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1933, The Art of Listening

4th Public Talk. Adyar, India; 1st January, 1934

Krishnamurti was garlanded by a member of the audience who wished him a happy new year.

Krishnamurti: Thank you. I had forgotten that it is a new year. I wish you all a happy new year too.

In my brief talk this morning I want to explain how one may discover for oneself what is true satisfaction. Most people in the world are caught up in some kind of dissatisfaction, and they are constantly seeking satisfaction. That is, their search for satisfaction is a search for an opposite. Now dissatisfaction, discontent, arises from the feeling of emptiness, the feeling of loneliness, of boredom, and when you have this dissatisfaction you seek to fill the void, the emptiness in your life. When you are dissatisfied you are constantly seeking something to replace that which causes dissatisfaction, something to serve as a substitute, something that will give you satisfaction. You look to a series of achievements, a series of successes, to fill the aching void in your mind and in your heart. That is what most of you are trying to do. If there is fear, you seek courage which you hope will give you contentment, happiness.

In this search for the opposite, profound feelings are gradually being destroyed. You are becoming more and more superficial, more and more empty, because your whole conception of satisfaction, happiness, is one of substitution. The longing, the hunger of most people is for the opposite. In your hunger for attainment you pursue spiritual ideals, or you seek to have worldly titles conferred upon you, and both amount to exactly the same thing.

Let us take an example which may perhaps make the matter clearer; though, for the most part, examples are confusing and disastrous to understanding, for they give no clear perception of the abstract, from which alone can one come to the practical. Suppose that I desire something, and that through my endeavours I finally possess it. But this possession does not give me the satisfaction that I had hoped for; it does not give me lasting happiness. So I change my desire to something else, and I possess that. But even this new thing does not give me permanent satisfaction. Then I look to affection, to friendship; then to ideas, and finally I turn to the search for truth or God. This gradual process of the change of the objects of desire is called evolution, growth towards perfection.

But if you will really think about it, you will see that this process is nothing more than the progress of satisfaction, and therefore an ever increasing emptiness, shallowness. If you consider, you will see that this is the substance of your lives. There is no joy in your work, in your environment; you are afraid, you are envious of the possessions of others. From that there arises struggle, and from that struggle comes discontent. Then, to overcome that discontent, to find satisfaction, you turn to the opposite.

In the same way, when you change your desire from the so-called transient, the unessential, to the permanent, the essential, what you have done is you have merely changed the object of your satisfaction, the object of your gain. First it was a concrete thing, and now it is truth. You have merely changed the object of your desires;thereby becoming more superficial, more vain, more empty. Life has become unsatisfactory, shallow, transient.

I don't know whether you agree or disagree with what I am saying, but if you are willing to think about it, to discuss and question it, you will see that your hunger for truth, as I have been trying to explain during these talks, is merely the desire for gratification, satisfaction, the longing for safety, for security. In that hunger there is never reality. That hunger is superficial, passive; it results in nothing else but cunning, emptiness, and unquestioning belief.

There is a true hunger, a true longing; it is not the desire for an opposite, but the desire to understand the cause of the very thing in which one is caught up. Now you are constantly seeking opposites: when you are afraid you seek courage as a substitute for fear, but that substitute does not really free you from fear. Fundamentally you are still afraid; you have merely covered that basic fear with the idea of courage. The man who pursues courage, or any other virtue, is acting superficially, whereas if he tried to understand intelligently this pursuit of courage, he would be led to the discovery of the very cause of fear, which would set him free from fear as well as from its opposite. And that is not a negative state: it is the only dynamic, positive way of living.

What, for instance, is your immediate concern when you have physical pain? You want immediate relief, don't you? You are not thinking of the moment when you felt no pain, or of the moment when you will have no pain. You are concerned only with the immediate relief from that pain. You are seeking the opposite. You are so consumed with that pain that you want to be free from it. The same attitude exists when your whole being is consumed with fear. When such fear arises, do not run away from it. Deal with it completely, with all your being, do not try to develop courage. Then only will you understand its fundamental cause, thereby freeing the mind and heart from fear.

