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The Observer is the Observed

Madras, India. Group Discussion 26th December, 1947

Suffering is the state of disturbance. Either you try to avoid it through some system or escape, or you understand its true significance.

Whenever there is a problem, it ceased to be so if there is an answer for it. It is really a problem to you only when it demands a solution and you are unable to find it. It will then be necessary for you to study it for itself.

Craving is the cause of suffering. Without understanding this, your attempt merely to get rid of suffering is bound to be futile.

Supposing you meet with a domestic calamity, like the death of your relative, you feel lonely an you suffer as you would like to retain continuously the state of peace in which you were, prior to his death, and which was agreeable to you.

Is suffering merely a state of disturbance? Is it not a warning that you should wake up and not sleep?

You feel disturbed only when you are asleep or when you hold on to something. Therefore any attempt on your part to get rid of that disturbance or suffering means that you wish to continue in a state of sleep and you feel lost because you sought fulfilment of yourself in your relative. You are seeking continuity in a state of sleep to get a permanent security to which you could attach yourself. Therefore this suffering has nothing to do with your relative's death, and you have never treated suffering as an indication to you of your being asleep.

If this is realised by you, then you will be interested only in what you actually are - i.e. in 'what is' - and your desire to get rid of suffering would then be only a distraction.

Because suffering is a disturbance of continuity, you wish to seek ways and means of entrenching yourself in permanency or in continuity, economic, social etc. You will not be disturbed psychologically either (i) by going insane or (ii) by seeking self-protection through belief and by giving yourself over completely to that belief. As you don't want to be disturbed, you can always find some explanation or other for suffering and you seek a way of not being disturbed psychologically. You then try to shut off everything that disturbs you and to improve in all things that are pleasurable to you. You choose the field agreeable to you and any factor that prevents your choice is a disturbance to you. You therefore adopt a permanent set of choice undisturbed by other things. Naturally you choose the field which gives you satisfaction and you don't want a disturbance in that field except towards improvement. The problem is whether you can improve in the field of your choice without any disturbance, especially when you are trying to shut off the factor that makes for improvement. Improvement can only be known in relationship. Improvement is only by comparison - i.e. by reference to the framework of values, viz., memory which is the residue of experience in relationship with others. This framework is the product of disturbances and you are attempting to use it to ward off disturbance. This attempt, therefore, leads to a perpetual state of contradiction in which there is suffering. In other words, when you attempt to avoid disturbance you don't want memory; but when you want to improve in the field of your choice you really want memory; thus there is contradiction. If you don't want any improvement at all but only continue to shut off every disturbance, then it really means, 'sleep' equal to 'death'. You feel disturbed because you are sensitive. Therefore when you attempt to cut off anything that causes disturbance to you, it means you want to be 'insensitive' or 'dull'. If there is complete cutting off of disturbances, you will be in a sleepy state. Then, the result of all your further activities in the same direction will be either (i) to put you to sleep or (ii) to enable you to realise that cutting-off is a wrong process as it has led you to this sate of insensitivity. If there is understanding, there is realisation; and your intention to continue undisturbed changes; you don't then make any attempt to cut yourself off inwardly from anything that was considered to be a disturbance previously; and every such 'disturbance' is no longer suffering because you are now awake and therefore you are able to understand 'what is'.

The Observer is the Observed

Madras, India. Group Discussion 26th 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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