Jiddu Krishnamurti in English
New Delhi 1961
New Delhi 5th Public Talk 18th January 1961
We were discussing on Sunday morning what it is to act, what are the implications of action, what are reactions and how far one can differentiate between reaction and action which is not merely the outcome of a response. I think we made it sufficiently clear that there is a vast difference, not only in quality but in dimension, between action and reaction. For most of us, activity is reaction; and to be able to discern reaction at depth requires, does it not?, a great deal of understanding of oneself. And I do not know how far each one of us has gone within himself to find out for oneself whether most of our activities. - religious, political, family - and the relationship between us and society and between society and us, are not based on reaction. And reaction, as we discussed, is the outcome of contradiction. And in the process of understanding the self-contradiction, there is, if one has gone into it sufficiently deeply, an action which is totally divorced from reaction. The greater the tension in self-contradiction, the greater the activity, the greater the response of that action, of that reaction.
You know there is a tension when a human being is contradicting, consciously or unconsciously, not only within himself but between himself and society. When there is a contradiction, there is a tension; and the more violent the contradiction, the greater is the tension. And of course the ultimate tension is the asylum. But for most of us this contradiction does breed a certain tension. And from this tension there is an action, there are activities. I think there is a well-known case about which an analyst has been talking to us. A good and well-known writer, who was in revolt, was analysed. He wrote from a great deal of tension, a sense of contradiction within himself, with society, and with all the things that society stood for; and the feeling that he was in revolt was a reaction, and out of this reaction which created a great deal of tension he wrote.
And when he was analysed this tension was taken away, and he could not write at all afterwards. With most of us, this tension does exist in a mild form; but the greater the tension, the greater will be the emotional response to society as a reaction. And as most of us are casually, superficially aware of our contradictions, our tension is very mediocre, very small, superficial; and therefore our activities are superficial, and we lead a very mediocre life, though we are aware of our tensions. I do not know if you have not noticed all this within yourselves.
And is there an action which is devoid of this reaction? I think we should approach it negatively. I mean negative not in the sense of the opposite of the positive. Obviously action which is divorced from reaction cannot be cultivated, because all that I know is reaction. Isn't it? You flatter me, I feel very alive; you insult me, I feel low. I am ambitious, I want to climb; and I am frustrated and I feel miserable. So there is the reaction. And if in myself there is contradiction, without understanding the quality, the whole process of this contradiction within myself, merely to cultivate or to think about the action which is devoid of reaction is another form of reaction. Therefore we must approach the question of action which is extraordinarily positive, only negatively. I do not know if I am making myself clear on that point. To see something very clearly, one must have no blocks, there must be no hindrances. If I want to see very clearly this tree with all the beauty, with all the outlines, the trunk, the extraordinary grace, the strength and the movement of the tree, what do I do? I cannot see it very clearly if I am myopic, if I am thinking about something else, if I am worried, if I am distracted. I must give my whole attention, and I cannot give my whole attention to it, if I am thinking of other things, if other things are worrying me. Therefore, to perceive, to see anything in life, the perception must be negative and not positive. The mind must cease to worry, the mind must put away its own problems, its myopic, shortsighted, limited view and be negative; then only can it see what is. The quality of action is dynamic, not theoretical. I have a horror of theories, because they have no meaning; a theory is merely conforming to an idea, or creating an idea according to which you are going to live - which are all reactions.
So, in order to really comprehend action which is not the outcome of a contradiction with its tensions and activities and responses, one must go to it negatively. Any positive action based on will is really conforming to a pattern and it contradicts a true action which is not the response of reaction. So, if we understand very clearly that true perception can only come about through a negative approach, then we shall begin to see what are the limitations, rather than overcome the limitations.
So, we are going to examine and discuss the blockages, the hindrances, the limitations that create a tension, a contradiction from which there are activities which are what we call positive and negative. So, one of the fundamental hindrances to this action without response is the urge and the demand for power. Power is essentially the urge of a mind which is in a state of contradiction within itself and tries to cover it up by achieving success.
