The Observer is the Observed
Madras, India. Group Discussion 13th December, 1947
Before we begin with our discussion where we left off, it is very important to bear in mind why we meet as, otherwise, these discussions will deteriorate into mere intellection without any significance. I think one should distinguish between hearing inside oneself and listening. Listening is surely something outside. Hearing is much more subjective. Let us hear each other rather than listen to each other. These discussions are really meant to reveal the way of our own thinking, feeling and acting. Right thinking begins only in discovering what is exactly taking place in each one of us - the illusions, the vicious motives, the intentions; being aware of all these leads to right thinking - i.e., through self-knowledge only can right thinking come into being and not through any book, not through any listening to a talk but by being aware of every movement of thought and feeling in ourselves.
We were discussing, when we last met, about the problem of duality, whether this conflict was inevitable - this conflict between ignorance and knowledge, between arrogance and humility, anger and peace, capitalism and communism, the left and the right, and so on. This conflict between the opposites has apparently been accepted by us as an inevitable fact in our life.
Is life meant to be a series of conflicts in the corridor of opposites or is our approach to the problem of the opposites wrong? If the opposites are inevitable, then the end of life is also a battle because an opposite always creates its opposite. I am something and I want to become something else. I am arrogant and I strive to become humble; I am violent, and I want to become non-violent; I am greedy and I strive to become non-greedy. That is what we have been doing in our meditations and in our daily existence.
Now, is the opposite a fact? Does the opposite exist apart from its opposite, as humility, as non-greed, as non-violence and so on? Is not every opposite a reaction to and result of its own opposite? As humility is a result of arrogance, humility contains the germ of arrogance. You find arrogance is not profitable and is a disturbing factor; and you have been told that arrogance is taboo socially, morally, and religiously; and therefore you strive to become humble which is more profitable. So your motive is still the desire to gain, the desire to become something. So humility contains the seed of arrogance.
Now, the fact is that arrogance is existent, but the 'being non-arrogant or humble' is not a fact. Humility is existent only in theory but actually is not. The 'A' being arrogance creates 'B' which is humility; but the 'B' in itself is non-existent apart from 'A'. 'B' cannot exist apart from 'A'. So the conflict to become 'B' is illusory and fallacious. If you recognise the conflict to be non-essential and false, then the conflict ceases.
If good is the opposite of bad, goodness contains the bad because goodness is the result of its opposite, the bad. I am bad and I want to become good. The becoming good is the outcome of being bad. Therefore, it is still bad though I call it good. I accept this becoming good as long as it is profitable, as long as there is no suffering in it. The moment I suffer and the moment I realise that being bad is forbidden socially and religiously, then I try to become good. So, behind that becoming there is still the motive to gain a more profitable quality. Therefore, the good, which is the opposite of bad, is no longer good. If love is the opposite of hate, surely it is not love. If peace is the opposite of violence, then it is no longer peace because my trying to become peaceful is due to my finding that violence does not pay any more; the motive is still the same. If love is the opposite of hate, then it is the result of hate. Therefore, the conflict between the opposites is really a fallacious conflict; though we indulge in that, it does not lead us anywhere. If this is realised and understood, the conflict ceases.
Why do we name any quality? Perhaps, if we do not name it or term it, it may have a different significance. A quality arises in me, which I term as arrogance; and I either approve of it or condemn it. If I do not term it and if I do not specify the quality, what would happen?
Is the feeling different from the term, or does the term give significance to the feeling? That is, is the feeling apart from the term, or do I look at the feeling through the term?
The word is not the thing. the word 'God' is not God, and therefore the term is independent of God though you may call it God. The term has nothing to do with Reality. If the feeling and the term are two separate things, then in observing the term and understanding the process of how the term comes into being, perhaps we shall not confuse it with the feeling; then the feeling will have a different meaning, a different significance.
You have accepted the term God as God through temples, priests and sacred books; and so they have become important to you. If somebody says that what you have accepted for years as God is not God, it gives you a shock, the shock being the nervous response, a sense of nervous apprehension. But when you see that the term is not the thing, you are free of the shock. If you understand and realise that the term God is not God it has an extraordinary nervous and verbal response in you; you are free of all the implications of the word God being accepted as God. Then the temples will have no meaning, whether we go to it or do not go, because the term is not the God; therefore we are at once free from all priests, temples, churches and so on. There is no conflict of any going and worshipping in a temple, because the image is not the Real and if you really worship, the image disappears. This can have action only when the response is nervous as well as verbal. But, unfortunately, your understanding is only verbal because if you say the word is not the thing and carry it out, you will have to go into conflict with your family and with society.
The term is not the feeling though it is made to represent the feeling.
Why is a quality or feeling named? The naming is done with a view (i) to convey or communicate the quality to others and (ii) to pin down or to evaluate the quality. In pinning down the new quality, the quality is recognised and evaluated in terms of the old frame of references based on memory. As the feeling itself is in the present and therefore new, whereas the references into which it is fitted by naming it relate to the past,the new is interpreted and modified in terms of the old, thus strengthening memory, i.e. the 'me'. The quality or feeling is thus absorbed into the 'me' and is given continuance in time as memory.
