Ojai 7th Public Talk 11th July, 1953
It seems to me that it is one of the most difficult things to live simply; and perhaps this evening we can go into it, not just at the superficial level, but deeply, and try to find out what in essence it means to live simply. If one is at all alive, life has innumerable problems. Every problem seems to breed several more. There is apparently no end to problems, not only at the conscious level, but also at the deeper levels of consciousness. We never seem to escape or solve any problem without introducing other problems. But if we could understand what it is to live simply, or to think simply, then perhaps we might be able to produce in ourselves a state of being in which we would not bring about problem after problem.
Why is it that the mind accumulates? Why do we store up knowledge? Why is it that experience conditions us? If we can inquire into this accumulative process of the mind, it may help us to understand what it is to think directly, simply; and in perceiving why the mind gathers, holds, accumulates, perhaps we shall be able to dissolve our many difficulties as they arise.
We think that by gathering knowledge, by having experience, we shall be able to understand life with all its complex struggles. But what happens when we accumulate knowledge, experience? We are always translating any incident, any crisis, any reaction, in terms of our past experience, which is memory. With this burden of the past, we are incapable of looking at things directly - and perhaps there lies the crux of our difficulty. We never meet anything anew, but always in terms of the old, of what we have known. It is because we never meet each problem directly and understand it for ourselves that we go on introducing other problems, creating further struggles.
Now, our conception of a simple life is to possess only a few things, or to have no possessions at all; but surely, that is not a simple life. We look up to those who lead a simple life in the physical sense, who have few clothes and no property, as though that were something marvellous. Why? Because we in ourselves are attached to things, to property. But is living a simple life merely a matter of denudation, the putting aside of physical things? Or is it much deeper? Though we may have but few things, inwardly we are always gathering, accumulating; we are bound to beliefs, to dogmas, to every form of experience and memory, and there is in us a ceaseless conflict between various wants, longings, hopes, desires. All this indicates, not a simple life, but a very complex inward life. So I think it is important to find out why the mind accumulates, consciously as well as unconsciously, why it cannot meet every incident, every reaction as though it were something new, fresh. Why must it translate each experience in terms of the old, in terms of what it has known? The mind is always accumulating experiences, reactions, storing them away as memory in order to use them for its own security. And is understanding, is intelligence the result of innumerable experiences? Or is it the capacity to look at things anew, to face life from moment to moment without the darkening effect of experience, of the past?
As I said the other day please do not listen to all this in order to understand what I am talking about, but rather to find out how you are thinking. You are not here merely to follow my description of a certain state of mind, but to discover how your own mind operates when any new experience arises.
Take, for example, the problem of fear. Can you and I understand fear and dissolve it without bringing in the accumulation of the past? Most of us are afraid of various things: of tomorrow, of what the neighbours say, of being poor, of not fulfilling, of death. Now, what is this fear? Can we not go into it, understand it very simply, and thereby be free from fear - not everlastingly, but as it arises from moment to moment, from day to day - so that the mind is not burdened with the anxiety of tomorrow? Fear, after all, is a reaction, is it not? I have done something of which I am ashamed, I have made a mistake which I do not want somebody to discover, and of that I am afraid. So fear is a reaction, and it is no good fighting fear, trying to overcome it, to analyze or avoid it. Fear is the shadow of the thing I have done; so the problem is not fear, but my approach to what I have done. Now, can I look anew at what I have done? That is, can I, knowing the cause of fear, look at it very simply without accumulating, without making the understanding of the cause a technique of how to meet fear? Do you follow? When, knowing the cause of fear, the mind tries to understand that cause in order to protect itself against further fears, the fears of tomorrow, it introduces the complex process of self-protection, and therefore it is never able to meet each experience clearly, simply, directly.
Now, cannot the mind observe the cause, the incident which has produced fear, without interpretation, without judgment? Can it not merely look at the cause of fear, listen to it, let it tell its whole story without interpreting, accepting or denying it, without trying to hide it, without taking refuge or running away from it? I think it is this that brings about the simplicity which is so essential in understanding. If we are capable of looking at the cause of the problem very simply, without translating or condemning it, then I think it is possible to be free moment by moment, not only from fear, but from envy, jealousy, the desire to be successful, and all the other human problems that inevitably arise. Problems will always arise, there are bound to be reactions as long as we live; so is it not necessary to have the capacity to meet them as they arise from day to day without accumulating, which limits our thinking and prevents our understanding of the problem?
Simplicity of thought, of mind, is essential, but there cannot be simplicity as long as the accumulative process of self-protection is going on; and this self-protective process of thought exists not only at the conscious level, but also at the various unconscious levels of our being. It is because we want to protect ourselves that knowledge, experience, becomes so vastly important to us. When we are confronted with a problem, we are never completely denuded of the past. And is it possible for you and me to empty the mind of the past, of the accumulated knowledge of yesterday?
