The Observer is the Observed
Madras, India. Group Discussion 25th December, 1947
We have been discussing the practical ways of dealing with some of the topics which we had considered already. We tried to analyse what we mean by practical steps. Is it a matter of practice, or a matter of understanding? If you understand something, there is no need for practice. If you understand and study the nature and the implications of nationalism, not bringing your prejudice and your defence mechanism against it, that very understanding would dissolve the poison of nationalism.
We also discussed the practical steps with regard to our relationship with property - not only land but name, title, degrees, alphabetical letters before and after one's name - and how property becomes of enormous significance, when inwardly, psychologically, there is poverty of being.
Then we discussed relationship with persons - between you and me, you and your wife or husband - whether you are 'related' or whether merely 'relationship' is a term without much significance. We started with the examination of "relationship" as it is now and not of what is should be. We found that relationship is conflict though that conflict is neither necessary nor inevitable. We also found that this conflict in relationship was due to each one striving for isolation; though you may live with your wife, with your neighbour and with the society, you are really building psychological walls of isolation between yourself and society, between yourself and your family. Though you say you are "related" to your wife and your children what is actually taking place in "relationship" is that you are seeking self-protection by building up walls of resistance, and so is your wife and others. You occasionally look over the walls and call it relationship; but, the isolating walls keep you separate. Is the building of the wall an inevitable law like gravitation? You build the wall to protect yourself, On enquiry, you found that though, physically and biologically, some property - food, clothes and shelter - is essential for your existence, it is not necessary to protect yourself psychologically. Yet you are protecting yourself inwardly by the values which you have given to the things made by the hand (property) or by the mind (beliefs), thus using for your psychological protection only values based on sensory perception. Because of this, things assume an importance or significance which they do not inherently possess, and you, therefore, cling tenaciously to property and belief, even to the extent of dying for them, if necessary. The walls which you protect yourself with are built up of the value which you yourself have given to things.
Are you aware that you are creating this wall of detachment around you? You have a certain attitude and I may or may not have that attitude; the very attitude of the teacher and the disciple builds a wall. Similarly, a man of property, a man of possession, or a man of greed, creates a barrier between himself and his servant, between himself and the man who has no title; the man who has title, talks about brotherhood and about avoiding distinctions and so on; yet, he creates a barrier between himself and others. The building of these psychological walls is the very impediment to relationship and is one of the fundamental disintegrating factors in society. One of these isolating walls around you is caste. Your father or his forbears created caste to separate themselves from the rest; probably, biologically, they thought they were superior and did not want to mix up with the rest. We can understand this tendency, because each one of us wants to feel superior. You put degrees after your name to show that you are different from another. You have the desire to be separate, to be superior to others, to be something in words and in name; that is why you are attached to your titles, your property, your name, etc. If all these are taken away from you, you are absolutely nothing. Similarly, your national prejudice is another such wall. As you are inwardly poor, shallow and empty, you seek gratification through things by giving them your own extraordinary values and you therefore cling to them with great tenacity; you therefore build the wall around you and within the enclosure you admit none, not even your son, your neighbour, or the society. In understanding this, you understand that the search for sensory gratification is the cause of creating the enclosing wall.
Desire is the builder of the wall - desire for title, for bank account, for property, for family, for beliefs. The 'I' is the product of the desire in relation to an object. How does desire come into being? Perception, contact, sensation and desire. There is a car, then perception of it, then contact with it, then a sensation caused by it, and then the desire which says "How lovely it is! I would like to have it", comes. Desire or craving comes through seeing, touching and feeling. It is the outcome of sensate values, the identification through the senses with the object of the senses. Desire with regard to ideas also follows the same process. You like or you do not like a particular idea. When you like an idea, that idea is pleasing and gratifying to you. The acceptance of an idea or the rejection of an idea is based merely on gratification which is sensate. So, the sensory values dominate and the sensory value is the 'me' dominating the whole - 'I and my property', 'I and my relationship', or 'I and my belief'. Belief is the outcome of the projection of the mind, whether it is the belief in the ultimate Paramatman or Brahman, or in the Higher Self and the Lower Self. When you think about the Atman, it is still thought. The Brahman is still thought. As your belief in Reality, God, Atman, etc. is self-projected, it is sensory. Therefore, 'your God' is also sensate; 'your God' is created by you. The implications are tremendous if you admit this; it will mean, as far as you are concerned, the whole collapse of the so-called religious society.
So, you see that desire is the outcome of the sensate value; 'me' is the result of desire; 'me' creates, formulates, and fabricates values etc.; the wall that 'me' builds is also of sensate values created by the builder and that whatever the thinker, the actor, the builder, does is always sensory and, therefore, transitory.
You now understand how, because your values with regard to property, to relationship and to ideation are all sensory, there is conflict within yourself and chaos in the society around you which is an expression of your inner conflict. You see that your neighbour is like you in many ways and both of you have only sensate values, though you may talk of the Absolute, the Supreme, the Ideal, etc. The result is conflict between you and your neighbour which is society. That is the building of the walls that separate you and your neighbour, your sensory values and your neighbour's sensory values. So, there is no relationship between you and your neighbour; and therefore there is no relationship between you and society. The society is not responsible for you, It passes laws but you are out of it. You fit in when it suits you; and when it does not suit you, you are out of it. Similarly, society uses you as a part of itself when it suits it; it absorbs you as a soldier when there is a war, and thrusts you into it, and you accept it. Thus, there is mutual exploitation.
