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Choiceless Awareness

Bangalore 1st Public Talk 4th July, 1948

Instead of making a speech, I am going to answer as many questions as possible, and before doing so, I would like to point out something with regard to answering questions. One can ask any question; but to have a right answer, the question must also be right. If it is a serious question put by a serious person, by an earnest person who is seeking out the solution of a very difficult problem, then, obviously, there will be an answer befitting that question. But what generally happens is that lots of questions are sent in, sometimes very absurd ones, and then there is a demand that all those questions be answered. It seems to me such a waste of time to ask superficial questions and expect very serious answers. I have several questions here, and I am going to try to answer them from what I think is the most serious point of view; and, if I may suggest, as this is a small audience, perhaps you will interrupt me if the answer is not very clear, so that you and I can discuss the question.

Question: What can the average decent man do to put an end to our communal problem?

Krishnamurti: Obviously the sense of separatism is spreading throughout the world. Each successive war is creating more separatism, more nationalism, more sovereign governments, and so on. Especially in India, this problem of communal dissension is on the increase. Why? First of all, obviously, because people are seeking jobs. The more separate governments there are, the more jobs there will be; but that is a very shortsighted policy, is it not? Because, eventually the world's tendency will be more and more towards federation, towards a coming together, and not a constant breaking up. Surely, any decent person who really thinks about this situation - which is not merely Indian, but a world affair - , must first be free from nationalism, not only in matters of state, but in thought, in action, in feeling. After all, communalism is merely a branch of nationalism. Belonging to a particular country, to a particular race or group of people, or to a particular ideology, tends more and more to divide people, to create antagonism and hatred between man and man. Obviously, that is not the solution to the world's chaos. So, what each one of us can do is to be non-communal: We can cease to be Brahmins, cease to belong to any caste or to any country. But that is very difficult, because by tradition, by occupation, by tendency, we are conditioned to a particular pattern of action; and to break away from it is extremely hard. We may want to break away, but family tradition, religious orthodoxy, and so on, all prevent us. It is only men of goodwill who really seek goodwill, who desire to be friendly; and only such men will free themselves from all these limitations which create chaos.

So, it seems to me that to put an end to this communal contention, one must begin with oneself, and not wait for somebody else, for legislation, for government, to act. Because, after all, compulsion or legislation does not solve the problem. The spirit of communalism, separatism, of belonging to a particular class or ideology, to a religion, does ultimately create conflict and antagonism between human beings. Friendliness is not brought about by compulsion, and to look to compulsion, surely, is not the answer. So the way out of this is for each one, for every individual, for you and me, to break away from the communal spirit, from nationalism Is that not the only way out of this difficulty? Because, as long as the mind and the heart are not willing to be open and friendly, mere compulsion or legislation is not going to solve this problem. So, it is obviously the responsibility of each one of us, living as we do in a particular community, in a particular nation or group of people, to break away from the narrow spirit of separatism.

The difficulty is that most of us have grievances. Most of us agree with the ideal that we should break away and create a new world, a new set of ideas, and so on; but when we go back home the compulsion of environmental influences is so strong that we fall back - and that is the greatest difficulty, is it not? Intellectually we agree about the absurdity of communal contention, but very few of us care to sit down and think out the whole issue and discover the contributory causes. Belonging to any particular group, whether of social action or of political action, does create antagonism, separatism; and real revolution is not brought about by following any particular ideology, because revolution based on ideology creates antagonisms at different levels and therefore is a continuation of the same thing. So this communal dissension, obviously, can come to an end only when we see the whole absurdity of separate action, of a particular ideology, morality, or organized religion - whether Christianity, Hinduism, or any other organized and limited religion.

Audience: All this sounds very convincing, but in action it is very difficult; and as you say, when we go home most of us are entirely different people from what we are here. Although we may listen to you and think about what you say, the result depends on each one of us. There is always this "but."

Audience: This move to do away with organized religion may itself form an organized religion.

Krishnamurti: How, Sir?

Audience: For instance, neither Christ nor Ramakrishna Paramahamsa wanted an organized religion; but forgetting the very essence of the teachings, people have built around them an organized religion.

Krishnamurti: Why do we do this? Is it not because we want collective security, we want to feel safe?