Sir, this is a very difficult subject, and one has to go very deeply into oneself to understand this. We all want power, power which comes through money, through position, through success, through some capacity which is recognised by society and that recognition gives us a position of prestige. That is what we all want, the religious people as well as the non-religious, the materialistic people as well as the scientist; every human being demands this recognition by society as an important person, as being a V. I. P., a big man. And this urge for power is really evil, if one may use that word `evil' - I am using that word in the dictionary sense without any condemnatory meaning behind it. But once one admits that to oneself or sees the truth of it, it becomes extremely difficult to fit into society. The power to do good, the power to alter human lives, the power of the husband over the wife, the power of the wife over the husband the power of a leader the power which the follower creates in the leader - all power breeds this sense of domination in the leader, because there is no leader without a follower. If I don't follow, I have no leader. But we want to follow. We want to be told, we want to be urged, coerced, influenced, urged to do the right thing. And so there is power, whether it is the tyrannical power of a dictator, or the democratic power of a Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has got immense power through our poverty; and the so-called saint, through austerity, through denial, through control, feels in himself tremendously self-centred power. I am sure you have felt all this: the moment you have a certain capacity, that capacity gives you an immense power, if you can do some thing very well, you are already on the top of the world. All such forms of power are essentially and basically evil. One has to see that for oneself and to observe that for oneself, not merely intellectually, verbally, but inwardly, and to eschew that because you understand it. Doesn't a man who has power direct, guide, change, move? Such a man we call a creative man, a good man; we say he is creating a new society, a new way of looking at life, a new public - you know the whole business of the political world. And then there is the vast field of power through religions. So, one has really to grasp that, understand it, not say, "Power is evil, and tell me how to get away from it", because there is no getting away from it. You have to understand it, you have to see it and you have to have it in your blood; then you move away from it. And in the moving away from power, there comes the action which is divorced from reaction. I hope I am making myself clear.
As I said, a negative approach is necessary. The so-called positive action of power, doing good or doing evil, is based on the sense of power. But all power is evil, there is no good power - power being influence, power being the desire to achieve, the sense of personal power, or the power of a person identified with the community and the community advancing. All that sense of power is evil. If I see that, if the mind perceives that, then that very perception frees the mind from that sense of power. And then there is that quality of action, which is not a reaction, which has no reaction; then, whether you are walking, working, or whether you are writing, talking, there is that sense of activity, action without a reaction.
Most of us are envious, and envy is a tremendous hindrance to that action. You may say, "How can I live in this world without envy?" You know envy. A man who is envious, who is perpetually seeking power, has no humility.
And another thing that blocks us is the sense of conformity - conformity being limitation, conformity to an example, conformity brought about through influence, a good influence, any influence, pressure. Can the mind understand this sense of conformity and free itself from that conformity? You know, Sir, this is one of the most difficult things to do, if you have tried to understand conformity and whether the mind can ever be free from conformity.
Because, after all, the leaders, political or religious, are all after shaping the mind of a human being according to their patterns. And can a mind which is the result of conformity of centuries be free from conformity? I am talking of the mind, not just the superficial mind that is educated to learn a certain technique, but also the mind that has accepted tradition, that lives in tradition, that functions in tradition, that quotes, that repeats, that everlastingly cultivates good habits and calls it virtue following the pattern of tradition. All such limitations, acceptances or denials, are reactions of these things that we have accepted. Can the mind understand these things, and mustn't the mind be free from the sense of conformity which breeds authority? Mustn't the mind be free from this limitation?
Sir, I can go on talking, you can go on listening. But you see our lives are so twisted with fear, so warped, corrupt, corrupted by fear, conscious or unconscious And it seems to me that a mind that understands the nature of this destructive thing called fear must go into this question of conformity with its authority, with its sanctions, with its limitations, acceptances. And can the mind understand conformity, unravel it? Not how not to conform, because that has no meaning; because the moment you say "how", you have another pattern and you become a slave to that pattern. But if we could unravel the way of conformity, then you come to see that there is the verbal conformity - because I am speaking English and you also speak English, there is the possibility of communication between us, which is a conformity. There is also the conformity to put on a shirt, a coat, the conformity of certain accepted codes of conduct such as keeping to the right side of the road or left side of the road and so on.
