Colombo 2nd Public Talk 16th January 1957
We are confronted with a world that is rapidly changing, whose challenges have to be met; and as it is impossible for a mind that is bound by tradition by the past, to meet these challenges rightly, fully and adequately, I think it is very important that we understand the fundamental issues. We know from what we read in the papers that extraordinary material progress is being made in America, and we also know what is taking place in Europe; and we can see very clearly that some fundamental change is necessary, that we cannot go on in the way that we have been accustomed to. We cannot possibly continue to think in terms of Asia, Europe, or America. We have to think anew, because the challenge is totally new. After all, every challenge is new and has to be met with a fresh mind, a mind that is not conditioned, not influenced by a background or possessed by tradition. Such a total transformation is necessary in each one of us, for we can see that our minds are tethered to the past. Because of our education, because of our religious training, because of our social influences and moral pressures, our minds are at present incapable of meeting the challenge anew.
So our problem is, is it not, how is the mind to undergo a radical transformation? I do not know if you have ever thought about the problem in this manner. We generally think about changing gradually, That is, by the pursuit of an ideal we say that we shall eventually bring about a transformation within ourselves, and thereby change society. Gradualism is a very convenient and satisfying theory; but actually you will see, if you observe, that you do not change through a gradual process. Ideals are not the means of transforming the mind. A man who pursues an ideal, however noble, is really caught in the process of postponement, in the ways of indolence. We shall understand this as we go along. Before I proceed with what I want to talk about this evening, may I say that I think it is very important to know how to listen. Most of us do not really listen, because we always listen with an objection, with interpretations; we translate what is being said in terms of our own ideas, or compare it with what we already know; so actually we never listen. If you have ever attempted really to listen to somebody you will know how extraordinarily difficult it is, because you have innumerable prejudices which come like a screen between yourself and the person to whom you are trying to listen. But if one can listen without judging, without comparing, without translating, then I think such listening has an extraordinary effect. Such listening brings about a total revolution in the mind, because it demands complete attention; and complete attention is the complete good.
So I would like to suggest that you try to listen in that way to the talk this evening, and then you will see how very difficult it is. I may say totally new, and because you happen to be a Buddhist, a Christian, or a Hindu, steeped in a particular ideology, you will naturally have objections, reactions; you will compare what is being said with what you already know, which means that you are actually not listening at all. Your mind is so astonishingly active in comparing, judging, evaluating, that it is really distracted. What matters is to listen with that peculiar attention which is not an effort, which is not absorption - and you do listen in that manner when you really want to find out, when there is urgency.
Such an urgency exists at the present period in the world crisis. It cannot wait for you to transform yourself gradually. It demands direct action on the part of each individual immediately.
The difficulty for most of us is that we are mesmerized by the `collective' and think that individual action is of very little value. We say "What can I as an individual do against the mass, against this mountain of the collective?" Whereas, if you look more closely, you will find that the total action of the individual - if that total action is very clear, not befuddled by the influences of the collective, of the mass, nor by the influences of the past - is deeply effective. Because the collective is confused, the individual is generally confused. We want guidance and so we look to the past. we try to revive the religion of the past, or we turn to the guru immediately round the corner. But will any guidance clarify a confused mind?
Please follow this a little bit, if you will. Our minds are confused. Each one of us is confused, there are no two ways about it. Religions have failed totally. You may mutter a lot of prayers, go to the temple, attend church, follow a particular routine or practice in accordance with what they say in the books; but that is not religion. Religion is something totally different. A confused mind may seek guidance in the things that have been said by various teachers, or repeat ten thousand prayers, but it will still remain confused because it is confused at the centre. Such a mind may clarify itself at the periphery, but at the core of its being there is uncertainty, tremendous confusion, a lack of real clarity of thinking.
The moment an individual realizes that he is confused and cannot possibly look to the past or turn to another to be taught how to clear up his confusion, then his problem will be to find out for himself what has produced this confusion. But most of us are unwilling, I think, to admit that confused - and this attitude is obviously a fallacy, a self-deception, because everything around us and in ourselves points to confusion. We are in a state of self-contradiction. We try to lead a religious life, and yet we are worldly; in us there is sorrow, misery, frustration, many desires pulling in different directions. All this indicates, does it not?, a sense of confusion. And you have to realize that when you are confused you cannot possibly rely on anything; because the moment you rely on something when you are confused, that reliance merely breeds further confusion. One of the major causes of confusion is the following of authority. That is what we have done for many thousands of years: we have followed spiritual authority.
