Banaras 2nd Public Talk 16th January 1955
If we could pursue earnestly and deeply the question of self-contradiction, perhaps it might have great significance in our daily existence.
Why is it that human beings are torn by self-contradiction? Why is there in most of us such compulsion, resistance, and this constant demand to adjust oneself to a particular pattern? I don't know if any of us are at all aware of this contradiction within ourselves, but I think it would be very profitable and worth while if we could seriously go into the matter, because this may be the clue to the integrated action which is so obviously essential to a creative, a completely good life. Unless one is deeply aware of this contradiction within oneself, sees from where it springs and finds out whether one can really efface it, mere patchwork reform, either political, religious, or any other, can only lead to further mischief. I think it is very important for us to understand this, because our understanding of it may be the solution to all the ills that surround us - which are the result of our own self-contradictory nature, are they not?
Most of us are driven by various compulsions, various desires which are contradictory, and even if we are aware of this contradiction in ourselves, we never seem able fundamentally, deeply to trace and eradicate the cause of it. And it seems to me that if we can understand what it is to have an integrated life, a completely good life, a life in which there is no contradiction, no compulsion of any kind, no resistance, no form of adjustment to a pattern, then perhaps we shall be able to create a new culture, a new civilization, which is after all what the world in its present state of conflict is demanding.
To respond adequately to the challenge of life, one must be entirely integrated. How is this integration to be brought about? And why are we torn by self-contradiction? Most of us are not aware of this contradiction. We blindly force ourselves into a particular pattern of action, or we follow an ideal; we are full of tensions, of conflicting desires, wanting to do one thing and doing the opposite, thinking along one line and acting in a totally different manner, and we are unconscious of this self-contradiction. We either justify or condemn what we do, and that very judgment is another contradiction in ourselves.
Now, if one can listen to what is being said, not analytically or to achieve an integrated state, but listen without any opinion, without the accumulation of previous conclusions, that is, if one can listen innocently, with a fresh mind, then perhaps what is being said will have significance. Otherwise it will become another opinion, another theory, something to be carried out; and in the very carrying out of an idea one has already created a contradiction in oneself. The mere acceptance of a new idea is a contradiction of what has already been established, and it only further increases the struggle; but if we can totally understand what is contradiction and how it comes about, then in the very act of listening, integration will take place without any struggle.
I think it is very important to understand that merely to accept a new idea, a new philosophy, a new teaching, only creates a contradiction with what already exists, and then the problem arises of how to bridge the old with the new, or how to interpret the new in terms of the old. So, is it possible to listen without creating this contradiction between the new and the old? Can one discover for oneself how contradiction arises, and merely see the fact without making the fact into an idea, an opinion, thereby creating another contradiction? That is the problem: can you listen to what is being said and perceive the new fact without making it into an idea or a conclusion as opposed to the old, thereby creating a further contradiction within yourself?
Surely, this is sufficiently important to discuss a little: how the mind, being conditioned, never looks at a new fact without either interpreting, judging, or having a conclusion about it. And can the mind look at the new fact without a conclusion? Which means, really, can the mind be free of conditioning, cease to think in terms of a Hindu, a Buddhist, or a Christian, and look at the new fact without interpretation? If it can, then perhaps there will be an action which is not contradictory.
Now, how does this contradiction arise in each one of us? Does it not arise when the mind is incapable of a fresh response to the new, that is, when the mind is conditioned? Our minds are conditioned by the Hindu culture or the Western culture, by religion, by certain patterns of thought, by the weight of knowledge acquired through education or experience, that very experience being the response of a particular conditioning. Such a mind obviously cannot adequately respond to the new, and hence the contradiction. Life is a process of the new all the time, continuously. It is like a flowing river. The waters of the river may look the same, but there is a continuous flow, a constant change; and if the mind is incapable of responding fully to the flow of life, or if it responds to this ceaseless movement in terms of its conditioning, then there must be contradiction, not only in the superficial mind, but also in the deeper layers of consciousness. So our problem is not how to be integrated, but rather to find out if the conditioned mind can uncondition itself.
Can the Hindu mind, if there is such a thing, with its religiosity, its superstitions, its patterns of thought, its social impacts, unburden itself of all this conditioning? Only then, surely, can it fully respond to the new and thereby free itself from self-contradiction.
But most of us are concerned, not with unconditioning the mind, but rather with a better, a wider, a nobler conditioning. The Christian wants the mind to be conditioned in a certain pattern, and so does the Communist, the Hindu, the Buddhist, and so on. They are all concerned with bettering the mind's conditioning, decorating the interior of the prison, and not with breaking away from the prison totally. And is it possible to break away totally from one's conditioning? The question is not put for you to say `yes' or `no', because such an answer has no meaning. But if each one of us really desires to find out whether the mind can be free from the past, which is to understand the whole content of the mind, then I think it may be possible to bring about a state of mind in which there is no contradiction.
