The Observer is the Observed
Bombay, India. Public Talk 22nd February, 1948
I shall try today to clarify the extraordinarily complex problem of our existence, very simply and very directly, if that is possible. You are fully aware, I think, that our existence is very complex and extraordinarily vast and subtle; and like all complex problems, I think we ought to approach it very simply. Though I may use ordinary words with a difficult meaning, or put it in a difficult way, you will find, if you care to think about it, that the approach is very simple, like that to all great scientific problems. The problem itself is complex, but it has to be approached very simply; and that is what I hope we will do this evening. Our existence is complex, and we try to solve a particular problem unrelated to other problems. That is, the problem of existence is not at one level only, but at different levels, and these problems at different levels are interrelated. The physiological problem is related to the psychological and spiritual problem, but we try to solve the problem of food, clothing and shelter on its own level, apart from the psychological level. We try to solve the economic problem as though it were completely unrelated to the psychological problem, and this effort to solve each of our human problems on its own level leads to catastrophic results. That is, if we try to solve the economic problem on its own level, not relating it to the psychological problem, it leads us to confusion and further catastrophes. So, departmental thinking can in no way solve the problem of existence. When the economists, the socialists, the communists, the psychologists, try to solve our difficult problems, each purely on its own level, which means departmental thinking, then there is no way out of the mess.
So, we have to think of our existence as a whole, as a total process, and not as many unrelated processes at different levels. The different levels are interrelated, and therefore they must be thought of as a total process, not as separate, independent process. Our life, our daily existence, is a series of contradictions. We talk of peace, and try to live at peace, but we are preparing for war; we talk of freedom, but regimentation is taking place all the time. There is poverty and riches, evil and good, violence and non-violence. Our whole life is a series of contradictions. We want to be happy, and we do everything to bring about unhappiness; we want peace in the world, and yet everything we think, feel and do bring about war. So, we live in a series of contradictions, which I think is fairly obvious and with which we are quite familiar.
Now, to choose one of the contradictions is to avoid direct action, because choice at all times is a process of the avoidance of action. That is, if I choose one of the contradictions, peace, and do not understand its opposite, conflict, then such choice leads to inaction. It is not choice, but right thinking, that brings about integration. Where there is right thinking, contradictions are not possible; when we know how to think rightly, contradiction will cease. So, we have to find out what is right thinking, and not be caught in choice between good and evil, between war and peace, between riches and poverty, between freedom and regimentation. When right thinking comes into being, there is no contradiction. Contradiction is the very nature of the self, the seat of desire. So, to understand desire is the beginning of self-knowledge, and without self-knowledge, there is no right thinking. If I don't know myself, the total process of myself, not only at the economic level of everyday existence, but at the different psychological levels, then I live in a state of contradiction; and to choose one of the opposites does not bring about integration. We see contradiction about us and in our lives, there is a constant battle of choice between right and wrong; and we choose one of the opposites, yet that does not bring about peace, integration. So, to choose is to avoid action, and only right thinking can bring about integration.
Our problem, then, is how to think rightly. Now, right thinking and right thought are two different states, are they not? Right thinking has to be discovered, whereas right thought is merely conformity to a pattern. Right thinking is a process, whereas right thought is static. Right thinking is constant movement, constant discovery; that is, only through constant awareness in action, which is relationship, can there be right thinking. But right thought is always static; you can pick up right thought. You can regiment your mind, force your mind, discipline it to think along right lines, but that is not right thinking. Right thinking can come into being only through self-knowledge, and self-knowledge is never static. I am using the word self - knowledge in its full meaning - knowledge of the self, not only the higher but the lower self. To me, the self, the desire, is both the high and the low. We have divided the self for convenience, as a means of escape; but actually, to understand the self, one must understand the whole process of thinking, which is consciousness.