Please, as I am talking, look at your own life; observe your own daily activities, observe your thoughts. I am only describing what is actually taking place. If you merely listen to the words and do not relate what is being said to the activities of your own mind, it will have no meaning at all. But if you can relate what is being said to your everyday life, to the actual state of your own mind, then the talk will have an immense significance, because then you will find that I am not telling you what to do; on the contrary, through the description, through the explanation, you are going to discover for yourself the process of your own thinking. And when you understand yourself, clarity comes. It is self-knowledge that brings clarity, not dependence on a book, a teacher, or a guide. To observe how you think, the manner of your response to challenge in your various relationships - to be aware of all that, not theoretically but actually, will reveal the process of yourself; and in that understanding there is clarity. So please, if I may most earnestly request it, listen and relate what you hear to the actual state of your own mind. Then these talks will be worthwhile; otherwise they will be mere words to be soon forgotten.
You may not be aware that you are confused, but if you inquire deeply you will find that it is so. One of the major causes of this confusion is your reliance on authority for guidance: reliance on the church, on the priest, on the book, on the authority of a teacher. All living based on authority, as has been shown recently both politically and militarily, is the most destructive form of existence. Tyranny, whether of the State or of the priest, is detrimental to thought, to a really spiritual life; and as most of us live in the cage of authority, we have lost the capacity to think clearly and directly for ourselves.
The fundamental change of which I am speaking comes when you no longer depend on any authority for the clarity of your own thinking. Authority is a very complex affair; because there is not only the authority of society, of the government, but there is also the authority of tradition, of the book, of the priest, the church, the temple. And even if you reject all that, there is still the authority of your own experience, and that experience is based on the past. After all, life is a process of challenge and response, and your response to challenge is experience. But that experience, which is a response to challenge, is dictated by your conditioning, by your past, so your experience is never original; therefore you cannot possibly rely on experience for clarity of thought, I think this is very important to understand. Knowledge is the residue of past experience, and if you rely on that knowledge to translate all your experiences, they will only strengthen the past and therefore condition your mind further.
To make it simple: you are a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Moslem or a Christian, or you are a Communist, which means that you have been taught to think in a certain direction, and according to that background you have experience, - the experience being your response to challenge. This is taking place every day. You respond to challenge in terms of your past conditioning, and therefore your experience further strengthens your conditioning, which is obvious. So there is the authority not only of the priest, of the church, of the.temple, of the book, but also the authority of the knowledge which you have accumulated through personal experience.
As I was saying, there must be a complete inward revolution, a total transformation in your thought, in your whole being; and that is not possible as long as you rely on authority, whether it be the authority of the Buddha, or of one of the Indian teachers, including myself, To rely on authority at any time destroys the capacity to find out what is truth. Freedom from authority is, the beginning of the fundamental revolution, of this individual transformation which is essential to the discovery of what is truth, what is God; and it is only this discovery on the part of each one of us that can bring about a different world.
Mind is not made free through a deliberate act, or through any practice. Mind is made free from moment to moment, and then there is the understanding of truth at each moment. You cannot understand what is truth if you merely repeat that which you have been told; so a complete purgation of the mind and heart is necessary. We have to set out on the journey anew, which means that we cannot start with any assumption, any conclusion, however noble or profound it may be. When the mind starts thinking with a conclusion, it is not thinking at all. A mind that is capable of thought in the real sense of the word, has no conclusion, therefore it always starts anew; and it is only for such a mind that there is a possibility of discovering what is truth.
Sirs, If you will observe your own minds you will see how extraordinarily difficult it is to think without a conclusion, whether it be the conclusion of ten thousand years ago, or of yesterday. These conclusions, either given to you or self created, prevent clarity of thought and bring about conclusion. So a mind that would clear up its own confusion must be aware of how it is caught in authority. I do not mean the authority which requires you to drive on the right or the left side of the road. I am talking of authority in a much deeper and more profound sense - the authority to which the mind clings.
After all, the mind is everlasting seeking security for itself. It wants to be safe, it wants to be comfortable; and a mind that is concerned with its own security, or with the security of the particular group with which it has identified itself, is bound to create confusion, which is exactly what is happening in the world. Most of us are identified with a group, with a class, with a country, with a religion, which means that we think fragmentarily, in departments; therefore we are incapable of thinking out the many problems which are so pressing and urgent. Whereas an individual who thinks clearly ,who is unafraid to go into himself totally, not only at the conscious but also at the unconscious level-such an individual, I assure you, has an extraordinary vitality, the energy to create. And it is such individuals alone who can bring about a different world-not the scientist, and certainly not the priest or the politician.
Sirs, please, you are all politicians at heart, because you are concerned with immediate results,with the past or the future, and not with the totality of the human mind. And this inward revolution, this fundamental change, can take place only when you as an individual free your mind from the authority of society, of the church, of the State, and discover for yourself that which is eternal. It is this individual revolution, with the discovery of truth which it brings, that has a transforming effect on the world - not the economic revolution.