So it is really essential, if one is to respond anew to the challenge of life, to respond to it totally. When there is only a partial response, any civilization or culture must inevitably disintegrate, which is obviously what is happening in this country and elsewhere. So, can we be aware of our conditioning, which is preventing a total response to the challenge of life? By being aware I mean just seeing the fact of one's conditioning as a Hindu, a Moslem, or what you will, without condemning or trying to bring about a change in that conditioning; because the moment we desire to bring about a change in our conditioning, we have already created a contradiction. Please, if we can really see this very simple fact, then our whole understanding of conditioning will have an altogether different meaning.
Life, which is the everyday existence of relationship, of occupation and all the things that we do, is a constant challenge; in its response to that challenge the conditioned mind brings about self-contradiction, and a self-contradictory mind, however noble, however reformatory or idealistic its activities may be, is bound to create mischief, not only at the political or social level, but also psychologically and religiously, at the deeper levels of existence. Whereas, the person who breaks away from the collective, which is the prison of conditioning, is truly individual, creative, and only such a person can help to bring into being a different kind of civilization, a new culture, because in himself there is no contradiction. His action is entire, whole, he is not torn apart by ideas, there is no gulf between action and thought, no division of mentation and the carrying out of a certain idea. Only such a person is integrated and can understand this whole process of contradiction, not he who is trying to be integrated, because the very effort to be integrated is a contradiction.
The man who sees the prison of his own conditioning and revolts, not within the prison, but totally, so that his very revolt pushes him out of the prison - it is he who is really a revolutionary, and I think this is very important to understand. But only the serious will understand it, not those who are trying to interpret what is being said to suit some philosophy or belief. If you actually perceive your own conditioning as factual without either accepting or trying to adjust that conditioning to a new pattern, you thereby become a revolutionary in the deepest sense of the word, and it is only such individuals who can bring about an altogether different culture, a new civilization in this suffering world.
Question: Our minds are the result of the past, they are shaped by the tradition of Shankara and Buddha. Will mere self-awareness help us to free ourselves from this conditioning?
Krishnamurti: If you had listened your question would have been answered by my introductory talk. Sir, is it possible to start on the journey of exploration without previous knowledge, without any book, without quoting philosophers, scientists, or psychologists? Do you understand the question? After all, to find out what is truth, what is God, or what name you will, the mind must be completely alone, uncontaminated by the past, must it not? So, don't translate what I am saying in terms of what you have already read.
The mind, your mind, is the result of time, of many yesterdays, it has this extraordinary burden of knowledge, of experience within the field of time. And can one put all that aside and say, `I know nothing'? Though one has read, though one has experienced, is it possible to put all that totally aside because one sees that knowledge is an impedi- ment to exploration and the discovery of truth? This demands a mind that is astonishingly unafraid, that has no end in view, that does not want to achieve a result; which means, really, a mind capable of unconditioning itself, of being free from its past because it sees that any conditioning is a hindrance, a source of contradiction.
You see, sir, the difficulty for most people, and probably for all of us here, is that we have read too much, and what we read we translate in terms of our conditioning; therefore knowledge or experience becomes a further hindrance. And what I am asking is, can you put aside every, thing of the past, all the things that you have learnt, and look at life anew? I am not talking about putting aside knowledge of the mechanical world, but the knowledge which has for the mind a psychological significance, so that you are your own teacher. Then there is no longer a guru and a disciple because you are finding out all the time, and when there is that kind of learning there is no need for a teacher.
Question: But the mind is burdened by the past, and how is one to shake it off? What is the method?
Krishnamurti: You want a method because you desire to achieve a result, you want to get somewhere, and that is all you are concerned with. It is like the bank clerk wanting to become the executive. Your mind is climbing the ladder of success, worldly or so-called spiritual, and such a mind will not understand because it is only concerned with attaining an end. What is important, surely, is to find out why your mind desires to achieve a result, why it wants to be free of the past. Why do you want to be free from the past? And can the mind, being itself the result of time, make an effort to be free of time? If it does, it is still within the field of time, obviously; by making an effort to be free, to arrive somewhere, it has created a contradiction in itself. The mind is the result of time, and whatever movement it makes to free itself is still within the field of time. If one sees that simply and clearly, only then is it possible for the mind to be completely still. The very perception of that fact makes the mind quiet, it does not have to make an effort to be quiet. When the mind makes an effort to be quiet its meditation is really a bargaining, a thing of the market place.
Question: An ancient civilization like that of India has left a deep impress upon our patterns of social behaviour, which are now in a process of decay. How can we retain the best features of our culture and revive the ancient spirit?
Krishnamurti: Sir, a dead thing must be buried, you can't revive it, you can't go back to it; but that is what you are trying to do. Because in yourselves you are confused, you say, `Let us go back to the rishis, let us revive the ancient spirit, the dances, the rituals', all the things that are dead and gone. There is a challenge directly in front of you, and you say, `Let us go back'. If you do go back, if you respond by turning your back on the new, your civilization is going to decay - which is exactly what is happening. You may go back to your temples, to Shankara, to the sacred books, to the priests, to images carved by the hand, and all the rest of it, but they are dead things and will have no meaning.
