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1933, The Art of Listening

1st Public Talk. Frognerseteren, Norway; 6th September, 1933

Friends, our very search for the understanding of life, for the meaning of life, our struggle to comprehend the whole substance of life or to find out what truth is, destroys our understanding. In this talk I am going to try to explain that where there is a search to understand life, or to find out the significance of life, that very search perverts our judgment.

If we suffer, we want an explanation of that suffering; we feel that if we don't search, if we don't try to find out the meaning of existence, then we are not progressing or gaining wisdom. So we are constantly making an effort to understand, and in that search for understanding we consciously or unconsciously set up a goal towards which we are driven. We establish a goal, the ideal of a perfect life, and we try to be true to that goal, to that end.

As I have said, consciously or unconsciously we set up a goal, a purpose, a principle or belief, and having established that we try to be true to it; we try to be true to an experience which we have but partly understood. By that process we establish a duality. Because we do not understand the immediate with its problems, with its conventions, because we do not understand the present, we establish an idea, a goal, an end, towards which we try to advance. Because we are not prepared to be alert in meeting suffering wholly as it comes, because we have not the capacity to face experience, we try to establish a goal and be consistent. Thereby we develop a duality in action, in thought, and in feeling, and from this duality there arises a problem. In that development of duality lies the cause of the problem.

All ideals must ever be of the future. A mind that is divided, a mind that is striving after the future, cannot understand the present, and thus it develops a duality in action.

Now, having created a problem, having created a conflict, because we cannot meet the present wholly, we try to find a solution for the problem. That is what we are constantly doing, isn't it? All of us have problems. Most of you are here because you think that I am going to help you solve your many problems, and you will be disappointed when I say that I cannot solve them. What I am going to do is try to show the cause of the problem, and then you, by understanding, can solve your problem for yourself. The problem exists as long as mind and heart are divided in action. That is, when we have established an idea in the future and are trying to be consistent, we are incapable of meeting the present fully; so, having created a problem, we try to seek a solution, which is but an escape.

We imagine that we find solutions for various problems, but in finding solutions we have not really solved, we have not understood the cause of the problem. The moment we have solved one problem, another arises, and so we continue to the end of our lives seeking solutions to an endless series of problems. In this talk I want to explain the cause of the problem and the manner of dissolving it.

As I have said, a problem exists as long as there is reaction - either a reaction to external standards, or a reaction to an inner standard, as when you say, "I must be true to this idea", or, "I must be true to this belief." Most educated, thoughtful people have discarded external standards, but they have developed inner standards. We discard an external standard because we have created an inner standard to which we are trying to be true, a standard which is continually guiding us and shaping us, a standard which creates duality in our action. As long as there are standards to which we are trying to be true, there will be problems, and hence the continual search for the solution of these problems.

These inner standards exist as long as we do not meet the experiences and incidents of life wholly. As long as there is a guiding principle in our lives to which we are trying to be true, there must be duality in action, and therefore a problem. That duality will exist as long as there is conflict, and conflict exists wherever there is the limitation of self-consciousness, the "I". Though we have discarded external standards and have found for ourselves an inner principle, an inner law, to which we are trying to be true, there is still distinction in action, and hence an incompleteness in understanding. It is only when we understand, when we no longer search for understanding, that there is an effortless existence.

So when I say, do not seek a solution, do not search for an end, I do not mean that you must turn to the opposite and become stagnant. My point is: Why do you seek a solution? Why are you incapable of meeting life openly, nakedly, simply, fully? Be- cause you are continually trying to be consistent. Therefore there is the exertion of will to conquer the immediate obstacle; there is conflict, and you do not try to find out the cause of the conflict. To me this continual search for truth, for understanding, for the solution of various problems, is not progress; this going from one problem to another is not evolution. Only when the mind and heart meet every idea, every incident, every experience, every expression of life, fully - only then can there be a continual becoming which is not stagnation. But the search for a solution, which we mistakenly call progress, is merely stagnation.

Question: Do you mean to say that sooner or later all human beings will inevitably, in the course of existence, attain perfection, complete liberation from all that binds them? If so, why make any effort now?

Krishnamurti: You know, I am not talking of the mass. To me there is not this division of the individual and the mass. I am talking to you as individuals. After all, the mass is but yourself multiplied. If you understand, you will give understanding. Understanding is like the light that dispels darkness. But if you do not understand, if you apply what I am saying only to the other man, the man outside, then you are but increasing darkness.

So you want to know if you - not this imaginary man from the mass - if you will inevitably attain perfection. If that is so, you think, why make any effort in the present? I quite agree. If you think that you will inevitably realize the ecstasy of living, why trouble yourself? But nevertheless, because you are caught up in conflict, you are making an effort.

I will put it differently: It is like saying to a hungry man that he will inevitably find some means of satisfying his hunger. How does it help him today if you tell him that he will be fed ten days hence? By that time he may be dead. So the question is not, "Is there inevitably perfection for me as an individual?" Rather, it is, "Why do I make this ceaseless effort?"