Modern civilization has helped to train your mind and heart not to feel intensely. Society, education, religion have encouraged you toward success, have given you hope in gain. And in this process of success and gain, in this process of achievement and spiritual growth, you have sedulously, carefully destroyed intelligence, depth of feeling.

When you are really suffering, as when someone dies whom you really love, what is your reaction? You are so caught up in your emotions, in your sufferings, that for the moment you are paralysed with pain. And then what happens? You long to have your friend back again. So you pursue all the ways and means of reaching that person. The study of the hereafter, the belief in reincarnation, the use of mediums - all these you pursue in order to get into contact with the friend whom you have lost. So what has happened? The acuteness of mind and heart which you felt in your sorrow has become dull, has died.

Please try to follow intelligently what I am saying. Even though you may believe in the hereafter, please do not close your mind and heart against what I have to say.

You desire to have the friend whom you have lost. Now that very want destroys the acuteness, the fullness of perception. For, after all, what is suffering? Suffering is a shock to awaken you, to help you to understand life. When you experience death, you feel utter loneliness, the loss of support; you are like the man who has been deprived of his crutches. But if you immediately seek crutches again in the shape of comfort, companionship, security, you deprive the shock of its significance. Another shock comes, and again you go through the same process. Thus, though you have many experiences during your life, shocks of suffering that should awaken your intelligence, your understanding, you gradually dull those shocks by your desire and pursuit after comfort.

Thus you use the idea of reincarnation, belief in the hereafter, as a kind of drug or dope. In your turning to this idea there is no intelligence. You are merely seeking an escape from suffering, a relief from pain. When you talk about reincarnation you are not helping another to understand truly the cause of pain; you are not helping him to free himself from sorrow. You are only giving him a means of escape. If another accepts the comfort, the escape which you offer him, his feelings become shallow, empty, for he takes shelter in the idea of reincarnation. Because of this placid assurance that you have given him, he no longer feels deeply when someone dies, for he has dulled his feelings, he has deadened his thoughts.

So in this search for contentment, comfort, your thoughts and feelings become shallow, barren, trivial, and life becomes an empty shell. But if you see the absurdity of substitution and perceive the illusion of contentment, with its achievement, then there is great depth to thought and feeling; then action itself reveals the significance of life.

Question: There are many systems of meditation and self-discipline adapted to varying temperaments, and all of them are intended to cultivate and sharpen the mind or emotions, or both; for the usefulness and value of an instrument is great or small according to whether it is sharp or blunt. Now: (1) Do you think that all these systems are alike futile and harmful without exception? (2) How would you deal with the temperamental differences of human beings? (3) What value has meditation of the heart to you?

Krishnamurti: Let us differentiate between concentration and meditation. Now when you talk of meditation, most of you mean the mere learning of the trick of concentration. But concentration does not lead to the joy of meditation. Consider what happens in what you call meditation, which is merely the process of training the mind to concentrate on a particular object or idea. You exclude from your mind all other thoughts or images except the one which you have deliberately chosen; you try to focus your mind on that one idea, picture, or word. Now that is merely contraction of thought, limitation of thought. When other thoughts arise during this process of contraction, you dismiss them, you brush them aside. So your mind becomes more and more narrow, less and less elastic, less and less free. Why do you want to concentrate? Because you see an enticement, a reward, awaiting you as the result of concentration. You want to become a disciple, you want to find the Master, you want to develop spiritually, you want to understand truth. So your concentration becomes utterly destructive of thought and emotion because you consider meditation, concentration, in terms of gain, in terms of escape from turmoil. Just think about it for a moment, those of you who have practised meditation, concentration, for years. You have been forcing your mind to adjust itself to a particular pattern, to conform itself to a particular image or idea, to shape itself according to a particular idiosyncrasy or prejudice. Now, all beliefs, ideals, idiosyncrasies depend on personal like and dislike. Your self-discipline, your so-called meditation, is merely a process by which you try to obtain something in return. And this assurance of something in return, this looking for a reward, also accounts for the large membership of churches and religious societies: these institutions promise a reward, a recompense to their followers who faithfully adhere to their discipline.

