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The Observer is the Observed

Madras, India. Group Discussion 29th December, 1947

In daily life, if you watch yourself you will find that you are not sensitive. Why are you not sensitive? Because it hurts you, or because you don't want to be found out in your true colours, your natural instinct is to be physically insensitive. Generally speaking, artists are considered unsteady and immoral. That is because, biologically and physically they are intense in their emotions.

Modern civilisation necessarily involves a biological and physical barrier of sensitivity as otherwise existence will be almost impossible. Is it necessary to have also a psychological barrier? In practice, we are psychologically more sensitive than even physically, though both work upon each other. We have walls of guilt, defence and fear.

Let us find out to whom there is experience, to him who is asleep or to him who is awake. Experience is only to the man who is asleep because he is awakened by that experience and he then says that he has had experience. If he is awake, he is always active and therefore he has no experience.

You now want to know what Karma means. Karma really means either to do or to be, and it comprises (i) the instinctive responses of the physical and (ii) the cultural responses of the psychological human being. The cultural responses are educated, controlled, conditioned and disciplined. Society, by means of its discipline, impinges on the individual and changes his impulses. The individual has also inherited impulses from his past. So the present is the passage from the past to the future. His cultural and psychological responses are from the past but modified by the conjunction of the past with the present. Thus, the past is controlling and modifying the present - i.e. the cause which was in the past brings about an effect in the present. The past modified by, or flowing through, the present produces action which is also conditioned. The old, meeting the new challenge, produces modified action - i.e. the new is always modified by the old. The past is the 'me' and in conjunction with the present, the 'me', produces action. The past itself was a series of modifications- yesterday was a modification of the day before yesterday in conjunction with yesterday's present; similarly, the day before yesterday was the modification of the day before in conjunction with the present of the day before yesterday. Today is a modification of yesterday in conjunction with today's present. Thus, the 'modifier' is the continuous entity of the days before yesterday, yesterday and today. The modifier is the actor and he is the result of modification of the innumerable days before yesterday. Therefore, he is the creator of time - the time of memory not chronological time. As the actor is the result of the past, he necessarily causes modification to the present when he meets the present which is new. This meeting of the past with the challenge of the present which is new, leads to conflict which results in modification of the new into the old. In other words, your feeling now is conditioned by what you felt yesterday and all the days before. Therefore, in meeting a new challenge today you act in a conditioned manner and therefore you feel pain.

Yesterday was modified by the days before yesterday. In the time-interval, cause and effect form a process of change. That which was the effect yesterday of a cause of day-before-yesterday, is now found to be the cause of the effect today; this effect in turn will be the cause of something which will be noticed as effect tomorrow.

Is today (which is cause) different from tomorrow (which is effect)? Is cause different from effect? Is what we call modification a modification at all?

The means creates the end. Is the end distant from the means?

You have seen that what was the effect becomes the cause and what is the cause will become the effect, and that this is a continuous chain throughout. You have also realised that the actor who is the modifier, is also really the cause and the effect, and that there is no time-interval when the cause is distant from the effect; thus cause and effect are the same.

As has already been stated, the conditioned experience of yesterday meets the present which is always new, and modifies the present according to yesterday's conditioning. This modification is taking place continuously with no time-interval and therefore there is no moment in time when the cause and the effect are two distinct things separate and distant from each other. The whole is one continuous process and the action is a continuous stream where the cause, the effect and the modifier are all one and the same. Why is it that the actor does not realise that he is at the same time the cause, the effect and the modifier? You are sorrow (i.e. today); you are the cause of sorrow (i.e. tomorrow); yet you want to avoid sorrow. Today's experience has been conditioned by yesterday's and it will condition the experience of tomorrow. Therefore, psychological time is created by memory and does not exist except as memory ever undergoing modification. As long as the actor is the result of yesterday in conjunction with the present, he will be the modifier also. Cause and effect and their modification are all fluid and in a state of flux, they are never steady. You are the cause and the modifier always living and moving, always going on as one continuous process. If you realise this, then to you, time as a process of understanding ceases.

If you consider that the cause is different from the effect, then you accept the time-interval for modification. that means you can modify the effect during this time-interval; this implies growth or progress in time towards a state already projected by you. This is really false because the acorn contains the oak tree and it cannot grow into anything else. When you thus realise that cause and effect are the same, there is no time at all; and when you also realise that any action on the part of the actor will be only in time, you will cease to think in terms of time. Therefore the actor cannot do anything but remain still and silent in a state of alertness. Any discipline that the actor chooses to impose upon himself is really a response to a challenge made by a temptation or a desire, whether verbal or painful. All discipline is therefore a process of isolation. For instance, to resist greed, you discipline against greed by erecting a wall of non-greed. When discipline is a means of resistance, you are using time as a means of modification or resistance and therefore time becomes important. Discipline, being then a process of conditioning in time, causes sorrow.

When you realise this and when you understand the whole meaning of discipline, the discipline drops away. You will never act contrary to what is orderly if you live without discipline but with understanding.

Fighting a response always leads to further resistance. Your psychological inward intention is to be free so that you may meet a new challenge without any conditioning; there- fore, you would allow all the responses that are already in you to come out; you do not impede them in any manner. You go on like this, till you have worked out all your old responses. This understanding of responses really leads to the dropping away of your responses and you will be neither 'excited' nor 'not excited', because being aware of every response means intense watchfulness. You will then be in a state of extraordinary pliability when love will come into being. Then, the actor who has realised himself to be the cause, the effect and the modifier, faces everything that comes to him irrespective of whether it is pleasurable or painful without any resistance whatsoever.

The Observer is the Observed

Madras, India. Group Discussion 29th 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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