So, right thinking alone can bring about integration and therefore freedom from the conflict of the opposites, freedom from self-contradiction; and to understand self-contradiction, the battle that is going on within each one of us and which is expressed outwardly in the world, there must be an awareness of the process of our own thinking, awareness of every thought and every feeling - not merely the acceptance of pleasurable thoughts and the avoidance of ugly ones, but awareness of all thoughts and all feelings. And, to understand, there must be no condemnation; because the moment you condemn a thing, you cease to understand it. So, self-knowledge is the beginning of wisdom, from which comes right thinking; and without right thinking there can be no right action, and therefore no creation of a new social structure.
So, our problem is, is it not?, that, living in a state of contradiction, we are caught in a contradictory society which is the result of our own projection. I want, and I don't want; I want to live at peace, and at the same time I see that I am antisocial. We live in a state of constant contradiction, and therefore there is disintegration; and any action that springs from that state of contradiction is bound to lead to further conflict and disintegration. To bring about integration, there must be right thinking; right thinking can come into being only through self-knowledge; and self-knowledge is a process of constant discovery of the full significance of each thought and each feeling. That is, there must be constant awareness, without condemnation or justification, of every thought, of every movement, of every feeling - awareness, not only of the superficial consciousness, but also of the motives, the intimations, the significance of all our hidden thoughts, pursuits and desires. As you are more and more aware you will find that there comes a deeper and deeper understanding. From this understanding comes right thinking, and only right thinking can bring about the right solution to the many problems that confront each one of us.
Question: Is not the longing expressed in prayer a way to God?
Krishnamurti: First of all we are going to examine the problems contained in this question. In it are implied prayer, concentration and meditation. Now, what do we mean by prayer? First of all, in prayer there is petition, supplication to what you call God, reality. You, as an individual, are demanding, petitioning, begging, seeking guidance from something which you call God; therefore your approach is one of seeking a reward, seeking a gratification. You are in trouble, national or individual, and you pray for guidance; or you are confused, and you beg for clarity, you look for help to what you call God. In this is implied that God, whatever God may be - we won't discuss that for the moment - , is going to clear up the confusion which you and I have created. Because, after all, it is we who have brought about the confusion, the misery, the chaos, the appalling tyranny, the lack of love; and we want what we call God to clear it up. In other words, we want our confusion, our misery, our sorrow, our conflict, to be cleared away by somebody else, we petition another to bring us light and happiness.
Now, when you pray, when you beg, petition for something, it generally comes into being. When you ask, you receive; but what you receive will not create order, because what you receive does not bring clarity, understanding. It only satisfies, gives gratification, but does not bring about understanding; because, when you demand, you receive that which you yourself project. How can reality, God, answer your particular demand? Can the immeasurable, the unutterable, be concerned with our petty little worries, miseries, confusions, which we ourselves have created? Therefore, what is it that answers? Obviously, the immeasurable cannot answer the measured, the petty, the small. But what is it that answers? At that moment, when we pray, we are fairly silent, in a state of receptivity; and then our own subconscious brings a momentary clarity. That is, you want something, you are longing for it, and in that moment of longing, of obsequious begging, you are fairly receptive; your conscious, active mind is comparatively still, so the unconscious projects itself into that and you have an answer. But it is surely not an answer from reality, from the immeasurable - it is your own unconscious responding. So, don't let us be confused and think that when your prayer is answered you are in relationship with reality. Reality must come to you; you cannot go to it.
Then, in this problem of prayer, there is another factor involved: the response of that which we call the inner voice. I said, when the mind is supplicating, petitioning, it is comparatively still; and when you hear the inner voice, it is your own voice projecting itself into that comparatively still mind. Again, how can it be the voice of reality? A mind that is confused, ignorant, craving, demanding, petitioning, how can it understand reality? The mind can receive reality only when it is absolutely still, not demanding, not craving, not longing, not asking, whether for yourself, for the nation, or for another. When the mind is absolutely still, when desire ceases, then only reality comes into being. But a person who is demanding, petitioning, supplicating, longing for direction, such a person will find what he seeks, but it will not be the truth. What he receives will be the response of the unconscious layers of his own mind, which project themselves into the conscious; and that still, small voice which directs him is not the real, but only the response of the unconscious.