Where there is control, there is no meditation of the heart. When you are searching with an eye to gain, to recompense, your search has already ended. Take, for instance, the case of a scientist, a great scientist, not a pseudo-scientist. A true scientist is continually experimenting without seeking results. In his search there are what we call results, but he is not bound by these results, for he is constantly experimenting. In that very movement of experiment he finds joy. That is true meditation. Meditation is not the seeking for a result, a by-product. Such a result is merely incidental, an outward expression of that great search which is ecstatic, eternal.

Now instead of banishing each thought that arises, as you do when you practise so-called meditation, try to understand and live in the significance of each thought as it comes to you; do this not at a particular period, at a particular hour or moment of the day, but throughout the day, continuously. In that awareness you will understand the cause of each thought and its significance. That awareness will release the mind from opposites, from pettiness, shallowness; in that awareness there is freedom, completeness of thought. It is in eternal movement, without limitation, and in that there is the true joy of meditation; in that there is living peace. But when you seek a result, your meditation becomes shallow, empty, as is shown by your acts. Many of you have meditated for years. What has it availed you? You have banished your thought from your action. In temples, in shrines, in chapels of meditation you have filled your minds with the supposed image of truth, God, but when you go out into the world, your actions exhibit nothing of those qualities which you are trying to attain. Your actions are quite the opposite; they are cruel, exploiting, possessive, destructive. So in this search for reward, recompense, you have differentiated between thought and action, you have made a division between the two, and your so-called meditation is empty, without depth, without profundity of feeling or greatness of thought.

If you are constantly aware, fully aware as each thought and emotion arises, in that flame your action will be the harmonious outcome of thought and feeling. That is the joy, the peace of true meditation, not this process of self-discipline, twisting, training the mind to conform to a particular attitude. Such discipline, such distortion, means only decay, boredom, routine, death.

Question: During the Theosophical Convention last week several leaders and admirers of Dr. Besant spoke, paying her high tributes. What is your tribute to and your opinion of that great figure who was a mother and friend to you? What was her attitude toward you through the many years of her guardianship of you and your brother, and also subsequently? Are you not grateful to her for her guidance, training, and care?

Krishnamurti: Mr. Warrington kindly asked me to speak about this matter, but I told him that I did not want to. Now don't condemn me by using such words as "guardianship", "gratitude", and so on. Sirs, what can I say? Dr. Besant was our mother, she looked after us, she cared for us. But one thing she did not do. She never said to me, "Do this", or "Don't do that." She left me alone. Well, in these words I have paid her the greatest tribute.


You know, followers destroy leaders, and you have destroyed yours. In your following of a leader, you exploit that leader; in your use of Dr. Besant's name so constantly you are merely exploiting her. You are exploiting her and other teachers. The greatest disservice you can ever do to a leader is to follow that leader. I know you wisely nod your heads in approval. Let me but quote her name and sanctify her memory, and I can exploit you because you want to be exploited; you want to be used as instruments, for that is easier than thinking for yourselves. You are all cogs, parts of machines, being used by exploiters. Religions use you in the name of God, society uses you in the name of law, politicians and educators use and exploit you. So-called religious teachers and guides exploit you in the name of ceremonies, in the name of Masters. I am merely awakening you to these facts. You can do about them what you will: with that I am not concerned, because I don't belong to any society, and I shall probably not come here again.

Comment from the audience: But we want you to come.

Krishnamurti: Please don't get sentimental about this. Probably some of you will be glad that I shall not come again.

Comment: No.

Krishnamurti: Wait a moment, please. I don't want you to ask me or not to ask me to return. That doesn't matter at all.