Without memory, there cannot be evaluation. The frame of references is the result of evaluation which is based on memory; so, it is the old. The feeling, when it arises, is new and in the present; when that feeling is termed, it is translated or modified so as to fit it into the old framework of references, memory, thus strengthening memory. So, in giving a term to the feeling, the 'me' is strengthened; and the person concerned feels stronger psychologically; when he says "this is my property", he feels already more powerful.
What would happen to a feeling if you did not judge it by the frame of reference - i.e. if you do not name verbally that feeling or quality? When there is response to a challenge, if you name the response, you give it continuance because it is absorbed into the frame of references. Consciousness in all its different layers is memory, whether it is the memory of the Paramatman or of anything else; and all such memory is the result of your parents and grandparents and so on, or the result of books; consciousness is still in the field of memory, you cannot think of Paramatman without memory.
Now, suppose a reaction arises and you do not name it. Then, you do not absorb it into consciousness, but you are merely aware of it; the feeling and the response or reactions would cease after running their course; the feeling is not judged or evaluated and it is not absorbed into memory.
We are all accustomed to name every reaction and refer it to the frame of references, memory, almost instinctively. But if you experiment with it and refuse to name a feeling when it arises in you, you will see that there is a time-lag, between the feeling and the naming. For instance, if a man treads on your feet, you have the reaction of pain, which is inevitable and cannot be helped; but you do not hit back the man who has trodden on your feet. When you refuse to name it, though the reaction is there, it is not put into the frame of references. The pain has now a different significance. Next time you will be more careful where you put your feet. Thus, by understanding the reaction, you would be observant and alert and be aware of what is actually taking place without the framework of references. This is intelligence.
We have now discovered that we are always fighting reactions without understanding their significance; and if we do not name them, i.e. if we do not refer them to the framework of references, they wither away. This happens whether the qualities are pleasurable or painful.
Generally you accept the pleasurable and deny the non-pleasurable. When you deny the non-pleasurable, you are really strengthening yourself. The man who says he is seeking spiritual things, God, is also denying and pursuing the pleasurable.
There is very little difference between him and the ordinary man who is seeking pleasure. They are both seeking pleasure though in different planes of consciousness; the one seeks gratification through God and the other seeks pleasure through drink.
At present there is an increase, all over the world, in sensate values - more theatres, more cinemas, more drinks, more clothes, more and more. The so-called spiritual man, seeing this, says 'I do not like it', and follows his ideation; that is, he denies the sensate and goes after the ideation, as the ideation gives him pleasure. Thus, the spiritual man is also following the pleasurable, like the man of the sensate.
The man who is pursuing sensate values is destroying the world; he is saying that there is nothing more than the sensate and therefore is indulging in the sensate in the most irresponsible manner regardless of the consequences on others. This has been shown over and over again by wars after wars. We say that such a man is a stupid man, materialistic, communistic and so on; and we try to get rid of him and to pursue our ideations.
The man of the sensate and the man of the ideational are meeting at the same point, both their values are based on the senses, though the man who says he is following the ideation may do less harm in society. Obviously the sensate man does harm to the society; and the man of ideation is also creating harm, only on a different level because he has confused the term with Reality and the term becomes very important - your God and my God, your ceremonies and my ceremonies, or I am Brahmin and you are an Untouchable, which are the results of ideation.
So, just as the sensate man creates havoc in the world, the man of ideation with a framework of references also creates mischief; in fact, the latter does more harm. We can deal with a sensate man, because he is pursuing his pleasure through things; most of such men are poor and have very little means. The man who is pursuing ideation is much more dangerous, as he is pursuing pleasure through his ideas and as ideas divide man more than things. The Left and the Right are pursuing ideas and not things. If they were pursuing things, they would give us things.
Because the ideational man is pursuing the idea, he creates division between belief and belief, man and man; if he really gives his concern to men and to things, he would organize society on a different basis; there would not be your belief as something superior to mine. But he would not do that because his ideas are more important. The system becomes more important than distribution and there is wrangling. It is not the things that are dividing man, but ideas. If that is understood, life would become very simple.
There is scientific skill in the world to produce things for everybody. There is knowledge at the disposal of man to produce enough food, clothing and shelter; but the ideas of nationalities such as the Americans, the English, the Germans, the Russians and so on, are preventing man from making it effective. Therefore there is this mess and misery in the world.
If I say "I will begin to understand the sensate", I can proceed step by step into the deeper things. Then, I can find out whether there is Reality or not. But to assume Reality is an idea which leads to illusion.
Just as the word, 'God' is not God, so the term for a feeling is not the feeling. When we do not put a feeling in the framework of references, the feeling comes to an end, withers away. When we do not term our feelings at all, both the painful feelings as well as the pleasurable feelings, the mind will be still and there would be no reference to the framework of memory and the feelings wither away.
Thus, the conflict of duality exists only when there is the naming of the feelings, and if we do not term the feelings, there is freedom from the conflict. What is then important for you is to find out, in our daily life, the truth of this, and then you will be content with a more peaceful and serene and intelligent life. When you come to that point you can find out the significance of life, what it really means to love, and not its dictionary meaning, not a philosophical meaning for you to follow. When we come to that point, we can talk of other subjects like dreams, whether the Communist is right or the Rightist is right, and so on.
The understanding of Truth gives freedom and therefore happiness.
The Observer is the Observed
Madras, India. Group Discussion 13th 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.