Now, when you go beyond those, is not all thinking, the patterns of thinking, a form of conformity, a form of imitation, projected by memory? Do you understand, Sir? Our thinking is the response of memory, memory-association; and that memory-association is the pattern of conformity, like the electronic brains which function at astonishing speed, with such astonishing clarity, precision; memory when it is very clear, sharp, alive, functions mechanically, which we call thinking. And is not that thinking a process of conformity? Please don't accept this, because you have to see this for yourself, there is no acceptance or denial in all this. What ever you call God, truth, that immense thing, immeasurable thing, cannot be measured by the mind which is shaped and held and put in the framework of conformity to ideas, to impressions, to memories, to influence, to tradition. Can the mind go beyond all this, or is the mind not capable of it but can only function within the framework of the pattern of conformity? It may be a bigger pattern or a smaller pattern, a more peaceful pattern, more good, more sociable, more amenable, more affectionate, but it is still within the pattern of conformity - conformity as idea, conformity as thought. If it cannot go beyond and if you say that is not possible, then we take root in the prison and make the prison more beautiful; then man can never be free. I think most of us accept that theory, though we all say we are this or we are that. And a mind that has gone into itself, delved into it - in the sense of meditation - will find out the limitations of conformity, without being told how to conform or not to conform.
So, when the mind understands, perceives, sees this imitative, conforming process, will not that very perception of conformity free the mind so as to be active without reaction? You see, Sir, from that arises another question. I am not talking, I am observing the whole thing, experiencing the whole thing as we go along. There is another thing involved in this, which is maturity. Maturity, for most of us, is growing from boyhood to middle age and then to old age physically. Mentally we are not mature. A mature mind is not a mind which is in a state of contradiction. A mature mind is not a mind that is in a tension of that contradiction. A mature mind is not a mind that merely conforms through the urge or the demand for power, position, prestige. I feel a mature mind is that mind which comprehends all this - power, imitation, the evilness of power, the corruption of conformity through ambition, competition, the conformity to a pattern whether established by society or by the mind itself through its own experience. A mind which is held in all these patterns of activities is an immature mind and therefore a mediocre mind.
So, can a mind, seeing all this, go beyond it? That is the question. So, let us discuss this. What is the function of a talk like this? Is it not that you and I, though I am talking, should not only hear but experience these things in living? This, a talk should do. When you leave, you cannot be what you were when you came in. You have to discover what you are and break through; the very perception is the breaking through, you don't have to break through.
Question: Do you think a detached action will lead to this?
Krishnamurti: Now, what do we mean by a detached action?
Question: Not caring for the results.
Krishnamurti: You say that detachment implies not seeking the results, the profits, the ends thereof. It is a theory, the Gita says so and we repeat it. It is not a fact in your life. You want to be a Superintendent or a bigger boss or a still bigger boss; there is always the imitation, always the end in view. Now before we see whether detachment will lead or help one to understand action without reaction, we must find out what we mean, not only verbally but semantically, by the word "detachment", and from what we are to be detached. And before we ask what detachment is, should we not ask why we are attached? Detachment is not important, surely, but why we are attached. If I can understand the process of attachment, then there is no question of detachment.
Question: Attachment is normal. It is instinct. And detachment is something you have to arrive at, a positive act.
Krishnamurti: You say that attachment is natural and detachment is something to arrive at through discipline. Now, is attachment natural? Have you seen the little puppies on the roadside, Sir? The mother feeds them for about 4 to 6 weeks and afterwards they are detached from the mother. This is true of birds and animals. They don't squeal about detachment. They don't practise attachment.
Question: That is a biological process and this is an intellectual process.