Then, in this problem of prayer, there is also the question of concentration. With most of us, concentration is a process of exclusion. Concentration is brought about through effort, compulsion, direction, imitation, and so concentration is a process of exclusion. I am interested in so-called meditation, but my thoughts are distracted. So, I fix my mind on a picture, an image, or an idea, and exclude all other thoughts; and this process of concentration, which is exclusion, is considered to be a means of meditating. That is what you do, is it not? When you sit down to meditate, you fix your mind on a word, on an image, or on a picture; but the mind wanders all over the place. There is the constant interruption of other ideas, other thoughts, other emotions, and you try to push them away, you spend your time battling with your thoughts. This process you call meditation. That is, you are trying to concentrate on something in which you are not interested, and your thoughts keep on multiplying, increasing, interrupting. So, you spend your energy in exclusion, in warding off, pushing away; and if you can concentrate on your chosen thought, on a particular object, you think you have at last succeeded in meditation. Surely, that is not meditation, is it? Meditation is not an exclusive process - exclusive in the sense of warding off, building resistance against encroaching ideas. So, prayer is not meditation, and concentration as exclusion is not meditation.
So, what is meditation? Concentration is not meditation, because where there is interest it is comparatively easy to concentrate on something. A general who is planning war, butchery, is very concentrated. A business man making money is very concentrated - he may even be ruthless, putting aside every other feeling and concentrating completely on what he wants, a man who is interested in anything is naturally, spontaneously concentrated, But, surely, such concentration is not meditation, it is merely exclusion.
So, what is meditation? Obviously, it is not fixing your mind on an object, on a word, on an idea, on a phrase, an image, or a speculative hope. Surely, that is merely concentration on what you want. As a business man concentrates on making money, so you concentrate on what you want and exclude, push aside, battle with the encroaching waves of thought. Surely, that is not meditation, is it?
So, what is meditation? Surely, meditation is understanding - meditation of the heart is understanding. How can there be understanding if there is exclusion? How can there be understanding when there is petition, supplication? In understanding there is peace, there is freedom; that which you understand, from that you are liberated. But, merely to concentrate, or to pray, does not bring understanding. So, understanding is the very basis, the fundamental process of meditation. You don't have to accept my word for it; but if you examine prayer and concentration very carefully, deeply, you will find that neither of them leads to understanding. They merely lead to obstinacy, to a fixation, to illusion. Whereas, meditation, in which there is understanding, brings about freedom, clarity and integration.
So, then, what do we mean by understanding? Understanding means giving right significance, right valuation, to all things. To be ignorant is to give wrong values; the very nature of stupidity is the lack of comprehension of right values. So, understanding comes into being when there are right values, when right values are established. And how is one to establish right values - the right value of property, the right value of relationship, the right value of ideas? For the right values to come into being, you must understand the thinker, must you not? If I don't understand the thinker, which is myself, what I choose has no meaning, that is, if I don't know myself, then my action, my thought, have no foundation whatsoever. So, self-knowledge is the beginning of meditation - not the knowledge that you pick up from my books, from authorities, from gurus, but the knowledge that comes into being through self-inquiry, which is self-awareness. Meditation is the beginning of self-knowledge, and without self-knowledge there is no meditation. Because, if I don't understand the ways of my thoughts, of my feelings, if I don't understand my motives, my desires, my demands, my pursuit of patterns of action, which are ideas - I do not know myself, there is no foundation for thinking; and the thinker who merely asks, prays, or excludes, without understanding himself, must inevitably end in confusion, in illusion.