To me, a man who is pursuing virtue is no longer virtuous. Yet that is what we are doing all the time. We are trying to be perfect; we are engaged in the incessant effort to be something. But if we make an effort because we are really suffering and because we want to be free from that suffering, then our chief concern is not perfection - we do not know what perfection is. We can only imagine it or read of it in books. Therefore, it must be illusory. Our chief concern is not with perfection, but with the question, "What creates this conflict that demands effort?"

Comment from audience: Is not the spiritual man always perfect?

Krishnamurti: A spiritual man may be, but we are not. That is, we have a sense of duality; we think of a higher man who is perfect and a lower man who is not, and we think of the higher man as trying to dominate the lower. Please try to follow this for a moment, whether you agree or disagree.

You can know only the present conflict; you cannot know perfection so long as you are in conflict. So you need not be concerned with what perfection is, with the question of whether or not man is perfect, whether or not spirit is perfect, whether or not soul is perfect; you are not concerned with that. But surely you are concerned with what causes suffering.

You know, a man confined in a prison is concerned with the destruction of that prison in order to be free; he is not concerned with freedom as an abstract idea. Now you are not concerned with what causes suffering, but you are concerned with the way of escaping from that suffering into perfection. So you want to know if you as an individual will ever realize perfection.

I say that that is not the point. The point is, are you conscious in the present, are you fully aware in the present, of the limitations that create suffering. If you know the cause of suffering, from that you will know what perfection is. But you cannot know perfection before you are free of suffering. That is the cause of limitation. So do not question whether you will ever attain perfection, whether the soul is perfect, or whether the God in you is perfect, but become fully conscious of the limitations of your mind and heart in action. And these limitations you can discover only when you act, when you are not trying to imitate an idea or a guiding principle.

You know, our minds are clogged with national and international standards, with standards that we have received from our parents and standards that we have evolved for ourselves. Guided by these standards we meet life. Therefore we are incapable of understanding. We can understand only when our minds are really fresh, simple, eager - not when they are burdened with ideas.

Now each of us has many limitations, limitations of which we are wholly unconscious. The very question, "Is there perfection?" implies the consciousness of limitation. But you cannot discover these limitations by analyzing the past. The attempt to analyze oneself is destructive, but that is what you are trying to do. You say, "I know that I have many limitations; so I shall examine, I shall search and discover what my barriers and limitations are, and then I shall be free." When you do that you are but creating a new set of barriers, hindrances. To really discover the false standards and barriers of the past you must act with full awareness in the present, and in that activity you become aware of all the undiscovered hindrances. Experiment, and you will see. Begin to move with full awareness, with fully awakened consciousness in action, and you will see that you have innumerable barriers, beliefs, limitations, that prevent your acting freely.

Therefore I say, self-analysis, analysis to discover the cause in the past, is false. You can never find out from that which is dead, but only from that which is living; and what is living is ever in the present and not in the past. What you must do is to meet the present with full awareness.

Question: Who is the saviour of souls?

Krishnamurti: If one thinks about it for a moment, one sees that that phrase, "the saviour of souls", has no meaning. What is it that we mean when we say a soul? An individual entity? Please correct me if I am wrong. What do we mean when we talk about a soul? We mean a limited consciousness. To me there is only that eternal life - contrasted with that limited consciousness which we call the "I". When that "I" exists, there is duality - the soul and the saviour of souls, the lower and the higher. You can understand that complete unity of life only with the cessation of self-consciousness or "I"-ness which creates the duality. To me immortality, that eternal becoming, has nothing in common with individuality. If man can free himself of his many limitations, then that freedom is eternal life; then mind and heart know eternity. But man cannot discover eternity so long as there is limitation.

So the question, "Who is the saviour of souls?" ceases to have any meaning. It arises because we are looking at life from the point of view of self-limited consciousness which we call the "I". Therefore we say, "Who will save me? Who will save my soul?" No one can save you. You have held that belief for centuries, and yet you are suffering; there is still utter chaos in the world. You yourself must understand; nothing can give you wisdom except your own action in the present, which must create harmony out of conflict. Only from that can wisdom arise.

Question: Some say that your teaching is only for the learned and the intellectual and not for the masses, who are doomed to constant struggle and suffering in daily life. Do you agree?

Krishnamurti: What do you say? Why should I agree or disagree? I have something to say, and I say it. I am afraid that it is not the learned who will understand. Perhaps this little story will make clear what I mean: Once a merchant, who had some time on his hands, went to an Indian sage and said, "I have an hour to spare; please tell me what truth is." The sage replied, "You have read and studied many books. The first thing that you must do is to suppress all that you have learned."

What I am saying is not only applicable to the leisured class, to the people who are supposed to be intelligent, well-educated - and I am purposely using the word "supposed" - but also to the so-called masses. Who are keeping the masses in daily toil? The intelligent, those who are supposedly learned; isn't that so? But if they were really intelligent they would find a way to free the masses from daily toil. What I am saying is applicable not only to the learned, but to all human beings.

