers, your desire for power, for attainment - all these reveal themselves, and the shadows of disharmony fade away.

1933, The Art of Listening

4th Public Talk. Alpino, Italy; 9th July, 1933

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


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