Sirs, these two things are wholly different: what you are thinking and doing, and what I am talking and doing. The two cannot combine. Your whole system is based on exploitation, on the following of authority, on the belief in religion and faith. Not only your system, but the systems of the entire world. I cannot help those of you who are content with this system. I want to help those who are eager to break away, to understand. Naturally you will eject me, for I am opposed to all that you hold dear, sacred and worth while. But your rejection will not matter to me. I am not attached to this or any place. I repeat, what you are doing and what I am doing are two totally different things that have nothing in common.

But I was answering the question about Dr. A. Besant. Human mind is lazy, lethargic. It has been so dulled by authority, so shaped, controlled, conditioned, that it cannot stand by itself. But to stand by oneself is the only way to understand truth. Now are you really, fundamentally interested in understanding truth? No, most of you are not. You are only interested in supporting the system that you now hold, in finding substitutes, in seeking comfort and security; and in that search you are exploiting others and being exploited yourselves. In that there is no happiness, no richness, no fullness. Because you follow this way of life you have to choose. When you base your life either on the authority of the past or the hope of the future, when you guide your actions by the past greatness or the past ideas of a leader, you are not living; you are merely imitating, acting as a cog in a machine. And woe to such a person! For him life holds no happiness, no richness, but only shallowness, emptiness. This seems so clear to me that I am surprised that the question arises again and again.

Question: You have spoken in clear terms on the subject of the existence of Masters and the value of ceremonies. May I ask you a straightforward question? Are you disclosing to us your own genuine point of view without any mental reservation? Or is the ruthless manner of the presentation of your view merely a test of our devotion to the Masters and our loyalty to the Theosophical Society to which we belong? Please state your answer frankly, even though it may be hurtful to some of us.

Krishnamurti: What do you think I am? I have not given you a momentary reaction, I have told you what I really think. If you wish to use that as a test to fortify yourselves, to entrench yourselves in your old beliefs, I cannot help it. I have told you what I think, frankly, straightly, without dissimulation. I am not trying to make you act in one way or another, I am not trying to entice you into any society or into a particular form of thought, I don't dangle a reward in front of you. I have told you frankly that Masters are unessential, that the idea of Masters is nothing more than a toy to the man who really seeks truth. I am not trying to attack your beliefs, I realize that I am a guest here; this is merely my frank opinion, as I have stated it over and over again.

I hold that where there is unrighteousness there are ceremonies, whether it be in Mylapore or in Rome or here. But why discuss this matter any longer? You know my point of view, as I have stated it repeatedly. I have given you my reasons for my opinion regarding Masters and ceremonies. But because you want Masters, because you like to perform ceremonies, because such performance gives you a certain sense of authority, of security, of exclusiveness, you continue in your practices. You continue them with blind faith, blind acceptance, without reason, without real thought or emotion behind your acts. But in that way you will never understand truth; you will never know the cessation of sorrow. You may find forgetfulness, oblivion, but you will never discover the root, the cause of sorrow and be free from it.

Question: You rightly condemn a hypocritical attitude of mind and such feelings and actions as are born from it. But since you say that you do not judge us, but somehow seem to regard the attitude of some of us as hypocritical, can you say what it is that gives you such an impression?

Krishnamurti: Very simple. You talk about brotherhood, and yet you are nationalists. I call that hypocrisy, because nationalism and brotherhood cannot exist together. Again, you talk about the unity of man, talk about it theoretically, and yet you have your particular religions, your particular prejudices, your class distinctions. I call that hypocrisy. Or again, you turn to self-glorification, subtle self-glorification, instead of what you call the gross self-glorification of the men of the world who seek distinctions, concessions, government honours. You also are men of the world, and your self-glorification is just the same, only a little more subtle. You, with your distinctions, your secret meetings, your exclusiveness, are also trying to become nobles, to attain honours and degrees, but in a different world. That I call hypocrisy. It is hypocrisy because you pretend to be open, you speak of the brotherhood and the unity of man, while at the same time your acts are quite the opposite of your words.