Krishnamurti: Oh, that is a biological process! Again, a mother is attached to a baby, why? It is a biological process. No? You are attached to your children, is it a biological process? Now, why are you attached? Please don't say that we must be attached or that we must not be attached. I am asking why we are attached; examine that first. Is it natural, biological, to be attached? Why are you attached? That is good enough, begin with that.
Question: One should not be attached as soon as the children can stand on their own legs. Krishnamurti: What do you mean by "should not"? The fact is that we are attached. Why are you attached? We have to examine that first. But before we understand why we are attached, we want to detach. Sir, why are you attached? Why am I attached to this house? I feel secure in having a job, in being a big man, in being a big noise; and I say, "This is my house, my wife, my child - my, my, my." Now what is behind that? You know you are attached to your wife and children. Why are you attached? Sir, the psychological reason is insufficiency, fear, moodiness, loneliness; all these things compel me unconsciously or consciously to identify myself with this house, with a job, with a position of importance, never something below me but always up, never with a cheap thing but always with the Prime Minister, never with a man but with God. So, this process of identification creates attachment, obviously, doesn't it? Look how difficult it is to break down the idea to which you are so attached, the idea of Christ, the idea of somebody else and the idea which one has created for oneself! You are attached to these ideas and then you ask "How am I to be detached?" If I know how, for what reasons, why I am attached, then my concern is not detachment but the understanding of attachment, and from there, there is no problem. I am attached - which means all the pain, all the misery, the confusion, the contradiction, the frustration, fears - , I like that, and I say "Yes, I like this and I live it." But without understanding this, if I talk about detachment, it has no meaning, it is just a pastime.
Do you know, do you feel, that you are seeking power, that your mind is conforming? Do you know that you are mediocre? Do you know it, feel it? Or are you afraid to face the fact that you are dull, mediocre? Sir, mustn't I recognise what I am before I do anything else? How can I undertake the job of a Minister, or a Captain, or a General, or an Admiral, if I do not know the job? I must have the capacity, I must first see what I am, and not react. I must recognise the fact first, mustn't I?
Let us take a very simple thing. Sir, do I recognise that I am insensitive, dull, mediocre? If I don't recognise it, I am pretending, am I not? But in actuality, I cannot pretend; if I have got cancer, I cannot pretend that I have no cancer. And if I can recognise that I am dull, then a different action takes place. Either I become terribly depressed because I say, "I must be clever like that man", and I begin to discover that I am comparing and that the very dullness comes about through comparison. Or, when I recognise that I am dull, insensitive, then I am not insensitive, I am not dull. But the man who pretends that he is never dull - he is the most stupid man.
Have you, has the mind watched itself thinking, Sir? We are not merely concerned with the movement of thought, with the nature of thinking, but what to think and what not to think. We do not watch the river flowing by, we do not see the boat or the little buoy on the river; but we say, "Now, can I use that water for electricity or take it to my garden or this or that?" We don't move with the thought. Now, we are thinking not in terms of how to change thinking, or to change the content of thinking, but about the very nature of thinking. You understand, Sir? Now, to find out the nature of thinking, one has to follow it, not say, "I must change, I must not change" - which is to be aware of the movement of thinking. Sir, have you ever tried for a given period of time, say ten minutes, to put down precisely what you think? Please try this: just to put down on paper for ten minutes, every thought. Try it, Sir; then what happens? First you find your thought is moving very rapidly; then by writing down, your thought becomes slower. Doesn't it? But if you say that you cannot do it because the thought is too rapid or that it is difficult, it is finished. But if you say, "I am going to write down for ten minutes this morning every thought whatever the thought may be - good, bad, vulgar, successful, non-successful - ", and if you write it down, you will see that the mind in the very process of putting it down becomes slower. If you put it down as an exercise that you are doing, then there is a restriction, then there is an effort, then it is like putting the brake of a car which you want to slow down. You may succeed, you may fail; but just do it for the fun of it, and then you begin to discover that the mind can be astonishingly slow, precise, and that the mind that is slow can be made tremendously fast.