It is imperative, then, that those who are really in earnest should be aware of their own state, of their own idiosyncrasies, of their own conditioning, so that there can be no self-deception. For the beginning of wisdom is in self-knowledge, not in what you learn from the books. It is through observing how you talk, how you behave in your daily relationship with your wife, with your child, with your boss, that you discover, yourself; and that discovery is the beginning of wisdom. Out of self-knowledge comes clarity, and then you do not rely on anybody; then you are a guide to yourself, a light in the midst of darkness.
Question: What is the religious life? Is it compatible with the struggle for existence which most of us have to face? Is the religious life necessary at all?
Krishnamurti: For the moment let us not consider what is the religious life; we will come to that presently. But why do we divide the religious life from our daily life? Do we know what our daily life is? Are we aware of it, do we throb with it, suffer with it? Or do we merely say "I live a routine life and it is terribly boring, unsatisfactory, therefore I want to take up the religious life", - as if the religious life were entirely apart from our everyday living. It is because we do not understand our everyday living with all its sufferings, with all its ambitions, cruelties, contradictions, envies, deceptions, that we think we must turn to religion and find God somewhere else But it is fatal to think in this fragmentary way, in these watertight compartments, is it not? First let us find out what our daily existence is and understand it; then perhaps we shall find out what reality is.
Whether we have to eschew the religious life in order to live in this world, and what the religious life is, we shall find out only when we understand our relationship with each other. That much is clear, is it not? If we do not understand our everyday life of going to the office, educating our children; if we do not understand lust, ambition, envy, greed, cruelty, and all the appalling things that are going on within ourselves, with an occasional flash of joy - if we don't understand all that, how can we understand something which is beyond all that? Without understanding the mind, anything that we try to understand beyond the mind will be equally confused, equally stupid. Surely, that is clear, is it not? A petty mind may think of God, but its God will be petty also. It may conceive of nirvana, moksha, heaven, or whatever it be, but its conception will be according to its own state.
So, is the religious life necessary? You will find the answer for yourself when you begin to understand the ways of your own living. The question is very simple but the understanding of it is extremely complex, because it requires a great deal of penetration.
Take, for instance, the very simple fact that our life is based on envy. That is so, is it not? Someone is more intelligent than I am, and I want to be equally intelligent; someone is more handsome, or has more money and can travel, and I want to be like him. The mind is constantly comparing itself with others, and such a mind is envious. An ambitious mind is obviously an envious mind; and that is our life, it is how we live from day to day. You know that very well without my telling you. At least, I am describing a fact, and if you are unwilling to look at the fact, it is your affair. It is a fact that morality of such a society is mere respectability, the perpetuation of a custom. Our daily life is based on this envious, acquisitive struggle, and we carry the same struggle into the so-called religious life; we want to achieve reality, we want to get nearer to God, closer to heaven, and all the rest of it. The same urge exists there as in this world: we want to be somebody.
Now, is it possible for the mind to be totally free of envy, not just partially or in patches? It is not possible for you because you think you must live as you are living now, and you block yourself by saying "It is impossible, I have to live in this world". But the man who really sees what is happening in the world, who sees the misery, the struggle, the utter futility of it all, can inquire and find out that it is possible to be free of envy, not only in the superficial layers of the conscious mind, but also in the unconscious, which is much more conservative than the conscious mind. Only the mind that is totally free from envy is capable of understanding what is the religious life and why it is necessary to have a religious life, and such a mind knows the state of being sacred; therefore it need not go to any temple, church or priest. It has no need of any book, because in itself it is understanding; it has an incorruptible treasure. Such a life is possible. But the mind that wants to be envious and says that it is necessary to live in this world, will escape into a religion which has no value at all; it will go to the church or the temple and do whatever it is told. To such a mind religion is just a toy. But a mind that really inquires - and the mind is not free to inquire as long as it is envious - will know what it is to have a profoundly religious life, which has nothing whatever to do with any belief, with an ritual or dogma, with any prayer; because then the mind in itself is the religious life.
Question: To me the greatest fear is the fear of death. How am I to get over this fear?
Krishnamurti: This is a very complex question and needs very careful understanding. Most of us are afraid of death, so we believe in a life hereafter, in reincarnation, and cling to various comforting ideologies.
Now, what is it we are afraid of, sirs? I am just thinking aloud for you. I am not telling you what to believe or not to believe - that would be stupid, it would be childish, immature. But if you and I go into the problem together, as we are doing now, then what you discover will be yours, not mine. It will be your truth, your understanding, and it will free you from the fear of death.