You have leisure to listen to me. Now you may say, "Well, I have understood a little, and therefore I am going to use that little understanding to change the world." But you will never change or alter the world that way. You may listen for a while and you may think that you have understood something, and say to yourself, "I am going to use this knowledge to reform the world." Such reform would be merely patchwork. But if you really understood what I am saying, you would create disturbance in the world - that emotional and mental disquiet from which there comes about the betterment of conditions. That is, if you understand you will try to create a state of discontent about you, and that you can do only if you change yourself; you cannot do this if you think that what I say is applicable to the learned only rather than to yourself. The man in the street is you. So the question is: Do you understand what I am saying?

If you are intensely caught up in conflict, you want to find out the cause of that conflict. Now if you are fully aware of that conflict, you will find that your mind is trying to escape, trying to avoid facing that conflict completely. It is not a question of whether or not you understand me, but whether you as an individual are completely aware, alive to confront life wholly. What prevents you from meeting life wholly? That is the point. What prevents you from meeting life wholly is the continual action of memory, of a standard from which arises fear.

Question: According to you, there appears to be no connection between intellect and intelligence. But you speak of awakened intelligence as one might of trained intellect. What is intelligence, and how can it be awakened?

Krishnamurti: Training the intellect does not result in intelligence. Rather, intelligence comes into being when one acts in perfect harmony, both intellectually and emotionally. There is a vast distinction between intellect and intelligence. Intellect is merely thought functioning independently of emotion. When intellect, irrespective of emotion, is trained in any particular direction, one may have great intellect, but one does not have intelligence, because in intelligence there is the inherent capacity to feel as well as to reason; in intelligence both capacities are equally present, intensely and harmoniously.

Now modern education is developing the intellect, offering more and more explanations of life, more and more theories, without the harmonious quality of affection. Therefore we have developed cunning minds to escape from conflict; hence we are satisfied with explanations that scientists and philosophers give us. The mind - the intellect - is satisfied with these innumerable explanations, but intelligence is not, for to understand there must be complete unity of mind and heart in action. That is, now you have a business mind, a religious mind, a sentimental mind. Your passions have nothing to do with business; your daily earning mind has nothing to do with your emotions. And you say that this condition cannot be altered. If you bring your emotions into business, you say, business cannot be well managed or be honest. So you divide your mind into compartments: in one compartment you keep your religious interest, in another your emotions, in a third your business interest which has nothing to do with your intellectual and emotional life. Your business mind treats life merely as a means of getting money in order to live. So this chaotic existence, this division of your life continues.

If you really used your intelligence in business, that is, if your emotions and your thought were acting harmoniously, your business might fail. It probably would. And you will probably let it fail when you really feel the absurdity, the cruelty and the exploitation that is involved in this way of living. Until you really approach all of life with your intelligence, instead of merely with your intellect, no system in the world will save man from the ceaseless toil for bread.

Question: You often talk of the necessity of understanding our experiences. Will you please explain what you mean by understanding an experience in the right way?

Krishnamurti: To understand an experience fully you must come to it freshly each time it confronts you. To understand experience you must have an open, simple clarity of mind and heart. But we do not approach the experiences of life with that attitude. Memory prevents us from approaching experience openly, nakedly. Isn't that so? Memory prevents us from meeting experience wholly, and therefore it prevents us from understanding experience completely.

Now what causes memory? To me, memory is but the sign of incomplete understanding. When you meet an experience wholly, when you live fully, that experience or that incident does not leave the scar of memory. Only when you live partially, when you do not meet experience wholly, there is memory; only in incompleteness is there memory. Isn't that so? Take, for instance, your being consistent to a principle. Why are you consistent? You are consistent because you cannot meet life openly, freely; therefore you say, "I must have a principle that will guide me." Hence the constant struggle to be consistent, and with that memory as a background you meet every incident of life. Thus there is incompleteness in your understanding because you approach experience with a mind that is already burdened. Only when you meet all things, whatever they are, with an unburdened mind, only then will you have true understanding.

"But", you say, "what am I to do with all the memories that I have?" You cannot discard them. But what you can do is meet your next experience wholly; then you will see those past memories come into action, and then is the time to meet them and to dissolve them.

So what gives right understanding is not the residue of many experiences. You cannot meet new experiences wholly when the remainder of past experiences is burdening your mind. Yet that is how you are continually meeting them. That is, your mind has learned to be careful, to be cunning, to act as a signal, to give a warning; therefore, you cannot meet any incident fully. To free your mind of memory, to free it from this burden of experience, you must meet life fully; in that action your past memories come into activity, and in the flame of awareness they are dissolved. Try it and you will see.

As you go away from here you will meet friends; you will see the sunset, the long shadows. Be fully aware in these experiences, and you will find that all kinds of memories surge forward; in your acute awareness you will understand the falseness and the strength of these memories, and you will be able to dissolve them; You will then meet with full awareness every experience of life.

1933, The Art of Listening

1st Public Talk. Frognerseteren, Norway; 6th September, 1933

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


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