Paris 7th Public Talk 19th September 1961
If I may, I would like to talk over rather a complex issue with you, which is death. But before we go into that, I would like to suggest that those who are taking notes should not do so. The speaker is not giving a lecture where you take notes and later you or someone else interprets what is being said. Interpreters are exploiters, whether they are well-intentioned or merely want to make a name for themselves. So, I would earnestly suggest that you listen to experience, and not think over what is said later, or listen to other people's comments on it - which is all so utterly futile.
I would also like to point out that words have very little meaning in themselves. They are symbols, used for the purpose of communication. I must use certain words, but they are used in order to commune; and one must feel one's way through them into things that are not explicable by words; and there is a danger in that, because we are liable to interpret words according to our own likes and dislikes and thereby miss the significance of what is actually being said. We are trying to find out what is false and what is true; and to do that, one must go beyond words. And in going beyond words there is this danger of our own personal, individual interpretation of those words. So if we wish to go into this question of death really profoundly, as I intend to do, one must be aware of words and their significance and beware of interpreting them according to our likes and dislikes. If our minds are free of the word, the symbol, then we can commune with each other beyond the word.
Death is quite a complex problem, really to experience and go into profoundly. We either rationalize it, intellectually explain it away and comfortably settle back; or else we have beliefs, dogmas, ideas to which we run. But dogmas, beliefs and rationalizations do not solve the problem. Death is there; it is always there. Even if the doctors and scientists can prolong the physical machinery for another fifty years or more, death is waiting. And to understand it we must go into it, not verbally, intellectually or sentimentally, but really face the fact and go into it. That requires a great deal of energy, a great clarity of perception; and energy and clarity are denied when there is fear.
Most of us, whether we are young or old, are scared of death. Though we see the hearse going by every day, we are frightened of death; and where there is fear, there is no comprehension. So to go into the question of death the first, the essential requirement is to be free of fear. And by `going into it' I mean to live with death - not verbally, not intellectually, but actually to see what it feels like to live with something so drastic, so final, with which you cannot argue, with which you cannot bargain. But to do that one must first be free of fear; and that is extraordinarily difficult.
I do not know if you have ever tried to be free of the fear of anything: the fear of public opinion, of losing your job, of being without a belief. If so, you will know that it is extremely difficult to put fear aside completely. Do we actually know fear? Or is there always an interval between the thought process and the actuality? If I am afraid of public opinion, what people say, that fear is merely a thought process, is it not? But when the actual moment arises of facing the fact of what people are saying, in that very moment there is no fear. In total awareness there is no experiencer. I do not know if you have ever tried to be completely aware without any choice, to be wholly perceptive without any borderline to attention. If one is so aware one can see that one is always; running away from the things of which one is afraid, always escaping. And it is this running away from the thing which thought calls fearful that creates fear, that is fear - which means, really, that fear is caused by time and thought.
And what is time? Apart from chronological time by the watch, as the tomorrow, the yesterday, is there time, inwardly, psychologically? Or has thought invented time as a means of attaining, a means of gaining, in order to cover the interval between what is and what should be? The what should be is merely an ideological statement; it has no validity, it is only a theory. The actual, the factual is what is. Face to face with what is there is no fear. One is afraid to know actually what one is, but in really facing what is there is no fear. It is thought, thinking about what is, that creates fear. And thought is a mechanical process, a mechanical response of memory, so the question is, can thought die to itself? Can one die to all the memories, experiences, values, judgments one has gathered?
Have you ever tried to die to something? To die, without argument, without choice, to a pain, or more especially to a pleasure? In dying there is no argument; you cannot argue with death; it is final, absolute. In the same way one must die to a memory, die to a thought, to all the things, the ideas that one has accumulated, gathered. If you have tried it, you will know how extraordinarily difficult it is; how the mind, the brain holds on to a memory, clings to it. To give up something totally, completely, without asking anything in return, needs clear perception, does it not?
So long as there is continuity of thought as time, as pleasure and pain, there must be fear; and where there is fear there is no understanding. I think that is fairly simple and clear. One is afraid of so many things; but if you will take one of those things and die to it completely, then you will find that death is not what you have imagined it to be; it is something entirely different. But we want continuity. We have had experiences, gathered knowledge, accumulated various forms of virtue, built character and so on; and we are afraid that that will come to an end and so we ask, `What will happen to me when death comes?' And that is really the issue. Knowing the inevitability of death we turn to belief in reincarnation, resurrection and all the phantasies involved in belief - which is really a continuity of what you are. And actually, what are you? Pain, hope, despair, various forms of pleasure; bound by time and sorrow. We have a few moments of joy but the rest of our life is empty, shallow, a constant battle, full of travail and misery. That is all we know of life and that is what we want to continue. Our life is a continuity of the known; we move and act from the known to the known; and when the known is destroyed the whole sense of fear arises, fear of facing the unknown. Death is the unknown. So can one die to the known, and face it? That is the issue.
I am not talking of theories. I am not peddling in ideas. We are trying to find out what it means to live. Living without fear may be immortality, being deathless. To die to memories, to the yesterday and the tomorrow, is surely to live with death; and in that state there is no fear of death and all the absurd inventions which fear creates. And what does it mean, to die inwardly? Thought is a continuity of yesterday into the future, is it not? Thought is the response of memory. Memory is the result of experience. And experience is the process of challenge and response. You can see that thought is always functioning in the field of the known; and so long as the machinery of thought is functioning there must be fear. Because it is thought that prevents the enquiry into the unknown.
