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The Observer is the Observed

Madras, India. Group Discussion 18th November, 1947

Before we continue the discussion about fear, death and love, we should discuss quite an important subject - the art of listening. Life is really both a challenge and a response, and if we do not know how to respond truly, there will be misery. Similarly, if we do not know how to listen, our mind is so filled with our own thoughts, our own problems, our own conclusions and our own questions, that it is almost impossible to listen to somebody. Is it not possible to listen with an extraordinary alertness, but not with an effort? After all, understanding comes, not through effort but spontaneously when there is an effortless relaxation, a sense of communication with each other. When you love somebody very deeply and really, in that state of real affection, there is a sense of full communication. We do not have to make an effort or to exert ourselves. I think it is important during these discussions to listen with ease but yet with a tension because most of us, when we are at ease, are generally lazy, so relaxed that nothing can penetrate. But, there is a right tension, a psychological tension, not a tension to the breaking point; but, as the string of a violin, it must be tuned just right. Similarly, it is possible for us to listen in such a way that communication is possible instantaneously, at the same time and the same level.

In understanding fear we found that the desire to protect oneself projects the quality of fear, and that merely dealing with the symptom and not with the the cause is utterly futile. So, the question of overcoming fear never arises to a thoughtful person, as it is only dealing with symptoms and not with the maker of symptoms. A conditioned response is like a wave in a lake when a stone is thrown, and we pursue and try to solve that wave which is a conditioned response. We came to the point of studying what Death means. We said that as reality is unknown, so Death is also unknown. We have spent centuries in studying Reality, but we have hardly spent five minutes in studying Death. We have avoided Death as something abominable, something of which we are frightened and we have tried to overcome it by beliefs and ideations of morality. But we have never understood the significance of Death.

Response and challenge are not different things. They are only separate when the response is conditioned. Our response to a challenge is according to our environmental influence - Brahmin, Non-Brahmin, writer, poet, etc. There is always the distance of time between challenge and response; and when such responses cease, there is death. Let us experiment and be aware of the significance of death on all the different planes of consciousness. We have seen the effects of death on a body, to a bird, to a leaf, wearing out of the physical organism. But that is not death, that is only a part of awareness of death. In life, everything seems to end in death; all our activities, our civilization, wars, conflict with each other, our physical existence, emotional responses, ideation and thoughts, all come to an end. Seeing that all that is known to it comes to an end, the mind apprehends itself coming to an end and, as it does not like to die, seeks permanency by anchoring itself to something unknown which it considers to be secure; if it is not anchored to something which it knows to be secure, it ceases to function. Thought is the result of the past, the known, the accumulation of what it has read, what it has been told, social environment, religious background, and what it has been conditioned to. As long as the mind is the known, it translates the unknown or any new experience that comes, in the light of the known. When we meet a stranger, we view him with all our prejudices and conditioned responses. In the unknown, there is no security because we do not know it at all. Therefore the mind is afraid of the unknown; therefore it must project itself into the unknown and seek security there. So it must have a belief in the unknown, in Reincarnation, in God, or in an idea, and so on especially as the mind is afraid of coming to an end. Therefore our thoughts are always proceeding from the known to the known, from memory to memory. A memory is the residue, left in the mind, of an experience. The moment the mind is uncertain, it becomes anxious, and therefore it must have the known all the time. If the mind is moving from the known, to the known, it cannot possibly know the unknown; and therefore we are unaware of the significance of Death. We are afraid even to talk about it, and so we put it away and think about God. We deny Death and hold on to God though we do not know what God is. Beauty is not the denial of the ugly. We cannot understand the pleasant by denying the unpleasant. We do not know what the ugly and the unpleasant mean, yet we have condemned them. We do not know what God is, yet we accept God.

Suicide is a part of death. A person who is committing suicide puts an end to his life when he is faced with a problem which he cannot solve, when his thoughts and feelings have come to a point when they cannot see into the future and cannot proceed further. When one is happy he has no problem and he does not wish to end that.

You ask whether hate is not a manifestation of death. Hate is a conditioned response, Death is also a conditioned response to something which we do not know. Hate does not exist by itself.

Our mind is ever seeking continuance through various means. To us, God is the ultimate continuance and Death the ultimate denial of continuance.

Because thought is the result of the past, it can only think in terms of time, today, yesterday and tomorrow, in terms of the known; and the known it wants to continue. If that continuance is denied, it will commit suicide. It is only concerned with moving from the known to the known. When it proceeds to God, it is only projecting itself into the unknown and seeking security there in God; therefore, that projection, God, is still the known through the mind has invested in God as the ultimate guarantee of its continuance. As long as the mind is moving from the known to the known, it is 'dead', and a 'dead' thing cannot understand anything. When the mind realises that it is 'dead', there will be life. We can discover something amazing when we realise that we are 'dead' and are alive only verbally.

The Observer is the Observed

Madras, India. Group Discussion 18th November, 1947

Jiddu Krishnamurti texts. The Observer Is the Observed. Contains reports of spontaneous discourses about life and reality, given at different times between 1945 and 1948.

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