Audience: Are all institutions separatist in character?

Krishnamurti: They are bound to be.

Audience: Is even belonging to a family wicked?

Krishnamurti: You are introducing the word "wicked", which I never used.

Audience: We are repudiating our family system. Our family system is ancient.

Krishnamurti: If it is misused, it must obviously be scrapped.

Audience: So an institution by itself need not be separatist?

Krishnamurti: Obviously. The post office is not separatist, because all communities use it. It is universal. So, why is it that individual human beings find it important to belong to something - to a religious organization, to a society, to a club, and so on? Why?

Audience: There is no life without relationship.

Krishnamurti: Obviously. But why seek separatism?

Audience: There are natural relationships and unnatural relationships. A family is a natural relationship.

Krishnamurti: I am just asking: why is there the desire, the urge, to belong to an exclusive group? Let us think it out, and not just make statements. Why is it that I belong to a particular caste or nation? Why do I call myself a Hindu? Why have we got this exclusive spirit?

Audience: Selfishness. The ego of power.

Krishnamurti: Throwing in a word or two does not mean an answer. There is some motive power, a drive, an intention, that makes us belong to a certain group of people. Why? Is it not important to find out? Why does one call oneself a German, an Englishman, a Hindu, a Russian? Is it not obvious that there is this desire to identify oneself with something, because identification with something large makes one feel important? That is the fundamental reason.

Audience: Not always. A Harijan, for instance, belongs to a very low community. He does not take pride in it.

Krishnamurti: But we keep him there. Why don't we invite him into our particular caste? Audience: We are trying to invite him.

Audience: We are trying to invite him.

Krishnamurti: But why is it that individuals identify themselves with the greater, with the nation, with an idea which is beyond them?

Audience: Because from the moment the individual is born, certain ideas are instilled into him. These ideas develop, and he thinks he is a slave, In other words, he is so conditioned.

Krishnamurti: Exactly. He is so conditioned that he cannot break away from his serfdom. The identification with the greater exists because one wants to be secure, safe, through belonging to a particular group of thought or of action. Sirs, this is obvious, is it not? In ourselves we are nothing, we are timid, afraid to remain alone, and therefore we want to identify ourselves with the larger, and in that identification we become very exclusive. This is a world process. This is not my opinion, it is exactly what is taking place. Identification is religiously or nationalistically inflamed at moments of great crisis; and the problem is vast, it is not just in India, it is everywhere throughout the world - this sense of identification with a particular group which gradually becomes exclusive and thereby creates between people antagonism, hatred. So, that is why, when answering this question, we will have to deal with nationalism as well as communalism, in which is also involved the identification with a particular organized religion.

Audience: Why do we identify ourselves at all?

Krishnamurti: For the very simple reason that if we did not identify ourselves with something we would be confused, we would be lost; and because of that fear, we identify ourselves in order to be safe.

Audience: Fear of what? Is it not ignorance rather than fear?

Krishnamurti: Call it what you like, fear or ignorance, they are all the same. So the point is really this: Can you and I be free from this fear, can we stand alone and not be exclusive? Aloneness is not exclusive; only loneliness is exclusive. Surely, that is the only way out of the problem; because, the individual is a world process, not a separate process, and as long as individuals identify themselves with a particular group or a particular section, they must be exclusive, thereby inevitably creating antagonism, hatred and conflict.

Question: Man must know what God is, before he can know God. How are you going to introduce the idea of God to man without bringing God to man's level?

Krishnamurti: You cannot, Sir. Now, what is the impetus behind the search for God, and is that search real? For most of us, it is an escape from actuality. So, we must be very clear in ourselves whether this search after God is an escape, or whether it is a search for truth in everything - truth in our relationships, truth in the value of things, truth in ideas. If we are seeking God merely because we are tired of this world and its miseries, then it is an escape. Then we create god, and therefore it is not God. The god of the temples, of the books, is not God, obviously - it is a marvellous escape. But if we try to find the truth, not in one exclusive set of actions, but in all our actions, ideas and relationships, if we seek the right evaluation of food, clothing and shelter, then, because our minds are capable of clarity and understanding, when we seek reality we shall find it. It will not then be an escape. But if we are confused with regard to the things of the world - food, clothing, shelter, relationship, and ideas - how can we find reality? We can only invent "reality." So, God, truth, or reality, is not to be known by a mind that is confused, conditioned, limited. How can such a mind think of reality or God? It has first to decondition itself. It has to free itself from its own limitations, and only then can it know what God is, obviously not before. Reality is the unknown, and that which is known is not the real.