So, the beginning of meditation is self-knowledge, which means being aware of every movement of thought and feeling, knowing all the layers of my consciousness - not only the superficial layers, but the hidden, the deeply concealed activities. But, to know the deeply concealed activities, the hidden motives, responses, thoughts and feelings, there must be tranquillity in the conscious mind; that is, the conscious mind must be still in order to receive the projection of the unconscious. The superficial, conscious mind is occupied with its daily activities, with earning a livelihood, deceiving others, exploiting others, running away from problems - all the daily activities of our existence. That superficial mind must understand the right significance of its own activities and thereby bring tranquillity to itself. It cannot bring about tranquillity, stillness, by mere regimentation, by compulsion, by discipline. It can bring about tranquillity, peace, stillness, only by understanding its own activities, by observing them, by being aware of them, by seeing its own ruthlessness, how it talks to the servant, to the wife, to the daughter, to the mother, and so on. When the superficial, conscious mind is thus fully aware of all its activities, through that understanding it becomes spontaneous, quiet, not drugged by compulsion or regimented by desire; and then it is in a position to receive the intimations, the hints of the unconscious, of the many, many hidden layers of the mind - the racial instincts, the buried memories, the concealed pursuits, the deep wounds that are still unhealed. It is only when all these have projected themselves and are understood, when the whole consciousness is unburdened, unfettered by any wound, by any memory whatsoever, that it is in a position to receive the eternal.
So, meditation is self-knowledge, and without self-knowledge there is no meditation. If you are not aware of all your responses all the time, if you are not fully conscious, fully cognizant of your daily activities, merely to lock yourself in a room and sit down in front of a picture of your guru, of your Master, to do puja, to meditate, is an escape. Because, without self-knowledge there is no right thinking, and without right thinking, what you do has no meaning, however noble your intentions are. So, prayer has no significance without self-knowledge; but when there is self-knowledge, there is right thinking, and hence right action. When there is right action, there is no confusion, and therefore there is no supplication to someone else to lead you out of it. A man who is fully aware, is meditating; he does not pray, because he does not want anything. Through prayer, through regimentation, through repetition, through japam and all the rest of it, you can bring about a certain stillness; but that is mere dullness, reducing the mind and the heart to a state of weariness. It is drugging the mind; and exclusion, which you call concentration, does not lead to reality, no exclusion ever can. What brings about understanding is self-knowledge, and it is not very difficult to be aware if there is right intention. If you are interested to discover the whole process of yourself - not merely the superficial part, but the total process of your whole being - , then it is comparatively easy. If you really want to know yourself, you will search out your heart and your mind to know their full content; and when there is the intention to know, you will know. Then you can follow, without condemnation or justification, every movement, of thought and feeling; and by following every thought and every feeling as it arises, you bring about tranquillity which is not compelled, not regimented, but which is the outcome of having no problem, no contradiction. It is like the pool that becomes peaceful, quiet, any evening when there is no wind; and when the mind is still, then that which is immeasurable comes into being.
Question: Why is your teaching so purely psychological? There is no cosmology, no theology, no ethics, no aesthetics, no sociology, no political science, not even hygiene. Why do you concentrate only on the mind and its workings?
Krishnamurti: For a very simple reason, Sir. If the thinker can understand himself, then the whole problem is solved. Then he is creation, he is reality; and then what he does will not be antisocial. Virtue is not an end in itself; virtue brings freedom, and there can be freedom only when the thinker, which is the mind, ceases. That is why one has to understand the process of the mind, the `I', the bundle of desires that create the `I', my property, my wife, my ideas, my God. Surely, it is because the thinker is so confused that his actions are confused; it is because the thinker is confused that he seeks reality, order, peace. Because the thinker is confused, ignorant, he wants knowledge; and because the thinker is in contradiction, in conflict, he pursues ethics to control, to guide, to support him. So, if I can understand myself, the thinker, then the whole problem is solved, is it not? Then I will not be antisocial, I will not be rich and exploit the poor, I will not want things, things, things, which brings about a conflict between those who have and those who have not. Then I will have no caste, no nationality, there will be no separation between man and man. Then we shall love each other, we shall be kind. So, what is important, then, is not cosmology, not theology, not hygiene - though hygiene is necessary, and cosmology and theology are unnecessary; but what is important is to understand myself, the thinker.