Please, I think it is rather important to go into this and understand it. Burdened with the past, the mind creates its own problems, does it not? And can the mind begin to meet every problem anew, observe it as it arises without bringing in all the shadows of past experience? Surely, that is our problem: to look at every incident, every reaction without prejudice, without bias, without interpreting it according to the things we have learned, which is the desire to protect ourselves. Can the mind be free from all that and look directly at each problem as it arises? If it can, then there is no death, then every human problem can be resolved - but not to its satisfaction, not to its gratification. The moment we introduce the desire to be satisfied, we are accumulating, which brings about fear. But cannot we look at the problem, whatever it is, without judgment, without evaluation? To evaluate a problem implies memory, judgment, weighing, calculating, all of which indicates, that the mind is constantly protecting itself. The desire to protect, to safeguard oneself, is conscious as well as unconscious; and knowing this whole process, can the mind at the same time put it all aside and look at the problem directly? It can do that only when you and I understand the necessity of freeing oneself from fear.
Fear corrupts, it shadows all our actions; where there is fear, there is no love. We know that theoretically, we have read about it; but, being aware that one is afraid of innumerable things, cannot one go into it completely? Cannot one find out the cause of fear and really understand it without fighting, without translating, judging or interpreting what is? And when the mind is aware of what is, not only at the conscious level, but as the total process of one's whole being is there not a release, a freedom from the cause which has produced fear? But there is no release if there is not the intention to understand what is, to look at it, to be familiar with it, to listen to its whole content, to see its flow, its movement.
So, simplicity of thinking does not come about through the accumulation of knowledge. On the contrary, the more you know, the less simple the mind is; and the mind must be extraordinarily simple to understand what is. What is, is never the same, it varies from moment to moment, and its movement cannot be understood by a mind that is burdened with condemnation, with judgment, with self-protectiveness and fear of the future.
Please, I think it is very important to find out if one can really observe what is, without resentment, without recoil. After all, what are we? We are the result of many reactions, responses, conditioning influences, desires, fears, and in this turmoil the mind is caught; it is always in battle, in conflict. And to put an end to this ceaseless struggle, to this misery and pain, must we not understand simply, from moment to moment, the movement of what is? If I am greedy, or angry, or envious, surely I must understand that as it is and not try to resolve it, overcome it; because the very overcoming is a struggle, a new conflict, and hence there is no release from what is. But if I am aware, not only of my envy, but also of the deeper cause to which it is a response, and of the desire to be free from envy - if I am aware of that total process without judgment, choicelessly, then I think such awareness does bring about the clarification and the resolution of that cause. This requires, not practice or discipline, but watchfulness, alertness of mind; and the mind cannot be alert if it is constantly choosing, condemning, judging, escaping, or trying to alter what is.
Simplicity is the understanding of what is; and the understanding of what is comes into being only when the mind is no longer fighting struggling with what is no longer trying to mould it according to its fancies, desires, hopes and fears. In understanding what is, the movements of the self, the "me", the ego, are revealed; and that, surely, is the beginning; of self-knowledge, not only at the conscious level, but at those levels where the self is so deeply hidden and from which it comes out occasionally, spontaneously, when you are off guard.
When we are aware of ourselves, is not the whole movement of living a way of uncovering the "me", the ego, the self? The self is a very complex process which can be uncovered only in relationship, in our daily activities, in the way we talk, the way we judge, calculate, the way we condemn others and ourselves. All that reveals the conditioned state of our own thinking; and is it not important to be aware of this whole process? It is only through awareness of what is true from moment to moment that there is discovery of the timeless, the eternal. Without self-knowledge, the eternal cannot be. When we do not know ourselves, the eternal becomes a mere word, a symbol, a speculation, a dogma, a belief, an illusion to which the mind can escape. But if one begins to understand the "me" in all its various activities from day to day, then in that very understanding, without any effort, the nameless, the timeless comes into being. But the timeless is not a reward for self-knowledge. That which is eternal cannot be sought after, the mind cannot acquire it. It comes into being when the mind is quiet; and the mind can be quiet only when it is simple, when it is no longer storing up, condemning, judging, weighing. It is only the simple mind that can understand the real, not the mind that is full of words, knowledge, information. The mind that analyses, calculates, is not a simple mind.
To be creative, the mind must be denuded of all its accumulations, and without that creativeness, our life is very empty; though it may be full activity, of resolutions and determinations, they have very little significance. But the mind that sees this whole process of accumulation as a means of self-protection, that is aware of its implications without trying to alter it or put it aside - such a mind, being simple, quiet, understands what is; and in that there is an astonishing release, a freedom in which there is reality.
Question: You say that only a still mind can solve the problem of fear; but how can the mind be still when it is afraid?
