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1933, The Art of Listening

3rd Public Talk. Adyar, India; 31st December, 1933

If one can find an absolute guarantee of security, then one has fear of nothing. If one can be certain of anything, then fear ceases wholly, fear either of the present or of the future. Therefore we are always seeking security, consciously or unconsciously, security that eventually becomes our exclusive possession. Now there is physical security which, in the present state of civilization, a man can amass through his cunning, his cleverness, through exploitation. Physically he may thus make himself secure, while emotionally he turns for security to so-called love, which is for the most part possessiveness; he turns to the egoistic emotional distinctions of family, of friends, and of nationality. Then there is the constant search for mental security in ideas, in beliefs, in the pursuit of virtue, systems, certainties, and so-called knowledge.

So we entrench ourselves continually; through possessiveness we build around ourselves securities, comforts, and try to feel assured, safe, certain. That is what we are constantly doing. But though we entrench ourselves behind the securities of knowledge, virtue, love, possession, though we build up many certainties, we are but building on sand, for the waves of life are constantly beating against their foundations, laying open the structures that we have so carefully and sedulously built. Experiences come, one after another, which destroy all previous knowledge, all previous certainties, and all our securities are swept away, scattered like chaff before the wind. So, though we may think that we are secure, we live in continual fear of death, fear of change and loss, fear of revolution, fear of gnawing uncertainty. We are constantly aware of the transiency of thought. We have built up innumerable walls behind which we seek security and comfort, but fear is still gnawing at our hearts and minds. So we continually look for substitution, and that substitution becomes our goal, our aim. We say, "This belief has proved to be of no value, so let me turn to another set of beliefs, another set of ideas, another philosophy." Our doubt ends merely in substitution, not in the questioning of belief itself. It is not doubt that questions, but the desire for securities. Hence your so-called search for truth becomes merely a search for more per- manent securities, and you accept as your teacher, your guide, anyone who offers to give you absolute security, certainty, comfort.

That is how it is with most people. We want and we search. We try to analyze the substitutes which others suggest to take the place of the securities which we know and which are steadily being eaten away, corroded, by the experience of life. But fear cannot be got rid of by substitution, by removing one set of beliefs and replacing it by another. Only when we find out the true value of the beliefs that we hold, the lasting significance of our possessive instincts, our knowledge, the securities that we have built up, only in that understanding can we put an end to fear. Understanding comes not from seeking substitutes, but from questioning, from really coming into conflict with traditions, from doubting the established ideas of society, of religion, of politics. After all, the cause of fear is the ego and the consciousness of that ego, which is created by lack of understanding. Because of this lack of understanding we seek securities, and thereby strengthen that limited self-consciousness.

Now as long as the ego exists, as long as there is consciousness of the "my", there must be fear; and this ego will exist as long as we desire substitutes, as long as we do not understand the things about us, the things that we have established, the very monuments of tradition, the habits, ideas, beliefs in which we take shelter. And we can understand these traditions and beliefs, find out their true significance, only when we come into conflict with them. We cannot understand them theoretically, intellectually, but only in the fullness of thought and emotion, which is action.

To me, the ego represents the lack of perception which creates time. When you understand a fact completely, when you understand the experiences of life wholly, unreservedly, time ceases. But you cannot understand experience completely if you are constantly seeking certainty, comfort, if your mind is entrenched in security. To understand an experience in all its significance, you must question, you must doubt the securities, the traditions, the habits, which you have built up, for they prevent the completeness of understanding. Out of that questioning, out of that conflict, if that conflict is real, dawns understanding; and in that understanding, self-consciousness, limited consciousness, disappears.

You must discover what you are seeking, security or understanding. If you are seeking security, you will find it in philosophy, in religions, traditions, authority; but if you desire to understand life, in which there is no security, comfort, then there is enduring free- dom. And you can discover what you are seeking only by being aware in action; you cannot find out by merely questioning action. When you question and analyze action, you put an end to action. But if you are aware, if you are intense in your action, if you give to it your whole mind and heart, then that action will reveal whether you are thereby seeking comfort, security, or that infinite understanding which is the eternal movement of life.