Whether you do this consciously or unconsciously is of no importance. The fact is that you do it. If you do it consciously, with fully awakened interest, then, at least, you are doing it without hypocrisy. Then you know what you are doing. If you say, "I want to glorify myself, but since I cannot attain distinctions and honours in this world, I shall try to acquire them in another; I shall become a disciple, I shall be called this and that, I shall be honoured as a man of quality, a man of virtue", then, at least, you are perfectly honest. Then there is some hope that you will find out that this process leads nowhere.

But now you are trying to do two incompatible things at one time. You are possessive, and at the same time you talk about freedom from possession. You talk about tolerance, and yet you are becoming more and more exclusive in order"to help the world." Words, words, without depth. That is what I call hypocrisy. At one moment you talk of love for a Master, of reverence for an ideal, for a belief, for a God, and yet in the next moment you act with appalling cruelty. Your acts are acts of exploitation, possessiveness, nationalism, ill-treatment of women and children, cruelty to animals. To all this you are insensitive, yet you talk of affection. Is that not hypocrisy? You say, "We don't notice these conditions." Yes, that is just why they exist. Then why talk of love?

So to me, your societies, your meetings in which you talk of your beliefs, ideals, are gatherings of hypocrisy. Isn't that so? I am not speaking harshly, on the contrary; you know what I feel about the state of the world. Yet you who can help, you who say that you want to help, you who are trying to help, are becoming more and more narrow, more and more bigoted, sectarian. You have ceased to cry, to weep, to smile. Emotion means nothing to you. You are concerned only with ceaseless gain, gain of knowledge which is suffocating, which is merely theoretical, which is blind emptiness. Knowledge has nothing to do with wisdom. Wisdom cannot be bought; it is natural, spontaneous, free. It is not merchandise that you can buy from your guru, teacher, at the price of discipline. Wisdom, I say, has nothing to do with knowledge. Yet you search for knowledge, and in that search for knowledge, for gain, you are losing love, all sense of feeling for beauty, all sensitivity to cruelty. You are becoming less and less impressionable.

That brings us to another question which we shall perhaps discuss later, the question of impressions and reactions. You are emphasizing ego consciousness, limitation. When you say, "I am doing this because I like it, because it gives me satisfaction, pleasure", I am entirely with you, for then you will understand. But if you say, "I am seeking truth; I am trying to help mankind", and if at the same time you increase your self-consciousness, your glory, then I call your attitude and your life a hypocrisy because you are seeking power through exploiting others.

Question: True criticism, according to you, excludes mere opposition, which amounts to the same thing as saying that it excludes all carping, fault-finding, or destructive criticism. Is not then criticism in your sense the same as pure thought directed toward that which is under consideration? If so, how can the capacity for true criticism or pure thinking be aroused or developed?

Krishnamurti: To awaken such true criticism without opposition you must first know that you are not truly critical, that you are not thinking clearly. That is the first consideration. To awaken clear thinking, I must first know that I am not thinking openly. In other words, I must become aware of what I am thinking and feeling. Only then can I know that I am thinking truly or falsely. Isn't that so? When you say that you are critical, you are merely opposing through prejudice, through personal like and dislike, through emotional reactions. In that state you say that you are thinking clearly, that you are critical. But I say that to be intelligently critical you must be free from this personal bias, this personal opposition. And to be intelligently critical, you must first realize that your thinking is influenced, narrow, bigoted, personal, even though you have not been conscious of this bondage. So you have first to become aware of this.

You see how the tension of this audience has gone down. Either you are tired, or you are not as much interested in this subject as you are in ceremonies and Masters. You don't see the importance of criticism because your capacities to doubt, to question, have been destroyed through education, through religion, through social conditions. You are afraid that doubt and criticism will wreck the structure of belief that you have so carefully built up. You know that the waves of doubt will undermine the foundation of the house which you have built on the sands of faith. You are afraid of doubt and questioning. That is why your interest, your tension, has subsided. But tension is necessary for action; without such tension you will do nothing either in the physical world or in the world of thought and feeling, which is all one.