We have seen that through contradiction a tension is created, and that tension in action produces certain results and, as most of us are in a state of self-contradiction, that self-contradiction produces a certain activity. All activities of a person whose mind is in a state of contradiction within itself are most destructive, whether that person is a marvellous writer, or a great painter, or a great politician. Sir, are you aware of our self-contradiction and the action born of that self-contradiction? Apparently, it is almost impossible to look at ourselves. We are always looking at ourselves through the mirror of somebody else. Sir, how do we discuss this thing? We can discuss only if you don't quote anybody, if you don't quote any book, but if you can experience something directly. Apparently that is not possible for most of us, and we do not know even that we are quoting.
Question: Sir, if conformity leads to contradiction, absolute nonconformity may lead to absolute confusion.
Krishnamurti: First of all, Sir, is the present society in which we live in such good order, beautifully arranged, everything functioning beautifully? Is there not chaos in India, in the world? What do you mean by nonconformity and conformity? Sir, even the most ascetic man in power conforms when occasion, death or marriage, arises; though he says, "I don't conform", he conforms. Doesn't he? You see this everywhere. Ceremonies have no meaning, surely. Yet you people do ceremonies. Don't you, Sir, in some form or other? You do ceremonies that have no meaning; and yet, you are all professors and intellectuals, you call yourself modern. This is an obvious contradiction, isn't it? We are totally unconscious, carrying on in, what you call, the modern way and living in an ancient world - which is a contradiction. You follow, Sir? Don't bring them to clash, avoid the clash, that is all; one part of the mind says, "Let me carry on in the traditional way", and the other part of the mind says, "I will drive a car". You don't ever allow the two to meet. So, in order to avoid that conflict, we keep them apart - that is all what we are doing. And then in the middle of all this mess and confusion, we talk about God.
Question: Sir, conformity is essential to some extent.
Krishnamurti: Yes, Sir. I conform by keeping to the right side of the road, I conform by buying the postage stamp, I conform by putting on cloth, I conform to certain activities which society demands - buying, taxes and all the rest of it. Now, does conformity of such a kind interfere with the state of the mind which says, "I must find out what it is to live without conformity"?
Question: May I know the technique for comprehension?
Krishnamurti: Sir, do you mean to say that you learn something through a technique? You know the jet? I do not know anything about the jet. I know a little about the piston engines, because I have taken out and put them together. I do not know anything about the jet. I want to learn and to know all about it. Do I have a method by which to learn? Do stick to this one point, Sir. Do I have a method to learn, or I go to somebody who teaches me, points out various Parts of the jet machine and I listen and learn? There is no technique to learning. Sir, to learn something, the mind mustn't know anything about it. Don't agree. If I know nothing about anything, then I can learn. If I know something about something, I am only adding to it. Sir, take your own example. You are all so-called religious people. I do not know what that means. But I accept it, that you are all religious people. You are all seeking God. But actually you know nothing about God, actually nothing. Now if you want to know, you cannot carry all your Upanishads, Gita, Koran and all the rest of it, you must learn; your mind must be empty to learn; you cannot go to that God with all your prejudices, your compulsions and wants and hopes and fears, you must go to it empty to learn. To learn about something there must be a sense of not knowing. If I know already about the jet, I learn along the same line, I add more to what I already know. That is not learning. That is only adding; addition is not learning.
Sir, look at a flower when you go out in your garden, or at a flower on the road side; just look at it; don't say, "It is a rose, it is this and that". just look at it; and in looking at it that way, you learn - learn about the petal, what the stem is like, what the pollen is like, and so on. Can you keep on looking at it every time afresh, at every flower, not just say, "It is a rose" and finish with it? That means, can I look at my wife, my child, the neighbour, always with new eyes? Sir, this requires a great deal of self-penetration.
January 18, 1961
Jiddu Krishnamurti in English
New Delhi 1961
New Delhi 5th Public Talk 18th January 1961
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