Question: In her Autobiography Dr. Besant has said that she entered from storm into peace for the first time in her life when she met her great Master. Her magnificent life from then onwards had its motive power in her unstinted and ceaseless devotion to her Master, expressed through the joy of service to him. You yourself, in your poetic words, have declared your inexpressible joy in the union with the Beloved and in seeing his face wherever you turned. Could not the influence of a Master, such as was evident in the great life of Dr. Besant and in your own, be equally significant in other lives?

Krishnamurti: You are asking me, in other words, whether Masters are necessary, whether I believe in Masters, whether their influence is beneficial, and whether they exist. That is the whole question, is it not? Very well, sirs. Now whether or not you believe in Masters (and some of you do believe in them), please don't close your minds against what I am going to say. Be open, critical. Let us examine the question comprehensively, rather than discuss whether you or I believe in Masters.

First of all, to understand truth you must stand alone, entirely and wholly alone. No Master, no teacher, no guru, no system, no self-discipline will ever lift for you the veil which conceals wisdom. Wisdom is the understanding of enduring values and the living of those values. No one can lead you to wisdom. That is obvious, isn't it? We need not even discuss it. No one can force you, no system can urge you to free yourself from the instinct of possessiveness until you yourself voluntarily understand, and in that understanding there is wisdom. No Master, no guru, no teacher, no system can force you to that understanding. Only the suffering that you yourself experience can make you see the absurdity of possession from which arises conflict; and out of that suffering comes understanding. But when you seek escape from that suffering, when you seek shelter, comfort, then you must have Masters, you must have philosophy and belief; then you turn to such refuges of safety as religion.

So with this understanding I am going to answer your question. Let us forget for the moment what Dr. Besant has said and done, or what I have said and done. Let us leave that aside. Don't bring Dr. Besant into the discussion; if you do, you will react emotionally, those of you who are in sympathy with her ideas, and those of you who are not. You will say that she has brought me up, that I am disloyal, and such words which you use to show your disapproval. Let us put aside all this for the present and look at the question quite plainly and simply.

First of all, you want to know whether Masters exist. I say that whether they exist or not is of very little importance. Now please do not think that I am attacking your beliefs. I realize that I am speaking to members of the Theosophical Society, and that I am your guest here. But you have asked me a question, and I am simply answering it. So let us consider why you want to know whether or not Masters exist. "Because", you say to yourselves, "Masters can guide us through the turmoil as a beacon from the lighthouse guides the mariner." But your saying that shows that you are merely seeking a harbour of safety, that you are afraid of the open sea of life.

Or, again, you may ask the question because you want to strengthen your belief; you want substantiation, corroboration of your belief. Sirs, a thing that is a toy, though made beautiful by the corroboration of thousands of people, remains a toy. You say to me, "Our teachers have given us faith, but now you come to cast doubt on that faith. Therefore we want to know whether Masters exist or not. Please strengthen us in our belief that they exist; tell us whether or not you yourself were guided by them."

If you merely desire to be strengthened in your faith, then I cannot answer your question because I don't hold with faith. Faith is mere authority, blindness, hope, longing; it is a means of exploitation, whether here or in the Roman Catholic Church, or in any other religion. It is a means of forcing man to action, to righteous or unrighteous action. Strengthening of faith does not yield understanding: rather, the very doubting of that faith and the finding out of its significance brings understanding. What difference would it make if you were to see the Masters physically every day? You would still hold to your prejudices, your traditions, your habits; you would still be slaves to your cruelties, your bigoted, narrow beliefs, your lack of love, your pride in nationality, but these you would keep secretly under lock and key.

Then out of the first question arises a second:Do you doubt the messengers of the Masters?" I doubt everything, for it is only through doubt that one can discover, not through the placing of one's faith in something. But you have carefully, sedulously avoided doubt; you have discarded it as a fetter.

