Madras 4th Public Talk 29th January 1956
It seems to me that one of the most difficult things for us to do is to find out for ourselves what it is that we are seeking, whether collectively or individually. Some of us may want to improve society, to bring about an economic equality of opportunity for all according to the socialist, the communist, or some other pattern, hoping thereby to foster the well-being of man. Or perhaps we are trying to find out, as individuals, what this life means, why we suffer, why we have only rare moments of joy. There is the inevitable end, which we call death, and the fear of complete annihilation; so our minds are always hoping to find a remedy, an economic or religious system that will, for the time being at least, solve our many difficult problems. Others are trying to find a better way of bringing up or educating their children, so that the human being will not have to go through all this battle of competition, comparison, the struggle of greed, envy, and lustful desires.
So it seems to me very important to find out what it is we are after, individually as well as collectively. When you sit here and listen, what is it that you are listening to? And what is the motive, the intention, the compelling urge, that is not only making you listen now, but which drives you everlastingly to seek, to strive? Is the search individual, or is it collective? That is, we all want something, we are all groping after some end. Some of us think we have found an economic system which would solve the problems of the world if people would only listen and could be organized. Others are not concerned with the many, but are individually seeking to bring about a better world through understanding themselves, or through the realization of God, truth, or what you will. So it is important, is it not, to be conscious of what we are seeking, and why we seek? Until we deliberately make ourselves conscious of what the mind is striving after, why we join various organizations, follow a particular guru, or live according to some pattern which promises a well-ordered society - until we are aware of the significance of that whole process, I think what we struggle after, and what we find, will have very little meaning.
Most of us want a well-organized society which is not based on the values of ambition, on acquisitiveness, greed and envy. Any intelligent man wants to bring about a society of that kind; and he also wants to find out if there is something more than physical survival, something beyond the action and reaction of the mind - call it love, God, truth, or what you will. I think the majority of us want a sane, orderly, and balanced world, where poverty and degradation are non-existent, and where there are not the wealthy few, or the few who become extraordinarily powerful and tyrannical in the name of the proletariat, and all the rest of it. We want to bring about a different world. Surely, that is what the intelligent, the sensitive, the people who have sympathy, want and are struggling to create. And we also feel that life is not merely a matter of production and consumption, do we not? Life must be something more vital, more significant, more worth while.
Now, this is what most of us want, and where shall we begin? If I feel this is essential for human beings everywhere, at what end shall I work? Shall I dedicate my life, my energies, my activities, to bringing about a sane, orderly and balanced world, a world in which there will be no tyranny, no poverty, a world in which the few will not direct the lives of the many through violence, through concentration camps, and so on? Shall I begin by being concerned with the improvement of the world and the economic welfare of man? Or shall I start at the psychological end, which eventually dominates the other? Even if we were to create a well-organized and equitable world, would not the man who is seeking power, whose psychological urge is to have position, prestige, again bring about chaos and misery? So, where shall we begin? Shall we lay emphasis on the psychological, or on the physical, the economic?
This is a problem with which we are all confronted; I am not foisting it on you. Obviously there must be some kind of revolution. Shall the revolution be economic or religious? That is really the question. Considering the extraordinary state of the world - the violence, the misery, the confusion, the clamour of the various experts - , is it not your problem, if you are at all earnest, actively inquiring, to discover for yourself whether you as an individual can contribute to a fundamental revolution? If the revolution is merely economic, I do not think it will have much significance. I feel the revolution should be religious, that is, psychological. To me, the primary thing is to have the capacity to bring about a different way of thinking, a total revolution of the mind; because, after all, it is the mind that we are concerned with, for the mind can use any system to gain profit for itself. Whatever legislation, whatever sanctions you may introduce, the mind will continue to work for its own benefit. We have seen this historically, revolution after revolution.
So, for those of us who feel it is imperative that the mind should undergo a revolution, how is this religious revolution to take place? By religious I do not mean the dogmatic, the traditional, the acceptance of this of that doctrine, belief; to me, these things are not religious. The people who practise certain forms of ceremony, who wear the sacred thread, who put whatever it is on their foreheads, or meditate for a certain number of hours each day, are not religious at all. They are merely accepting authority, and following it without thought. Religion, surely, is something entirely different.
Now, how is this revolution in the mind to take place? I think it can take place only when we understand the totality of consciousness, which is a very complicated affair, as almost everything else in life is. If the mind can understand entirely its own workings, then there is a possibility of its ridding itself of the collective and bringing about this inward revolution.