Death is a fact, obviously. Through use the physical organism wears out, and its end is inevitable. We see death every day in so many forms, but that is not what we are afraid of. We are afraid of something else. What is it we are afraid of? Have you ever thought about it, sirs? Watch your own mind, your reactions, not just my explanations. Surely, we are afraid of not continuing; isn't that it? I have lived in this world twenty, thirty, fifty, or even eighty years; I have accumulated so much knowledge, so many memories; I have suffered and learned so much, and I still want to do so much more. Though there has been frustration, I still long to fulfil, and my life is much too short; so I want to lengthen it. But I know that through disease, old age, or accident, death is inevitable. Even if, through some medical process, I were to live three hundred years, death would still be awaiting me at the end.
So my mind is concerned with continuity, the continuity of my name, my family, my property, my friendships, of the virtues I have gathered, and so on. These are the things which I know; and there is death, which I do not know. So what I am fundamentally afraid of is the known meeting the unknown. Meeting the unknown is death, and continuity is all that I know. From the moment I am born to the moment I die, I know only this continuity of memory, and the responses according to that memory. My friends, my family, my job, my social position, my virtues, my belief in God - these are a series of memories and associations with regard to which the mind says "This is I". It is these memories and associations that make up the `me', the self, the ego - and this is what one wants to continue. Sirs, if someone could guarantee that by some miraculous process you would continue indefinitely, then you would have no fear.
But life is not so simple as all that, is it? You have your beliefs, your conclusions. All the religions say there is resurrection, reincarnation, or some other form of continuity; yet the sting of fear goes on. The problem, therefore, is how to die, not eventually but now; to know death while living, and not when death is upon us through old age, disease, or accident. To know death now is to experience a sense of not continuing; it is to enter the house of death willingly, knowingly, with full consciousness. When your mind no longer thinks in terms of continuing, when it dies every day to everything that it has gathered, then you will know what it means to meet the unknown, which is death. I hope I am making myself clear.
What is it that we want to continue? Our memories, our struggles, our pains, our joys, our recognition of friends. We see that memories knowledge the things of yesterday move through' the present as a passage to the future and that is all we want; yet we know there is death, an ending. We are afraid of that ending only when we think in terms of continuing when we say "I must fulfil my ambition I must become somebody I must be famous I must be the greatest this or that". As long as there is the desire for continuity, there will be fear; and if you observe you will see that that which continues is never creative. Only that which knows an ending has a beginning which is new.
Is it possible to die every day and not wait for the ultimate death, to die to everything that you have known? Try it and you will see how extraordinarily subtle and vital it becomes, how your mind is made new, fresh. That which has an ending alone has a renewal, not the mind which continues, which knows a thousand yesterdays. To the mind which, continues, the present is only a passage to the future, and such a mind is caught in the bondage of time. That sense of continuity is the ego, the `me', with which the mind identifies itself. The link of identification with property, with people, with ideas, is merely memory, and that memory is what we want to continue.
I say there will always be fear unless you know what death is now, even though you are not now suffering, diseased, or involved in an accident. What matters is to experience directly for yourself the ending of everything you have known, so that your mind meets the unknown. It is not so very difficult; only the explanation is difficult. If you really observe and are aware of how your mind operates, you will know that in wanting to continue the mind is like a gramophone record which is everlastingly repeating. Only the mind that is silent, that is free from the past, can know the new, the eternal, the timeless; and such a mind is not concerned with the hereafter.
There is another point which is very interesting if you go into it. Is there a continuity of the mind which does not want to know death now? You are afraid of death, you are nervous, anxious, or you have never thought about it, and you die. Is there the continuity of such a mind? Obviously there is a continuity of the thoughts you are thinking. You have identified yourself with your property, with your wife, and so on, and this identification through recognition sets going a process of thinking like a vibration or a wave which has its own continuity and which can be got into touch with through mediums and all the rest of it. But that has no vitality, it is all silly and superficial.
What we are concerned with is something totally different: is it possible to be free from the fear of death? There is freedom from the fear of death only when you know death in the now. It does not mean that you go and commit suicide, but you find out whether the mind, which is the result of time, of many thousands of years, of all the joys, sorrows, pains and endeavours of man - whether such a mind can end, that is, see the unimportance of continuity. You may have a wife and children, and some property; but if you are not identified with any of that, if you die to it all in full vigour, with full comprehension, with a vitality which has its own reward, then you will find that there is no longer fear; then the mind is already in that state in which the unknown is. It is not the virtuous, respectable mind that will know the eternal - for the virtue that is cultivated is no virtue - , but only the mind made innocent because it is free, no longer tethered to the past; and for such a mind there is no fear.
January 16, 1957.
Colombo 2nd Public Talk 16th January 1957
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