Then again you will say, "If I come in contact with the Masters, I can find out their plan for humanity." Do you mean a social plan, a plan for the physical welfare of man? Or do you refer to the spiritual welfare of man? If you reply, "Both", then I say that man cannot attain spiritual welfare through the agency of someone else. That lies entirely in his own hands. No one can plan that for another. Each man must find out for himself, he must understand; there is completeness in fulfillment, not in progress. But if you say, "We seek a plan for the physical welfare of man", then you must study economics and sociology. Then why not make Harold Laski your master, or Keynes, or Marx or Lenin? Each of these offers a plan for the welfare of man. But you don't want that. What you want, when you seek Masters, is shelter, a refuge of safety; you want to protect yourself from suffering, hide yourself from turmoil and conflict.

I say that there is no such thing as shelter, comfort. You can make only an artificial shelter, intellectually created. Because you have done this for generations, you have lost your creative intelligence. You have become authority-bound, crippled with beliefs, with false traditions and habits. Your hearts are dry, hard. That is why you support all manner of cruel systems of thought, leading to exploitation. That is why you encourage nationalism, why you lack brotherhood. You talk of brotherhood, but your words are meaningless as long as your hearts are bound by class distinctions. You who believe so profoundly in all these ideas, what have you, what are you? Empty shells resounding with words, words, words. You have lost all sense of feeling for beauty, for love; you support false institutions, false ideas. Those of you who believe in Masters and are following the system of these Masters, their plan, their messengers, what are you? In your exploitation, your nationalism, your ill-treatment of women and children, your acquisitiveness, you are just as cruel as the man who does not believe in Masters, in their plan, in their messengers. You have simply instituted new traditions for the old, new beliefs for the old; your nationalism is as cruel as of old, only you have more subtle arguments for your cruelties and exploitation.

As long as mind is caught up in belief, there is no understanding, there is no freedom. So to me, whether or not Masters exist is quite irrelevant to action, to fulfillment, with which we should concern ourselves. Even though their existence be a fact, it is of no importance; for to understand you must be independent, you must stand by yourself, completely naked, stripped of all security. This is what I said in my introductory talk. You must find out whether you are seeking security, comfort, or whether you are seeking understanding. If you really examine your own hearts, most of you will find that you are seeking security, comfort, places of safety, and in that search you provide yourselves with philosophies, gurus, systems of self-discipline; thus you are thwarting, continually narrowing down thought. In your efforts to escape from fear, you are entrenching yourselves in beliefs, and thereby increasing your own self-consciousness, your own egotism; you have merely grown more subtle, more cunning.

I know that I have said all these things previously in a different way, but apparently my words have had no effect. Either you want to understand what I say, or you are satisfied with your own beliefs and miseries. If you are satisfied with them, why have you invited me to talk here? Why do you listen to me? No, fundamentally you are not satisfied. You may profess to be satisfied; you may join institutions, perform new ceremonies, but inwardly you feel an uncertainty, a ceaseless gnawing that you never dare to face. Instead, you seek substitutes; you want to know whether I can give you new shelters, and that is why you have asked me this question. You want me to support you in those beliefs of which you are uncertain. You want inward stability, but I tell you that there is no such stability. You want me to give you certainties, assurances. I say that you have such certainties, such assurances by the hundred in your books, in your philosophies, but they are worthless to you; they are dust and ashes because in your own selves there is no understanding. You can have understanding, I assure you, only when you begin to doubt, when you begin to question the very shelters in which you are taking comfort, in which you are taking refuge.

But this means that you must come into conflict with the traditions and habits that you have set up. Perhaps you have discarded old traditions, old gurus, old ceremonies, and have taken on new ones. What is the difference? The new traditions, gurus, ceremonies are just the same as the old, except that they are more exclusive. By constantly questioning you will find out the real, the inherent value of traditions, gurus, ceremonies. I am not asking you to abandon ceremonies, to cease following the Masters. That is a very minor and unintelligent point; whether you perform ceremonies or look to Masters for guidance is not important. But as long as there is lack of understanding there is fear, there is sorrow, and the mere attempt to cover up that fear, that sorrow, through ceremonies, through the guidance of Masters, will not free you.