Now, is the thinker different from his thoughts? If thought ceases, is there the thinker? Can the quality be removed from the thinker? When the qualities of the thinker are removed, is there the thinker, the `I'? So, thoughts themselves are the thinker, they are not separate. The thinker has separated himself from his thoughts in order to safeguard himself; he can then always modify his thoughts according to circumstances, and yet remain aloof as the thinker. The moment he begin to modify the thinker, the thinker ceases. So, it is one of the tricks of the mind to separate the thinker from the thoughts, and then to be concerned about the thoughts, how to change them, how to modify them, how to transform them - all of which is a deception, an illusion. Because, the thinker is not if thought is not, and mere modification of thoughts does not do away with the thinker. That is one of the clever ways the thinker has of protecting himself, of giving himself permanency; whereas thoughts are impermanent. So, the self is perpetuated; but the self is not permanent, whether the higher self or the lower self. Both are still within the field of memory, within the field of time.
So, the reason why I give so much importance and urgency to the psychology of the mind, is that the mind is the cause of all action; and without understanding that, merely to reform, to potter around, to trim the superficial actions, has very little meaning. We have done that for generations, and have brought about confusion, madness, and misery in the world. So, we have to go to the very root of the whole problem of existence, of consciousness, which is the `I', the thinker; and without understanding the thinker and its activities, mere superficial social reforms have no significance - at least, not for the man who is very serious, very earnest. That is why it is important for each of us to find out on that we are laying emphasis - whether on the superficial, the outward, or on the fundamental. Because, Sirs, with the world in such an insane mood of butchering, of destroying, of hurling man against man, surely the time has come for those who are really in earnest, purposeful, to tackle the problem radically and profoundly, and not deal with superficial reforms and trimmings. That is why it is important to know for yourself on what to lay emphasis, and not depend on another to tell you. If you give importance to the psychology of the thinker merely because I do, then you will be imitative and you can be persuaded to imitate somebody else when this does not suit you. So, you must think out this problem very seriously and very profoundly, and not wait for somebody to tell you on what to lay emphasis. Surely, all this is so obvious and clear. Organized religion, party and power politics, socialism, capitalism, communism, all have failed because they are not dealing with the fundamental nature of man. They want to trim the environmental influences; and what value has that when man is inwardly sick, diseased and confused? Surely, a good doctor is not concerned only with the symptoms. Symptoms are merely indicative. He goes to the cause, and eradicates the cause. So, a man who is in earnest has to go to the cause, and not superficially play with words; and the fundamental cause of this misery in the world is the lack of understanding of the process of ourselves. We do not want to bring order within ourselves, but only outward order. There will be outward order when there is inward order, because the inward always overcomes the outer. So, the emphasis obviously must be laid on the psychological process, with all its implications. When one understands oneself, there is happiness, there is peace, and a happy man is not in conflict with his neighbour. It is only the miserable man, the ignorant man, who is in conflict; his actions are antisocial, and wherever he goes he creates misery and more conflict. But a man who understands himself is at peace, and therefore his actions are peaceful.
Question: You have said that all progress is in charity only, and that what we call progress is merely a process of disintegration. What is there to disintegrate? Chaos is always with us, and there is neither progress nor regress in chaos.
Krishnamurti: I said there is technological progress, but otherwise there is no progress at all - which we see, obviously, in the world about us. There is progress, technological progress, from the simple wheel to this extraordinary thing called the airplane, the jet plane; but is there a progress of our minds, of our hearts? Do you love? Surely, Sir, action which is integrating, which is complete, can take place only where there is love, where there is charity; and without charity, without love, all technological progress leads to destruction, to disintegration. That is what is happening in the world at the present time. We are progressing towards chaos, because we are not progressing in charity - which opens up an enormous problem, and I don't think we will have time this evening to go into it fully. It is this: Is there such a thing at all as progress, evolution? I know there is technological progress, the evolution of better machines, and all the rest of it; but do you and I evolve? What is the thing that evolves, and towards what? Ignorance can never evolve into wisdom, greed can never become that which is not greed. Greed will always be greed, though it progresses, evolves. Through time, ignorance can never become wisdom. Ignorance must cease for wisdom to be; greed must cease for that which is not greed to come into being. So, when you talk of evolving, of progressing, you mean becoming something: you are this, and you will become that; you are the clerk, and you will become the manager; you are the priest, and you will become the bishop; you are poor, but you will become rich; you are evil, but you will eventually become good. This becoming is what you call progress, evolution; but it is merely the continuity, in a modified form, of that which is. Becoming is the continuity of what is in a modified form, and therefore there cannot be fundamental change in, what you call progress. We will discuss it another time, because it needs going into very, very carefully.