At present you are not an individual, are you? You may have a separate house, a distinctive name, a bank account of your own, and certain qualities, idiosyncrasies, capacities; but is that what makes individuality? Or does individuality come into being only when we understand the collective process of the mind? The mind, after all, is the result of the collective; it is shaped by society and is the outcome of innumerable conditionings. Whether you are a Hindu, a Moslem, a Christian, or a communist, you are the result of conditioning, of education, of social, economic, and religious influences which make you think in a certain way. So you are the product of the collective; and can the mind free itself from the collective? Surely, it is only then that there is a possibility of thinking totally anew, and not in terms of any religion or ism, whether of the West or of the East. Our problems demand a response which is not traditional, which is not according to some pattern or system of thought. So the question is, can the mind free itself from the past, from all the influences it has inherited, and discover something totally new, something not experienced before, which may be called reality, God, or what you will? Am I making this clear?
We have an extraordinary series of challenges to face, have we not? The challenge is always new; and as long as the mind is conditioned by belief, caught in tradition, shaped according to a certain pattern, can it respond adequately to the new? Obviously it cannot. And yet most of us are in that position. The politicians, the experts, the so-called religious people, are all responding from a conditioned background, which means that their response is always inadequate, and therefore it creates more and more problems. We accept these problems as inevitable, as part of the process of living, and put up with them; but perhaps there is a different way of tackling this whole issue.
That is, can the mind uncondition itself? Please listen. Don't say `yes' or `no', but let us find out together whether the totality of the mind, not only the conscious mind that is occupied with everyday events, but also the deeper layers of the mind, the mind which is conditioned to think in terms of the tradition in which it has been brought up - whether this total mind can free itself from all conditioning. And is that freedom a matter of time, or is it immediate? A conditioned mind may assert that the unconditioning of itself must be done gradually, over a period of time; but that very assertion may be another response of its conditioning.
Please follow the process of your own mind, not just what I am saying. To laugh this off, or to accept, or deny it, would obviously be absurd, because this question must continue to arise. Most of us have accepted as part of our conditioning the idea that the unconditioning of the mind is a gradual process extending over several lives and demanding the practice of discipline, and so on. Now, that may be the most erroneous way of thinking, and the unconditioning of the mind may be, on the contrary, an immediate thing. I think it is immediate - which is not a matter of opinion. If you examine the whole process of your mind, you will see that the mind is the result of time, of accumulative experience, knowledge, and that its response is always from this background; so when you assert that the unconditioning of the mind can only be done gradually, and is a matter of time, you are merely responding according to your conditioning. Whereas, if you don't respond at all, but merely listen because you don't know - you actually don't know whether the mind can be unconditioned immediately or not - , then there is a possibility of discovering the truth of the matter.
There are those who say that the mind can never be unconditioned, therefore let us condition it better. Formerly it was conditioned to worship God, which is a fantasy, a myth, an unreality, and now we shall condition it in a better way, which is to worship the State - the State being the few, the experts of this or that ideology. For such people, the problem is very simple. They assert that the mind cannot be unconditioned, and therefore they are only concerned with bettering its conditioning; but their assertion is again mere dogmatism, and there is no inquiry to find out what is true. Surely, to find out what is true, the mind cannot assert anything, it can neither accept not reject.
Now, what is the state of the mind - and I hope you are in that state - which neither accepts nor rejects? Surely, your mind is then free to inquire; and when the mind is free to inquire, is it not already unconditioned? When the mind is inquiring, not superficially, inquisitively, curiously, but with persistency, with its total capacity to find out, such a mind is obviously free from all religious and political dogmas, it does not belong to any religion, it is not caught in the net of any belief or ideology, it has no authority. Where there is inquiry, there can be no authority. It is only the mind that is free to inquire, to discover - it is only such a mind that can bring about the religious revolution which is so essential. A free mind is truly religious, because it is fresh, innocent, new; and then, perhaps, that very mind itself is the real.
Question: You say the way of tradition invariably breeds mediocrity. But will one not feel lost without tradition?
Krishnamurti: What do we mean by tradition? It is the handing down, either in writing or through verbal expression, of a belief, of a custom, of experience, of knowledge, whether scientific, musical, artistic, religious, or moral. Surely, that is what we mean by tradition. And when I vainly repeat the traditions which have been handed down, that repetition makes my mind dull, mediocre. Knowledge is necessary in certain occupations. To build a bridge, to split the atom, to run a motor, to produce the many things that are necessary in modern life, knowledge is necessary; but the moment that knowledge becomes traditional, the mind ceases to create and merely functions mechanically. There are machines which can calculate faster than man; and if religiously, and in other ways, we merely accept tradition, obviously we are just like machines. Tradition gives us a certain security in society, and we are afraid to step out of that groove. We are afraid of what the neighbours might say; we have a daughter to marry off, and therefore we have to be careful. Our minds function traditionally, so we become mediocre and perpetuate misery, which is fairly obvious. Verbally we acknowledge this fact, but inwardly, and in action we do not, because we all want to be secure. And security is a very strange thing. The moment we seek to be secure, invariably we create circumstances and values that bring about insecurity - which is exactly what is happening in the world at the present time. All of us are seeking security in every direction, economic, social, national, and yet that very desire to be secure is creating chaos and bringing about insecurity.