You have asked me this question before; you asked me the same question last year. And each time you ask it because you want to take shelter behind my answer; you want to feel safe, to put an end to doubt. Now I may contradict your belief; I may say that there are no Masters. Then another comes to tell you that Masters do exist. I say, doubt both answers, question both; don't merely accept them. You are not children, monkeys imitating someone else's action; you are human beings, not to be conditioned by fear. You are supposed to be creatively intelligent, but how can you be creatively intelligent if you follow a teacher, a philosophy, a practice, a system of self-discipline? Life is rich only to the man who is in the constant movement of thought, to the man whose actions are harmonious. In him there is affection, there is consideration. He whose actions are harmonious will utilize an intelligent system to heal the festering wounds of the world.

I know that what I am saying today I have said innumerable times; I have said it again and again. But you don't feel these things because you have explained away your suffering, and in these explanations, beliefs, you are taking shelter, comfort. You are concerned only with yourselves, with your own security, comfort, like men who struggle for government titles. You do the same thing in different ways, and your words of brotherhood, of truth, mean nothing; they are but empty talk.

Question: The one regret of Dr. Besant is said to have been the fact that you failed to rise to her expectations of you as the World Teacher. Some of us frankly share that regret and that sense of disappointment, and feel that it is not altogether without some justification. Have you anything to say? Krishnamurti: Nothing, sirs. (Laughter) When I say "Nothing", I mean nothing to relieve your disappointment or Dr. Besant's disappointment - if she were disappointed, for she often expressed to me the contrary. I am not here to justify myself; I am not interested in justifying myself. The question is, why are you disappointed, if you are? You had thought to put me in a certain cage, and since I did not fit into that cage, naturally you were disappointed. You had a preconceived idea of what I should do, what I should say, what I should think.

I say that there is immortality, an eternal becoming. The point is not that I know, but that it is. Beware of the man who says, "I know." Ever becoming life exists, but to realize that, your mind must be free of all preconceived ideas of what it is. You have preconceived ideas of God, of immortality, of life. "This is written in books", you say, or, "Someone has told me this." Thus you have built an image of truth, you have pictured God and immortality. You want to hold to that image, that picture, and you are disappointed in anyone whose idea differs from yours, anyone whose ideas do not conform to yours. In other words, if he does not become your tool, you are disappointed in him. If he does not exploit you - and you create the exploiter in your desire for security - then you are disappointed in him. Your disappointment is based not on thought, not on intelligence, not on deep affection, but on some image of your own making, however false it may be.

You will find people who will tell you that I have disappointed them, and they will create a body of opinion holding that I have failed. But in a hundred years' time I don't think it will matter much whether you are disappointed or not. Truth, of which I speak, will remain - not your fantasies or your disappointments.

Question: Do you consider it a sin for a man or a woman to enjoy illegitimate sexual intercourse. A young man wants to get rid of such illegitimate happiness which he considers wrong. He tries continually to control his mind but does not succeed. Can you show him any practical way to be happy?

Krishnamurti: In such things there is no"practical way." But let us consider the question; let us try to understand it, though not from the point of view of whether a certain act is a sin or not a sin. To me there is no such thing as sin.

Why has sex become a problem in our life? Why are there so many distortions, perversions, inhibitions, suppressions? Is it not because we are starving mentally and emotionally, we are incomplete in ourselves, we have but become imitative machines, and the only creative expression left to us, the only thing in which we can find happiness, is the thing which we call sex? As individuals we have mentally and emotionally ceased to be. We are mere machines in society, in politics, in religion. We as individuals have been utterly, ruthlessly destroyed through fear, through imitation, through authority. We have not released our creative intelligence through social, political and religious channels. Therefore the only creative expression left to us as individuals is sex, and to that we naturally assign tremendous importance, on that we place tremendous emphasis. That is why sex has become a problem, isn't it?

If you can release creative thought, creative emotion, then sex will no longer be a problem. To release that creative intelligence completely, wholly, you must question the very habit of thought, you must question the very tradition in which you are living, those very beliefs that have become automatic, spontaneous, instinctive. Through questioning you come into conflict, and that conflict and the understanding of it will awaken creative intelligence; in that questioning you will gradually release creative thought from imitation, from authority, from fear.