You know now how conflict arises by your building your wall of sensate values. You also know that the builder of the wall is the 'I' which is itself the outcome of desire. As long as the 'I' is satisfied with the wall, there is nothing and the 'I' feels absolutely safe inside the wall. Most of you are in this state and you crave to remain undisturbed, each behind his own wall. Therefore, in your present state of psychological enclosure behind the wall of your sensate values, your talk of brotherhood has no meaning whatsoever.
Your cravings, your desires, inevitably cause you suffering. When you suffer, you feel disturbed. There is a breach in the wall, there is an enquiry, there is a storm. When you suffer, you try to forget and to avoid that very suffering by building another wall, a wall of belief, or the religious book or the temple, or the Master or some other means of escape. What happens when the 'thinker' is avoiding pain? The 'thinker' does not want to feel pain or to be disturbed. He hopes to be the permanent and enduring entity behind the wall; and, therefore, he separates himself from the wall, i.e. from the thought, i.e. from the desire. He then attempts to change his desires and his thoughts; he desires a house, he desires a quality, and ultimately he desires God. Objects of desire can be changed and the thinker is behind the wall feeling he is always permanent. The 'thinker' and the 'thought' are now two different things because the 'me', i.e. the thinker, is the permanent entity, the other is impermanent; the 'me' is secure, the other is insecure; and the 'me' can play with the secure as much as it likes. If the thinker identifies himself with the 'thought', then, in changing the thought, he becomes impermanent - which he does not like. Therefore, the 'thought' is considered as separate from the 'I'; when the 'I' is attacked a little more, the 'I' divides itself into the higher and lower; and when the higher is attacked, the 'I' retreats further high, and becomes the Paramatman. There is always in the 'thinker' a sense of permanency, a sense of continuity.
This is what is happening in daily life. When your property is taken away, you retreat to some other permanency, to relationship; and when that goes, you turn to something else, a little higher; and so on, you always remaining, and the objects being higher and higher - which is your relationship to God or 'I am God'. The discussion which we have had so far, has revealed to you the process of your thinking so that, without deception, you can see what you think and how you act in relation to property, in relation to your wife and in relation to society. All these three are sought by you in order to safeguard yourself. Because you think you are separate from your thoughts and desires, you are all the time seeking permanency by changing your thoughts and your desires through legislation, through practices, through discipline, through systems and so on. But as has been stated already, whatever you 'the thinker' may do, it is always sensory and therefore impermanent.
You now realise that neither legislation nor belief nor discipline will alter the 'me'. According to environmental influences the 'me' can change the thought, can become a communist when it suits 'me', or a capitalist, or a socialist, or a religious person. Thus, unless the 'me' who is the mischief-maker is tackled and transformed, the 'me' will always create havoc in relationship with property, with family, and with ideas. The transformation of the 'thinker' will be radical, and not merely superficial, only when the separation of the thinker from the thought ceases.
You suggest that the thinker and the thought are now separate and they should be brought together. This suggestion is wrong because it is based on a non-reality. The 'I' is not actually separate from the thought. It was a clever trick on the part of the 'I' to separate from the thought which is impermanent, assuming its own permanency. This is fictitious. The moment the 'I' realises that it has played the trick on itself, the trick is gone and the thinker is the thought.
To sum up, the 'I' is made up of many memories. The memories are the result of desire; the desire is the result of perception, contact, sensation, identification, which is the 'me'. So, the 'I' which is the product of desire, cleverly separates himself from the desire and does something about it, because, he can always change desires, and yet he can remain permanent. That is a clever trick that he is playing upon himself with a view to entrenching himself in continuity. This is the cause of the inner conflict in each individual and of the chaos which exists in the world at present; this state of affairs will continue till the trick is gone. The 'I' does not see the falseness of the trick which he has played upon himself, because when he realises the falseness of the trick, he will come into conflict with everybody.
Most of you agree with what we have discussed so far in regard to the falseness of the trick played by the mind on itself; yet you have not seen the real depth of this problem and, therefore, it has not brought about clarification and transformation in you. You accept this in your superficial consciousness but the deeper layers of consciousness are putting up a tremendous inward resistance to this acceptance. Is this because you are isolated or sleepy? You are not isolated and sleepy but very awake with regard to things that matter - money, passion, enjoyment and so on. You have deliberately become sleepy to things which are disturbing to you, or which you do not want. This means that you are awake in one part to things you like and asleep in another part to things you do not like. All the present conflict is the result of this partial awakening. Because one part of you is isolated and the other part is active, there is chaos created in yourself and this chaos is projected outside. This is the major portion of your existence. Nothing distracts you from the pursuit of pleasure; but whenever you apprehend any shock or suffering you promptly try your best deliberately to shut it off from you and to avoid it. That is why you do not look at this problem seriously though you verbally agree. Who is going to make you look? Can legislation, government, education, the ideal or any other outside agency make you look? Therefore, suffering comes to you as a warning. But every time you have suffering and sorrow, you look on it as a disturbance and try to avoid it so as to continue in the same old state; this sort of action on the part of the mind has made your life one series of conflicts to avoid "what is". To be aware of how the mind is playing the trick upon itself, is the beginning of understanding. The moment you are aware of it, you invite trouble - and there is joy.
The Observer is the Observed
Madras, India. Group Discussion 25th 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.