So, a mind that wishes to know reality has to free itself from its own conditioning, and that conditioning is imposed either externally or internally; and as long as the mind creates contention, conflict in relationship, it cannot know reality. So, if one is to know reality, the mind must be tranquil; but if the mind is compelled, disciplined to be tranquil, that tranquillity is in itself a limitation, it is merely self-hypnosis. The mind becomes free and tranquil only when it understands the values with which it is surrounded. So, to understand that which is the highest, the supreme, the real, we must begin very low, very near; that is, we have to find the value of things, of relationship, and of ideas, with which we are occupied every day. And without understanding them, how can the mind seek reality? It can invent "reality", it can copy, it can imitate; because it has read so many books, it can repeat the experience of others. But surely, that is not the real. To experience the real, the mind must cease to create; because, whatever it creates is still within the bondage of time. The problem is not whether there is or is not God, but how man may discover God; and if in his search he disentangles himself from everything, he will inevitably find that reality. But he must begin with the near and not with the far. Obviously, to go far one must begin near. But most of us want to speculate, which is a very convenient escape. That is why religions offer such a marvellous drug for most people. So, the task of disentangling the mind from all the values which it has created is an extremely arduous one, and because our minds are weary, or we are lazy, we prefer to read religious books and speculate about God; but that, surely, is not the discovery of reality. Realizing is experiencing, not imitating.

Question: Is the mind different from the thinker?

Krishnamurti: Now, is the thinker different from his thoughts? Does the thinker exist without thoughts? Is there a thinker apart from thought? Stop thinking, and where is the thinker? Is the thinker of one thought different from the thinker of another thought? Is the thinker separate from his thought, or does thought create the thinker, who then identifies himself with thought when he finds it convenient, and separates himself when it is not convenient? That is, what is the "I", the thinker? Obviously, the thinker is composed of various thoughts which have become identified as the "me". So, the thoughts produce the thinker, not the other way round. If I have no thoughts, then there is no thinker; not that the thinker is different each time, but if there are no thoughts there is no thinker. So, thoughts produce the thinker, as actions produce the actor. The actor does not produce actions.

Audience: You seem to suggest, Sir, that by ceasing to think, the "I" will be absent.

Krishnamurti: The I is made up of my qualities, my idiosyncracies, my passions, my possessions, my house, my money, my wife, my books. These create the idea of "me", I do not create them. Do you agree?

Audience: We find it difficult to agree.

Krishnamurti: If all thoughts were to cease, the thinker would not be there. Therefore, the thoughts produce the thinker.

Audience: All the thoughts and environments are there, but that does not produce the thinker.

Krishnamurti: How does the thinker come into being?

Audience: He is there.

Krishnamurti: You take it for granted that he is there. Why do you say so?

Audience: That we do not know. You must answer that for us.

Krishnamurti: I say the thinker is not there. There is only the action, the thought, and then the thinker comes in.

Audience: How does the "I", the thinker, come into being?

Krishnamurti: Now, let us go very slowly. Let us all try to approach the problem with the intention of finding the truth, then discussing it will be worthwhile. We are trying to find out how the thinker, the "I", the "mine", comes into being. Now, first there is perception, then contact, desire, and identification. Before that, the "I" is not in existence.

Audience: When my mind is away, I shall not perceive at all. Unless there is first the perceiver, there is no sensation. A dead body cannot perceive, though the eyes and the nerves may be there.

Krishnamurti: You take it for granted that there is a superior entity, and the object it sees.

Audience: It appears so.

Krishnamurti: You say so. You take it for granted that there is. why?

Audience: My experience is that without the cooperation of the "I", there is no perception.