So you cannot go back. You can only respond anew to the new, and you cannot respond anew if you keep some of the old. You must let go of the old completely and respond fully to the new. If you respond partially, keeping the good things of the Indian culture and making a mixture of the old and the new, then you are obviously creating mischief. A new civilization can be brought into being only by people who are capable of responding totally to the new, and you cannot respond totally to the new if you cling to the ancient culture or to some of its good things. Surely, sirs, to respond fully to the new, the mind must be free of the prison of the old, its freedom cannot be in terms of the prison. You may revolt within the prison by demanding certain intramural reforms and adjustments, but in the process of understanding the whole prison of conditioning there comes a total revolution which is neither Indian nor Western; it is something totally new, and therefore a movement of the real. It is the movement of the real, not the revival of the old, that creates the new civilization. Sirs, the revival of the old is merely a modified continuity of the present, and this response of the old is not freedom. Freedom comes into being not through the pursuit of freedom, but when each one understands the total conditioning of his own mind.
Question: But conditioned as we are, it is not possible to listen without contradiction.
Krishnamurti: I am afraid, sir, you have not followed what I have said. I have said, do not listen with opinions, with conclusions, which only creates opposition, but listen to find out what is the actual process of the mind, listen to understand the process of your own conditioning. Do not ask how to be free of your conditioning, but be aware of your conditioning without judgment.
Please, what I am saying is very simple, and it is this. The mind is made up of the past, it is the result of the past, and we don't have to explore that fact because it is obvious. The mind is made up of thousands of yesterdays, innumerable experiences; when it makes an effort to free itself from this conditioning, there is inevitably a contradiction. But if the mind is aware of its conditioning without any judgment, if it merely perceives that it is conditioned without wishing to change or be free of that conditioning, then the very perception of that fact in itself brings about a total revolution.
Experiment with this and you will see how extraordinarily difficult it is just to be aware of your conditioning without wishing to change or be free of it. Your mind is made up of contradictions, you are educated to compare, to condemn, to evaluate, therefore you have already formed an opinion about your conditioning. You say that you must not be conditioned, or that an unconditioned state can never exist, which is what the Communists will say; so you have already concluded. But to be aware of one's conditioning without any conclusion is in itself the revolution.
Question: The factor that stifles all attempts at creative expression is mediocrity. Drabness and mediocrity appear to be the inescapable curse of a classless society. Is there a way to establish equality and yet I keep alive the creative fire?
Krishnamurti: Sir, what do we mean by a classless society? As long as status goes with function, it is bound to create a society of class distinctions. As long as the principal of a school has status, with all its implications, and does not keep his job merely functional, it inevi- tably brings about a class-conscious society. And it is very difficult for the mind not to bring in status when it is functioning, because the moment you set out to create a classless society the commissar becomes important, and with his job goes status, which means privileges, position, authority.
"Is there a way to establish equality and yet keep alive the creative fire?" What do we mean by equality? I know we all say there must be equality; but can there ever be equality? Is there equality of function? I may be a cook, and you may be a governor. If the governor despises the cook, which he generally does because he feels himself to be much more important than the cook, then to him it is status that matters and not function; so how can there be equality? You have, by chance, a better brain than I have, you meet more people than I do, you have greater capacity, you paint, you write poems, you are an artist or a scientist, while I am merely a coolie or a clerk. How can there be equality?
Or perhaps we are not looking at this problem at all rightly. Will inequality matter very much if each one of us is doing something which he really likes, something which he loves to do with his whole being? Do you understand, sir? If I love what I am doing, in that action there is no contradiction, no ambition. I am not seeking approbation, applause, titles, and all the rest of the nonsense. I am really in love with what I am doing, therefore the whole problem of competition, of ambition, and this antagonism which arises from comparing one craft or function with another, will cease to exist.
Surely, the creative fire is lost when status becomes important, or when there is the imposition of the pattern of equality, which is merely a theory. But if we can educate the student from childhood to love what he is doing, whatever it is, with his whole being, then perhaps there will be no contradiction and therefore antisocial activities will cease.
Sir, I think equality comes into being when there is love in our hearts, when the heart is empty of the things of the mind. When there is love there is no sense of the great and the small, you don't touch the feet of the governor or bow more deeply to him than you do to the cook. It is because we do not love that we have lost the whole significance of equality. But love is not a thing to be made to order by Marx, it is not to be found in Communist theory, nor in the pattern of a new culture. It comes into being when we understand the ways of the mind. With self-knowledge comes love, not love as the sensuous or the divine, but just that feeling of loving in which there is goodness, respect, and in which there is no fear.
You hear all this, but when you go away you will salute the governor very humbly, and kick your servants; so the very listening to this becomes a contradiction. Whereas, if you listen, not to achieve a result, but to understand the whole significance of what is being said, which is to understand the ways of your own mind, then you will know the beauty of that extraordinary thing called love.
January 16, 1955
Banaras 2nd Public Talk 16th January 1955
Texts and talks of Jiddu Krishnamurti. Krishnamurti quotes. Books about
J Krishnamurti. Philosophy.