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The Observer is the Observed

Madras, India. Group Discussion 4th December, 1947

We do not want to be uncertain, to be in a state of confusion. So, we use belief as the most gratifying means to guide ourselves. We are not discussing belief in an isolated manner, but as related to self-knowledge, the self which is in action every day - our feelings, our thoughts and actions from moment to moment - and to think out and understand the significance of every thought, every feeling as it arises, thus uncovering the process of our own thinking so that we perceive the state of our own mind, our own being.

Without understanding the creator of the self, the 'me', there can be no right action; and to bring about right thinking we must examine every thought fully and completely.

We shall take one subject, like belief, at a time and think it right through so that, at the end of it, those of you who are really earnest will be free of belief, because you will perceive the truth of belief. You cannot find the truth if you are on the defensive, if you are guarding yourself.

In belief is implied authority, an authority either imposed by a society, by a tradition, or the authority through experience in oneself, the authority of memory. You have an experience and you have learned something; and you use what you have learned to translate, interpret, further experience. Therefore, that experience which you have added becomes your authority, which you call the 'voice'. But, essentially it is an experience which has left a residue of memory which has been used for translating further experiences.

Belief also implies specialisation, i.e., if you have an ideal, an end, you specialise to achieve that. What happens to specialists? They are fixed either in knowledge, surgery or money making, etc. They are static and frozen. The man who specialises is immobile. He moves within the frame-work of his specialisation which is always fixed. A thing which is fixed is unpliable and therefore it is broken. All specialised animals are becoming extinct.

A man who is very firmly fixed in a belief is not pliable; and only that which is pliable, is enduring. I am not speaking of the pliability of a Hindu going to Europe and learning to smoke and learning to drink. That is stupidity. Pliability implies a freedom from anchorages, from specialisation, from authority and so on.

Mostly, the actions based on belief, like ceremonies and rituals, are done by you without knowing why you do them. Therefore belief is binding and blinding and there is repetition of such acts without much significance.

You want to know the difference between a conclusion and a conviction. A conclusion is that which is based on knowledge or that which is inherited from one's parents, from teachers, from society and through environmental influences or those which one has made. After all, conclusions which one makes are the results of the past which is the conditioning of the environment and the tradition. A conviction is also based on the past. A man who has no past cannot have convictions. A man who is without memories cannot live in convictions. The more convictions you have the more enclosed you are. Therefore, conclusions and convictions are more or less the same and they are all conditioned. You cannot be free of them unless you recognise them as enclosures.

You say you have given up ceremonies now. Why did you give up? Did you give up ceremonies through understanding or through substitution? If you understand the true significance of ceremonies, they will fall off of their own accord. Otherwise, you will be merely substituting for them something else to which you will become a slave. Most of you do ceremonies automatically, because your fathers and mothers have told you; it becomes a thoughtless action and, when you have children, they are also going to do so in the same way. If you have not belief in them but do them merely to please somebody, you are really indulging in a hypocritical action.

You say that you do not do the ceremonies but feed the poor on those days. Why are you feeding the poor? If you feed the poor because you love the poor irrespective of their class and caste, and not for capitalistic or communistic reasons, it is something.

Someone said that as you want to live peacefully without creating any disturbance, you do the ceremonies; but life will not give you peace and it constantly challenges you.

When you do not like any particular ceremony, you seek a substitution and do it; thus, you have given up ceremonies and taken to "poor-feeding." I am not concerned with the giving up of ceremonies; but I want to know why I do the ceremonies.

I heard someone of you say that you do the ceremonies because of an urge from within. We know the biological urges, hunger, sex, etc., and we can trace them to their cause. But, psychological urges are much more difficult to trace, e.g. the urge to be angry, the drive of ambition to become somebody, the desire for power, position, prestige, money, a bigger house, etc. If you have an urge, it is necessary to find out why you have it and not to indulge in it blindly. The unconscious and hidden urges and thoughts are understandable if we give our mind to them, i.e. if the superficial consciousness is free and therefore in a state fit to understand them. If the urge on which you act, is a sane and balanced urge, it will tell you not to be greedy; but you do not follow that. You act only when the urge is pleasurable and not otherwise. That is why in this so-called spiritual country, the Brahmins who were once the highest expression of culture, have become degraded into shop-keepers and lawyers.