In becoming, in continuity, can there ever be evolution, can there ever be progress? Only in ending is there rebirth, not in continuity. But progress, surely, can exist only in technological things, and you cannot `progress' in charity - that is, in the comparative sense of becoming more charitable, more loving. Where there is love, there is no comparison. Don't you know? When you love somebody, you love, you give yourself over completely - the you is non-existent. As long as the `you' remains, there is the desire to become, and in becoming there is no rebirth. Becoming is only a modified continuity, and that which continues, decays; that which continues, knows death; but that which is ending is free of death.
Question: We know that thought destroys feeling. How to feel without thinking?
Krishnamurti: Obviously, we know that rationalizing, calculating, bargaining, destroys feeling, love, affection. Have you not noticed that the more you rationalize, the more you bargain, the more you exploit, the more you use the mind, the less feeling there is? Because, feeling is very dangerous, to feel is very dangerous, is it not? To feel very strongly might lead you to what you call chaos, to confusion, to disorder; therefore you control it by rationalizing, and by rationalizing it you cease to be generous. Your feeling is destroyed when there is the thought process, which is naming, terming. You have a feeling of pain, of pleasure, of anger, and by terming it, by giving it a name, which is thinking about it, you modify it, and thereby reduce the feeling. Don't you know? When you feel generous, when you spontaneously want to give your shirt to somebody, your mind comes in and says, `What will happen?'. You begin to rationalize your feeling, and then you become charitable through organizations, not directly - which is avoidance of action. Strong feelings are dangerous, love is very dangerous; therefore you begin to think about love, which minimizes and slowly destroys love.
The next question is, `Is it possible to feel without thinking?'. What do we mean by thinking? Thinking, merely, is the response of memory, either of pain or of pleasure. That is, there is no thinking without the residue of experience; and feeling - when I use the word `feeling' I mean love, not desire, not emotionalism, not all the putrefied stuff which you call feeling - , love cannot be brought within the field of thought. So, the more you respond to memory, which is called thinking, the less love there is. Love is burning, never still, it is from moment to moment, creative, new, fresh, joyous, and therefore it is very dangerous in society, in our relationship; so thought steps in, thought being the response of memory, and modifies love, controls it, tames it, guides it, legalizes it, puts it out of danger. Then it can live with it. Don't you know? When you love somebody, you love the whole of mankind - not just one person, you love man. And it is dangerous to love man, is it not? Because, then there is no barrier, no nationality, there is no craving for money, for position, for things - and such a man is dangerous to society, is he not? But you all want many things. You want fame, you build around yourselves a hood of ideas, of exclusions, and that is why a man who loves is dangerous to society; and so society, which is you, begins to build a thought process, which soon destroys love. For love to be, memory, with all its complex processes, has to come to an end. That is, memory arises only when experience is not fully, completely understood. Memory is only the residue of experience; memory is the result of a challenge which is not fully comprehended. Life is a process of challenge and response, the challenge always being new and the response always being old. So, one has to understand the old, the conditioned response, which means that thought must free itself from the past, from time, from yesterday; it must live each day, each minute, as completely, as fully, and as newly as possible. And you do that when you love, when your heart is full; you cannot do it with words, with things made by the mind, but only when you love. Then memory the thought that is merely the response of memory, ceases; then every minute is a new minute, every movement is a rebirth, and to love the one is to love the whole.
The Observer is the Observed
Bombay, India. Public Talk 22nd February, 1948
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.