Krishnamurti: We cannot talking of pure perception. Perception is always mixed up with the perceiver - it is a joint phenomenon. If we talk of perception, the perceiver is immediately dragged in. It is beyond our experience to speak of perceiving, we never have such an experience as perceiving. You may fall into a deep sleep, when the perceiver does not perceive himself; but in deep sleep there is neither perception nor perceiver. If you know a state in which the perceiver is perceiving himself without bringing in other objects of perception, then only can you validly speak of the perceiver. As long as that state is unknown, we have no right to talk of the perceiver as apart from perception. So, the perceiver and the perception are a joint phenomenon, they are the two sides of the same medal. They are not separate, and we have no right to separate two things which are not separate. We insist on separating the perceiver from the perception when there is no valid ground for it. We know no perceiver without perception, and we know no perception without a perceiver. Therefore, the only valid conclusion is that perception and perceiver, the "I" and the will, are two sides of the same medal, they are two aspects of the same phenomenon, which is neither perception nor perceiver; but an accurate examination of it requires close attention.

Audience: Where does that take us?

Audience: We must discover a state in which perceiver and perception do not exist apart, but are part and parcel of the same phenomenon. The act of perceiving, feeling, thinking, brings in the division of perceiver and perception, because that is the basic phenomenon of life. If we can follow up these fleeting moments of perceiving, of knowing, of feeling, of acting, and divorce them from perception on the one side, and the perceiver on the other.

Krishnamurti: Sir, this question arose out of the enquiry about the search for God. Obviously, most of us want to know the experience of reality. Surely, it can be known only when the experiencer stops experiencing; because, the experiencer is creating the experience. If the experiencer is creating the experience, then he will create god; therefore, it will not be God. Can the experiencer cease? That is the whole point in this question. Now, if the experiencer and the experience are a joint phenomenon, which is so obvious, then the experiencer, the actor, the thinker, has to stop thinking. Is that not obvious? So, can the thinker cease to think? Because, when he thinks, he creates, and what he creates is not the real. Therefore, to find out whether there is or there is not reality, God, or what you will, the thought process has to come to an end, which means that the thinker must cease. Whether he is produced by thoughts is irrelevant for the moment. The whole thought process, which includes the thinker, has to come to an end. It is only then that we will find reality. Now, first of all, in bringing that process to an end, how is it to be done, and who is to do it? If the thinker does it, the thinker is still the product of thought. The thinker putting an end to thought is still the continuity of thought. So, what is the thinker to do? Any exertion on his part is still the thinking process. I hope I am making myself clear.

Audience: It may even mean resistance to thinking.

Krishnamurti: Resistance to thinking, putting down all thinking, is still a form of thinking; therefore the thinker continues, and therefore he can never find the truth. So, what is one to do? This is very serious and requires sustained attention. Any effort on the part of the thinker projects the thinker on a different level. That is a fact. If the thinker, the experiencer, positively or negatively makes an effort to understand reality, he is still maintaining the thought process. So, what is he to do? All that he can do is to realize that any effort on his part, positively or negatively, is detrimental. He must see the truth of that and not merely verbally understand it. He must see that he cannot act, because any action on his part maintains the actor, gives nourishment to the actor; any effort on his part, positively or negatively, gives strength to the "I", the thinker, the experiencer. So all that he can do is not to do anything. Even to wish positively or negatively is still part of thinking. He must see the fact that any effort he makes is detrimental to the discovery of truth. That is the first requirement. If I want to understand, I must be completely free from prejudice; and I cannot be in that state when I am making an effort, negatively or positively. It is extremely hard. It requires a sense of passive awareness in which there is no effort. It is only then that reality can project itself.

Audience: Concentration upon the projected reality?

Krishnamurti: Concentration is another form of exertion, which is still an act of thinking. Therefore, concentration will obviously not lead to reality.

Audience: You said that, positively or negatively, any action on the part of the thinker is a projection of the thinker.

Krishnamurti: It is a fact, Sir.

Comment from the Audience: In other words, you distinguish between awareness and thought.

Krishnamurti: I am going at it slowly. When we talk of concentration, concentration implies compulsion, exclusion, interest in something exclusive, in which choice is involved. That implies effort on the part of the thinker, which strengthens the thinker. Is that not a fact? So, we will have to go into the problem of thought. What is thought? Thought is reaction to a condition, which means thought is the response of memory; and how can memory which is the past, create the eternal?