We must understand the implications of obeying, and what it means to overcome or to sublimate something. Physically, when uncertain, you obey a sign-board based on a physical fact. Psychologically you obey another because you are afraid. You command or obey when there is anxiety, a sense of uncertainty. If you love there is no question of obeying or commanding; you simply love each other. If I want to get something from you, physiologically or psychologically, I am dominated by you and therefore there is no love. So, you obey an authority either through fear or through a desire for a result based on your gratification.

You obey a tradition or what society says only when it suits you, when it is gratifying to you; because if you do not, you will be in anxiety. Through obedience, you think you will sublimate yourself. That is what all the religions have said 'Obey the Guru, obey the idea and you will sublimate'. You have done this for centuries, and you are none the better. To sublimate something you must understand it; the moment you understand something you are free of it.

You say that by prayer and by performing ceremonies, you can get God to intervene in your personal affairs. God is something extraordinary and immeasurable; and it is fantastic to say that He speaks through somebody or is interested in any particular person. People accept that He speaks through Churchill for England, and through Hitler for Germany. We reverence such people instead of saying how ridiculous and how infantile they are. If God or a Master is really interested in me, He will tell me the whole thing and not little by little; He will also tell me to give up greed, not to hate, not to cheat and so on, which are much more important than ridiculous ceremonies or the renunciation of the world. An intelligent teacher or an intelligent doctor will surely ask you to get rid of the cause, instead of merely tinkering with a few symptoms. It may be that what you call your inner voice is merely yourself talking in the guise of a voice.

You say that you perform rituals because your deeper self says so. Why do you accept what the deeper layer of the mind says, without investigating it? That voice or command may be false. Whenever you obey commands of 'deeper self' or God, you obey only in the most stupid things and not in the greatest things. You do not love your neighbour. If you really love your neighbour, there will be kindness, mercy to the animals, to the fatherless, there will not be any harsh words about anybody. You are obeying only that which is extraordinarily gratifying, like ceremonies. Therefore you do not really obey, but you are merely gratifying yourself. If you love your daughter and do not consider her as a thing to be 'married off', there will be much difference. You will not then be concerned in only one question, i.e., her marriage, but in bringing her up. You will tell her about life, you would take care of her, teach her what life is, educate her about the rotten state of society around you and so on. All this is difficult, so you consider it your duty to marry her off anyhow as long as her misery is away from you. In other words, you are not really concerned with your daughter but only with yourself.

You have not realised that nothing valuable can be had without trouble. Even the most tender plant has to struggle. You just have babies and let them grow anyhow. You do not know them.

Most of you do not know your most intimate relatives with whom you live. You do not know yourself. That is why you have neglected your babies, your children and your youth. You do not know how the Americans love their children and what trouble they take in regard to the care of children. If you love your children, you will be extremely watchful what they do, and what they think; you would question them why they do certain things, their notions, their actions, so that they become self-critical and observant; you would see what they eat, watch them go to bed, and be careful so that they have confidence in you; you will also discuss how to teach children and how to be brotherly. But, you do not do all this.

If you merely abide by the tradition of society you do not know what you think. Merely following the current of society is superstition. If you want to understand the current you must detach yourself from the current. Perhaps our whole existence is thoughtless. This may be the result of the thoughtless past, which is the product of the group and therefore you must begin with the nearest thing that is yourself. Whether you affect the many or not, you are not concerned; because if you understand something, that itself is sufficient.

The Observer is the Observed

Madras, India. Group Discussion 4th December, 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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