Krishnamurti: There are several problems involved in this question. First, how to make the mind still in order to resolve fear? And can the mind which is afraid ever be still? And does stillness of mind come about through any technique? After all, that is what disturbs many people: the "how", the method, the technique of arriving at peace. The "how" implies habit, maintaining a certain attitude day after day, repeating a certain action, conforming to an established plan, disciplining the mind to be still. And is quietness, stillness of mind, the result of a habit? Is it the outcome of constant practice? Or does stillness of the mind come about only when there is freedom, when there is the understanding of what is?
Surely, if I want peace of mind, I can never have it. It is because I want a still mind that I go through various practices which I hope will bring it about; but such a mind is dead. A dead mind is very still, but it is not a mind in which creativeness can come into being. So there is no "how". All that the mind can do is to be aware that it is seeking a method because it wants something. If you want to be rich, you accumulate money, you choose your friends, you move among people who can help you get what you want. Similarly, if you want peace of mind, if you feel the urgency of it, you try to find out how you can arrive at that; you listen to various teachers, you practise disciplines, you read certain books, always with the intention of having a quiet mind; but your mind merely becomes dull. Whereas, if you are aware of this whole process of your thinking, of the unconscious as well as the conscious, if you see all your thoughts from moment to moment without condemnation or judgment, just watching each thought as it arises without rejecting or laying by, then you will find there is a freedom in which stillness comes into being without your volition, without any action of your will.
The problem, then, is not how to free the mind from fear, or how to have a quiet mind in order to dissolve fear, but whether fear can be understood. Though I may be afraid of many things - of my boss, of my wife or husband, of death, of losing my bank account, of what my neighbours say, of not fulfilling, of losing my self-importance - fear itself is the result of a total process, is it not? That is, the "me", the self, the ego, in its activity, projects fear. The substance is the thought of the "me", and its shadow is fear; and it is obviously no good battling the shadow, the reaction. The "me" is protecting itself, longing, hoping, desiring, struggling, constantly comparing, weighing, judging; it wants power, position, prestige, it wants to be looked up to; and can that "me", which is the source of fear, cease to be, not everlastingly, but from moment to moment? When that feeling arises, can the mind be aware of it, examine it without condemnation, judgment, choice? Because, the moment you begin to judge, to evaluate, it is part of the "me" that is directing and so conditioning your thinking, is it not?
So, can I be aware of my greed, of my envy, from moment to moment? These feelings are expressions of the "me", of the self, are they not? The self is still the self at any level you may place it; whether it is the higher self or the lower self, it is still within the field of thought. And can I be aware of these things as they arise from moment to moment? Can I discover for myself the activities of my ego when I am eating, talking at table, when I am playing, when I am listening, when I am with a group of people? Can I be aware of the accumulated resentments, of the desire to impress, to be somebody? Can I discover that I am greedy, and be aware of my condemnation of greed? The very word "greed" is a condemnation, is it not? To be aware of greed is also to be aware of the desire to be free from it, and to see why one wants to be free from it - the whole process. This is not a very complicated procedure, one can immediately grasp the whole significance of it. So one begins to understand from moment to moment this constant growth of the "me", with its self importance, its self-projected activities - which is basically, fundamentally, the cause of fear. But you cannot take action to get rid of the cause: all you can do is to be aware of it. The moment you want to be free from the ego, that very desire is also part of the ego; so you have a constant battle in the ego over two desirable things, between the part that wants and the part that does not.
As one becomes aware at the conscious level, one also begins to discover the envy, the struggles, the desires, the motives, the anxieties that lie at the deeper levels of consciousness. When the mind is intent on discovering the whole process of itself, then every incident, every reaction becomes a means of discovery, of knowing oneself. That requires patient watchfulness - which is not the watchfulness of a mind that is constantly struggling, that is learning how to be watchful. Then you will see that the sleeping hours are as important as the waking hours, because life then is a total process. As long as you do not know yourself, fear will continue and all the illusions that the self creates will flourish. Self-knowledge, then, is not a process to be read about or speculated upon: it must be discovered by each one from moment to moment, so that the mind becomes extraordinarily alert. In that alertness there is a certain quiescence, a passive awareness in which there is no desire to be or not to be, and in which there is an astonishing sense of freedom. It may be only for a minute, for a second - that is enough. That freedom is not of memory, it is a living thing; but the mind, having tasted it, reduces it to a memory, and then wants more of it. To be aware of this total process is possible only through self-knowledge; and self-knowledge comes into being from moment to moment as we watch our speech, our gestures, the way we talk, and the hidden motives that are suddenly revealed. Then only is it possible to be free from fear. As long as there is fear, there is no love. Fear darkens our being and that fear cannot be washed away by any prayer, by any ideal or activity. The cause of fear is the "me", the "me" which is so complex in its desires, wants, pursuits. The mind has to understand that whole process, and the understanding of it comes only when there is watchfulness with out choice.
July 11, 1953.
Ojai 7th Public Talk 11th July, 1953
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