Audience: We do not say memory creates it because memory is a thing without awareness.

Krishnamurti: It is unconscious, subconscious, it comes of its own accord, involuntarily. We are now trying to find out what we mean by thought. To understand this question, don't look into a dictionary, look at yourself, examine yourself. What do you mean by thinking? When you say you are thinking, what are you actually doing? You are reacting. You are reacting through your past memory. Now, what is memory? It is experience, the storing up of yesterday's experience, whether collective or individual. Experience of yesterday is memory. When do we remember an experience? Surely, only when it is not complete. I have an experience, and that experience is incomplete, unfinished, and it leaves a mark. That mark I call memory, and memory responds to a further challenge. This response of memory to a challenge is called thinking.

Audience: On what is the mark left?

Krishnamurti: On the "me". After all, the "me", the "mine", is the residue of all memories, collective, racial, individual, and so on. That bundle of memories is the "me", and that "me" with its memory responds. That response is called thinking.

Audience: Why are these memories bundled together?

Krishnamurti: Through identification. I put everything in a bag, consciously or unconsciously.

Comment from the Audience: So, there is a bag separate from memory.

Krishnamurti: Memory is the bag.

Comment from the audience: Why do the memories stick together?

Krishnamurti: Because they are incomplete.

Audience: But memories are non-existent, they are in a state of inertia, unless somebody is there to remember.

Krishnamurti: In other words, is the rememberer different from memory? The rememberer and the memory are two sides of a coin. Without memory, there is no rememberer, and without the rememberer, there is no memory.

Audience: Why do we insist on separating the perceiver from the perception, the rememberer from the memory? Is this not at the root of our trouble?

Krishnamurti: We separate it because the rememberer, the experiencer, the thinker, becomes permanent by separation. Memories are obviously fleeting; so the rememberer, the experiencer, the mind, separates itself because it wants permanency. The mind that is making an effort, that is striving, that is choosing, that is disciplined, obviously cannot find the real; because, as we said, through that very effort it projects itself and sustains the thinker. Now, how to free the thinker from his thoughts? This is what we are discussing. Because, whatever he thinks must be the result of the past, and therefore he creates god, truth, out of memory, which is obviously not real. In other words, the mind is constantly moving from the known to the known. When memory functions, the mind can move only in the field of the known; and when it moves within the field of the known, it can never know the unknown. So, our problem is, how to free the mind from the known. To free ourselves from the known, any effort is detrimental, because effort is still of the known. So, all effort must cease. Have you ever tried to be without effort? If I understand that all effort is futile, that all effort is a further projection of the mind, of the "I", of the thinker, if I realize the truth of that, what happens? If I see very clearly the label "poison" on a bottle, I leave it alone. There is no effort not to be attracted to it. Similarly - and in this lies the greatest difficulty - , if I realize that any effort on my part is detrimental, if I see the truth of that, then I am free of effort. Any effort on our part is detrimental, but we are not sure, because we want a result, we want an achievement - and that is our difficulty. Therefore, we go on striving, striving, striving. But God, truth, is not a result, a reward, an end. Surely, it must come to us, we cannot go to it. If we make an effort to go to it, we are seeking a result, an achievement. But for truth to come, a man must be passively aware. Passive awareness is a state in which there is no effort; it is to be aware without judgment, without choice, not in some ultimate sense, but in every way; it is to be aware of your actions, of your thoughts, of your relative responses, without choice, without condemnation, without identifying or denying, so that the mind begins to understand every thought and every action without judgment. This evokes the question of whether there can be understanding without thought.

Audience: Surely, if you are indifferent to something.

Krishnamurti: Sir, indifference is a form of judgment. A dull mind, an indifferent mind, is not aware. To see without judgment, to know exactly what is happening, is awareness. So, it is vain to seek God or truth without being aware now, in the immediate present. It is much easier to go to a temple, but that is an escape into the realm of speculation. To understand reality, we must know it directly, and reality is obviously not of time and space; it is in the present, and the present is our own thought and action.

Choiceless Awareness

Bangalore 1st Public Talk 4th July, 1948

Jiddu Krishnamurti texts. Choiceless Awareness. What can the average decent man do to put an end to our communal problem?


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