That is one side of the question. There is also another side to this question, which concerns food and exercise, and love of the work that you do. You have lost the love of your work. You have become clerks, slaves to a system, working for fifteen rupees or ten thousand rupees, not for the love of what you are doing.

With regard to illegitimate sexual intercourse, let us first consider what you mean by marriage. In most cases marriage is but the sanctification of possessiveness, by religion and by law. Suppose that you love a woman; you want to live with her, to possess her. Now society has innumerable laws to help you to possess, and various ceremonies which sanctify this possessiveness. An act that you would have considered sinful before marriage, you consider lawful after that ceremony. That is, before the law legalizes and religion sanctifies your possessiveness, you consider the act of intercourse illegal, sinful. Where there is love, true love, there is no question of sin, of legality or illegality. But unless you really think deeply about this, unless you make a real effort not to misunderstand what I have said, it will lead to all kinds of confusion. We are afraid of many things. To me the cessation of sex problems lies not in mere legislation, but in releasing that creative intelligence, in being complete in action, not separating mind and heart. The problem disappears only in living completely, wholly.

As I have been trying to make clear, you cannot cultivate nationalism and at the same time talk of brotherhood. I think it was Hitler who banished the idea of brotherhood from Germany because, he said, it was antagonistic to nationalism. But here you are trying to cultivate both. At heart you are nationalistic, possessive; you have class distinctions, and yet you talk about universal brotherhood, about world peace, about the unity and the oneness of life. As long as your action is divided, as long as there is no intimate connection between thinking, feeling, and action, and the full awareness of that intimate connection, there will be innumerable problems which take such predominance in your lives that they become a constant source of decay.

Question: What you say as to the necessity for freedom from all conformity, from all leadership and authority, is a useful teaching for some of us. But society and perhaps even religion, together with their institutions and a wise government, are essential for the vast majority of mankind and hence useful to them. I speak from years of experience. Do you disagree with this view?

Krishnamurti: What is poison to you is poison to another. If religious belief, if authority is false to you, it is false to everyone else. When you consider man as the questioner regards him, then you retain and cultivate a slavish mentality in him. That is what I call exploitation. That is the acquisitive or capitalistic attitude: "What is beneficial and useful for me is dangerous for you." So you keep as slaves those who are bound to authority, to religious beliefs. You do not bring into being new organizations, new institutions, to help these slaves to free themselves and not become slaves again to the new organizations and institutions.

Now I am not opposed to organizations, but I hold that no organization can lead man to truth. Yet all religious societies, sects, and groups are based on the idea that man can be guided to truth. Organizations should exist for the welfare of man, organizations not divided by nationalities, by class distinctions. This is the ultimate thing that will solve the immediate problem that confronts each people, the problem of exploitation, the problem of starvation.

You may insist that, as people are, they must be subjected to authority. But if you perceive that authority is perverting, crippling, then you will combat authority; you will discover new methods of education that will help man to free himself, without this curse of distinction. But when you look at life from a narrow, selfish, bigoted point of view, you inevitably ask such a question as this; you ask it because you are afraid that those over whom you have authority will no longer obey you. This consideration for the mass, for the many, is very superficial, false; it springs from fear, and must inevitably lead to exploitation. But if you truly perceived the significance of authority, of conforming to tradition, of shaping yourself after a pattern, of conditioning your mind and heart by a principle or ideal, then you would intelligently help man to free himself from them. Then you would see their shallowness and their degenerating effect, not only upon yourself or upon a few men, but upon the whole of mankind. Thereby you would help to release the creative power in man, whether in yourself or in someone else; you would no longer maintain this artificial distinction between man and man, as high and low, evolved and unevolved. But this does not mean that there is or that there will be equality; there is no such thing. There is only man in fulfillment. But the mind that creates distinction because it thinks of itself as separate is an exploiting mind, is a cruel mind, and against such a mind intelligence must ever be in revolt.

1933, The Art of Listening

3rd Public Talk. Adyar, India; 31st December, 1933

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

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