So first of all you must become aware that you are thinking very personally, that your thought is dominated by like and dislike, by reactions of pleasure and pain. Now you say to yourself, "I like your appearance; therefore I shall follow what you teach." Or, of another, "I don't like his beliefs; therefore I won't listen to him. I shall not even try to find out if what he says has any intrinsic value, I shall simply oppose him." Or, again, "He is a teacher of authority, and therefore I must obey him." Through such thinking, by such attitudes, you are gradually but surely destroying all sense of true intelligence, all creative thinking. You are becoming machines whose only activity is routine, whose only end is boredom and decay. Yet you question why you suffer, and seek a discipline whereby you can escape from that suffering.

Question: What are the rules and principles of your life? Since, presumably, they are based on your own conception of love, beauty, truth, and God, what is that conception?

Krishnamurti: What are my rules and principles of life? None. Please follow what I say, critically and intelligently. Don't object, "Must we not have rules? Otherwise our lives would be chaos." Don't think in terms of opposites. Think intrinsically with regard to what I am saying. Why do you want rules and principles? Why do you want them, you who have so many principles by which you are shaping, controlling, directing your lives? Why do you want rules? "Because", you reply, "we cannot live without them. Without rules and principles we would do exactly the things that we want to do; we might overeat or overindulge in sex, possess more than we should. We must have principles and rules by which to guide our lives." In other words, to restrain yourselves without understanding, you must have these principles and rules. This is the whole artificial structure of your lives - restraint, control, suppression - for behind this structure is the idea of gain, security, comfort, which causes fear.

But the man who is not pursuing acquisitiveness, the man who is not caught up in the promise of reward or the threat of punishment, does not require rules; the man who tries to live and understand each experience completely does not need principles and rules, for it is only conditioning beliefs which demand conformity. When thought is unbound, unconditioned, it will then know itself as eternal. You try to control thought, to shape and direct it, because you have established a goal, a conclusion towards which you wish to go, and that end is always what you desire it to be, though you may call it God, perfection, reality.

You ask me concerning my conception of God, truth, beauty, love. But I say, if someone describes truth, if someone tells you the nature of truth, beware of that person. For truth cannot be described; truth cannot be measured by words. You nod your heads in agreement, but tomorrow you will again be trying to measure truth, to find a description of it. Your attitude towards life is based on the principle of creating a mould, and then fitting yourselves into that mould. Christianity offers you one mould, Hinduism offers another, Muhammadanism, Buddhism, Theosophy offer still others. But why do you want a mould? Why do you cherish preconceived ideas? All that you can know is pain, suffering and passing joys. But you want to escape from them; you don't try to understand the cause of pain, the depth of suffering. Rather, you turn to its opposite for your consolation. In your sorrow, you say that God is love, that God is just, merciful. Mentally and emotionally you turn to this ideal of love, justice, and shape yourselves after that pattern. But you can understand love only when you are no longer possessive; from possessiveness arises all sorrow. Yet your system of thought and emotion is based on possessiveness; so how can you know of love?

So your first concern is to free the mind and heart from possessiveness, and you can do that only when that possessiveness becomes a poison to you, when you feel the suffering, the agony which that poison causes. Now you are trying to escape from that suffering. You want me to tell you what my ideal of love is, my ideal of beauty, so that you can make of it another pattern, another standard, or compare my ideal with yours, hoping thereby to understand. Understanding does not come through comparison. I have no ideal, no pattern. Beauty is not divorced from action. True action is the very harmony of your whole being. What does that mean to you? It means nothing but empty words, because your actions are disharmonious, because you think one thing and act another.

You can find enduring freedom, truth, beauty, love, which are one and the same, only when you no longer seek them. Please try to understand what I am saying. My meaning is subtle only in the sense that it can be carried out infinitely. I say that your very search is destroying your love, destroying your sense of beauty, of truth, because your search is but an escape, a flight from conflict. And beauty, love, truth, that Godhead of understanding, is not found by running away from conflict; it lies in the very conflict itself.

1933, The Art of Listening

4th Public Talk. Adyar, India; 1st January, 1934

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


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