So, the mind functions in the groove of tradition because it hopes to be secure; and a mind that is seeking security is never free to discover. You cannot put away tradition; but if you understand the whole process, the psychological implications of it, you will find that tradition no longer has any meaning, and then you don't have to put it away, it drops off like a withered leaf. Then life has quite a different significance.
Question: There are various systems of meditation for the realization of one's divinity, but you don't seem to believe in any of them. What do you think is meditation?
Krishnamurti: It does not matter very much what one thinks meditation is, because thought is always conditioned; and surely it is very important to find out that thought is conditioned. There is no free thinking, because thought is the response of memory; and if you had no memory, you would be unable to think. The reaction of memory, which is conditioned, is what we call thinking; so it is not a matter of what we think about meditation, but of finding out what meditation is.
A mind that is incapable of complete attention - not concentration, but complete attention - can never discover anything new. So meditation is necessary; but most of us are concerned with the system, the method, the practice, the posture, the manner of breathing, and all the rest of it. We are concerned, not with the discovery of what is meditation, but with how to meditate, and I think there is a vast difference between the two. To me, meditation is the very process of discovering what is meditation; it is not the following of a system, however ancient, and regardless of who has taught it to you. When the mind follows a particular system or discipline, however beneficial, however productive of a desired result, it is conditioned by that system - which is obvious; therefore it can never be free to discover what is real. So we are trying to find out what is meditation, not how to meditate; and if you will listen to this, not merely verbally, but actually, you will discover for yourself what it is.
Do you know what meditation is? You can know only in terms of a system, because you want a result out of meditation. You want to be happy, to achieve this or that state, so your meditation is already premeditated. Please don't laugh it away, but watch it. Your meditation is merely repetition, because you want a result which is already established in your mind: to be happy, to be good, to discover God, truth, peace, or what you will. You have projected what you desire, and have found a method to attain it - and that is what you call meditation. After all, that projection is the result, the opposite, of what you have, of what you are. Being violent, you want peace, so you find a system, a method to achieve it; but in the very process of achieving that peace, you condition your mind so that it is incapable of discovering what is peace. The mind has only projected the idea of peace out of its own violence.
Most of us think that learning to concentrate is meditation; but is it? Every child concentrates when you give him a new toy. When you do your job, if you are at all interested in it, you are concentrating, or you concentrate because your livelihood depends on it. But nothing very vital depends on your so-called meditation, so you have to force yourself to concentrate; your mind wanders off, and you keep struggling to bring it back again - which is obviously not meditation. That is merely learning a trick, how to concentrate on something in which you are not vitally interested. And one can see that a virtue that is practised is no longer virtue. Virtue is something that has no motive. Goodness has no incentive; if it has an incentive, it is no longer good. If I am good because I am rewarded for it, surely it ceases to be good; and to be free of reward, incentive, my mind has to undergo a complete revolution through the right kind of education. All this is meditation; it helps the mind to discover what is meditation.
Surely, meditation cannot come into being without self-knowledge; and self-knowledge is to see how the mind seeks incentives, how it uses systems, and disciplines itself in order to achieve what it is after, what it hopes to gain. To be aware of all this is meditation, and not merely trying to produce stillness of mind. Stillness of mind can be produced very easily by taking a drug, or by repeating certain phrases; but in that state, the mind is not still. The mind can be still only when there is the understanding of what is meditation. A still mind is not asleep, it is extraordinarily alert; but a mind that is made still, is stagnant, and a stagnant mind can never understand what is beyond itself. The mind can discover or experience something beyond itself only when it understands the total process of itself; and that understanding requires complete attention, being fully awake to the significance of its own activities. You don't have to practise a system of discipline. For the mind to watch itself without distortion, is in itself an astonishing discipline. Not to distort what it sees, the mind must be free of all comparison, judgment, condemnation, not eventually, but free at the very beginning; and that requires a great deal of attention. Then you will find that the mind becomes totally quiet without being urged, not just at the superficial level, but deep down. At rare moments one may have an experience of stillness; but that very experience becomes a hindrance, because it becomes a memory, a dead thing.
So, for the mind to be still, one must die to every experience; and when the mind is really still, then in that very stillness there is something which cannot be put into words, because there is no possibility of recognition. Anything that is recognizable has already been known; and when the mind is still, there is a total freedom from the known.
Madras 4th Public Talk 29th January 1956
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