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The Observer is the Observed

Madras, India. Group Discussion 20th November, 1947

These discussions are a process of self-exploration and self-examination, and not self-introspection which is quite different from awareness. It is as though we are watching a mirror in from to us, which is not distorting our thoughts and our feelings and actions, but is showing exactly 'what is' and not what we would like them to be.

When we discussed about fear we found that fear was only secondary but what was really significant was self-protection in all its extraordinary and subtle ways on different levels and different sates of consciousness, which gave rise to fear. In understanding the process of self-protection which is primary, fear which is secondary, loses its significance.

In discussing death, we found that, realising that everything comes to an end - relationship, things and ideas, not only physiological but psychological also - we are afraid of death, we are desirous of proceeding from the known to the known, to give us continuity, and this continuity we call immortality. When that continuity comes to an end, we call that death. We do not know Death just as we do not know Reality. We have divided life into living and death and we have shunned death and clung onto what appeared to give us security. I think it is important that we should understand the whole question of death because, in that, there is renewal. That which ends has always a beginning. That which continues without an end has no renewal.

As thought moves from the known to the known, there is no ending of thought; therefore, there is no renewal; and it is only in death there is renewal. A society can be renewed only when it throws off the old. But you cannot have the old and the new together and that leads to destruction. It is one of the tricks of the mind that, being confronted with uncertainty, it seeks security elsewhere in property, family, ideas and beliefs and so on. As one cannot think of the unknown, one can only think of the known, the outcome of the thought which is the result of the past. Thought abominates coming to an end, that is, to be uncertain of anything, and it wants continuance.

Ordinarily, in the physical sense, we desire to continue through property, through our job and through our routine. Psychologically, we continue through our memory. All our systems are based on continuity. We seek continuity in property, name, and identifying ourselves with something. When we find that there is no continuity or permanency in objects we turn to psychological factors, such as beliefs and ideas and so on. The thought, being afraid of discontinuity, thinks in terms of the continuity of the soul. Continuity implied through a belief or through the soul is the product of thought and therefore it is the result of the known, because thought can only think of something which it knows. So thought is really concerned with continuity and not with Truth or God. Continuity is a time-process and there cannot be a renewal in the time-process.

Memory is the residue left in the mind of insufficient experience; and when an experience is complete there is no memory.

Some say that the mind is the instrument of the spirit. But the spirit is also the process of the mind. The moment we say there is spirit, it is a process of thought. There is perception, sensation, contact, desire and identification, all processes of challenge and response. In other words, we have exercised thought which is the product of the mind. Even while we are sleeping, the unconscious is working, which gives hints to thoughts. When we are thinking about something beyond, it is also the process of the mind and therefore it is unreal.

To say that God is 'me' is incorrect as God or Truth cannot exist in contradiction, because we are in ourselves having the evil and the good, which is a contradictory state. Complete paralysis is death and incomplete paralysis is life. We come across several people who are both physiologically and psychologically half dead, yet they function. If God is in us, we need not purify ourselves or renew ourselves.

Every experience is leaving a residue and we call it memory. When we meet an experience anew, it will not leave any residue; that occurs when we meet the experience direct without a screen. When new wine is put in the old bottle it breaks. When we are thinking about death, we are not looking at facts, but are translating it to suit our conditioning. Because we are not looking direct at facts but through a screen or a condition or a belief, we are not finding the truth of it. When we do that, we are only strengthening our conditioning and the walls of our conditioning are growing thicker and thicker. As memory is of the known, when we are facing the unknown, we withdraw and translate it in terms of the known. We think we can thereby have continuance. We cannot understand either Death or Reality through memory. There is no renewal through continuance. Because we are caught up in the walls of memory, whether the memory is of the leftist or the rightist, religious or the non-religious, we are dead. Only when the walls break there is going to be renewal. A society that is merely transforming itself within the walls, cannot produce culture. In order to bring about a renewal we must die; and that means we must start anew, putting away completely all memories of the past.

The Observer is the Observed

Madras, India. Group Discussion 20th 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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