Please, we are trying to think this thing out together. I am not talking to you as a person who has discovered something new and is just telling you about it for you merely to follow verbally. You must go along with it and search out your own mind and heart. There must be self-knowing; for the knowing of oneself is the beginning of freedom from fear. We are asking if it is possible to live with death, not at the last moment. when the mind is diseased or there is old age or an accident, but actually to find out now. To live with death must be an extraordinary experience, something totally new, unthought of and which thought cannot possibly discover. And to find out what it means to live with death, you must have immense energy, must you not? To live with your wife, your husband, your children, your neighbour and not be perverted, twisted; to live with a tree, with nature; you need to have energy to meet it. To live with an ugly thing you must have energy; otherwise the ugly thing will distort you, or you will get accustomed to it, mechanically; and the same applies to beauty. Unless you live intensely, completely, fully in a world of this kind, where there is every form of propaganda, influence, pressure, control, false values, you get accustomed to it all, and it dulls the mind, the spirit. And to have energy there must be no fear which means there must be no demand on life at all. I do not know if you can go as far as that: not to ask a thing of life.
We discussed `need' the other day. We do need certain physical comforts, food and shelter; but to make psychological demands on life means that you are begging, that you are afraid. It requires an intense energy to stand alone. To understand this is not a matter of thinking about it. There is understanding only when there is no choice, no judgment, but merely observation. To die each day means not to carry over from yesterday all your ambitions, grievances, your memories of fulfilment, your grudges, your hatred. Most of us wither away, but that is not dying. To die is to know what love is. Love has no continuity, no tomorrow. The picture of a person on the wall, the image, in your mind - that is not love, it is merely memory. As love is the unknown, so death is the unknown. And to enter the unknown, which is death and love, one must first die to the known. Then only is the mind fresh, young and innocent; and in that there is no death.
You know, if you observe yourself as in a mirror, you are nothing but a bundle of memories, are you not? And all those memories are of the past; they are all over, are they not? So can't one die to it all in one clean sweep? It can be done, only it demands a great deal of self-enquiry, and awareness of every thought, every gesture, every word, so that there is no accumulation. Surely, that one can do. Then you will know what it is to die every day; and then perhaps we shall also know what it is to love every day, and not merely know love as memory. All that we know now is the smoke of attachment, the smoke of jealousy, envy, ambition, greed, and all that. We do not know the flame behind the smoke. But if one can put away the smoke completely, then we shall find that living and dying are the same thing, not theoretically, but actually. After all, that which continues, which does not come to an end, is not creative. That which has continuity can never be new. It is only in the destruction of continuity that there is the new. I do not mean social or economic destruction, that is very superficial. And if you have gone into it very deeply, not only at the conscious level but deep down, beyond the measure of thought, beyond all consciousness - which is still in the framework of thought - , then you will find that dying is an extraordinary thing. Dying then is creation. Not the writing of poems, painting pictures or inventing new gadgets - that is not creation. Creation comes only when you have died to all techniques, to all knowledge, to all words.
So death, as we conceive of it, is fear. And when there is no fear, because you are inviting death each minute, then every minute is a new thing; it is new because inwardly the old has been destroyed. And to destroy there must be no fear, but only the sense of complete aloneness; to be able to stand completely alone, without God, without family, without name, without time. And that is not despair. Death is not despair. On the contrary it is living each minute completely, totally, without the limitations of thought. And then you will find that life is death, and death is creation and love. Death which is destruction, is creation and love; they always go together; the three are inseparable. The artist is only concerned with his expression, which is very superficial, and he is not creative. Creation is not expression, it is beyond thought and feeling, it is free of technique, free of word and colour. And that creation is love.
Question: How are future generations to exist if one dies each minute?
Krishnamurti: I think, if I may say so, that you have misunderstood it entirely. Are you really concerned with what is going to happen to the coming generations? Is love incompatible with bearing children? Do you know what it means really to love somebody? I am not talking of lust. I am not talking of that complete identification, one with another, so that you feel carried away. That is comparatively easy when you are driven by emotion. I am not talking of that. I am talking of that quality of flame when you or the other completely ceases. But I am afraid very few have known that; very few have ceased, even for a moment. If you really know what it means, then there is no question of future generations. After all, if you were really concerned about the future generations, you would have different schools a totally different kind of education, would you not?, without competition and all the other crippling things.
Question: If one does not know what truth is while living, will one know it when one is dead? Krishnamurti: Sir, what is truth? Truth is not something you have been told about by the Church, the priest, the neighbour or through a book; it is not an idea or a belief. It is something vital, new; you have to discover it; it is there for you to find out. And to find out you must die to the things that you already know. To see something very clearly, to see the rose, the flower, to see another person without interpretation, you must die to the word, to the memories of that person. Then you will know what truth is. Truth is not something far away, some mysterious thing which can only be discovered when you are physically dead, in heaven or in hell. If you were really hungry, you would not be satisfied with explanations about food. You would want food, not the word `food'. In the same way if you want to find out about truth, then the word, the symbol, the explanations are just ashes, they have no meaning.
Question: I see that one must be free of fear to have this energy, and yet it seems to me that in some ways fear is necessary. So how is one to get out of this vicious circle?
Krishnamurti: Surely, a certain amount of physical fear is necessary, otherwise you would find yourself under a bus. To a certain degree, self-enlightened self-protection is necessary. But beyond that there must be no fear of any kind. I am using the word `must' not as a command, but because it is inevitable. I do not think we see the importance, the necessity of total freedom from fear, inwardly. A mind that is afraid cannot proceed to discover in any direction. And the reason we do not see this is because we have built up so many walls of security around ourselves and we are afraid of what will happen if those guarantees, those resistances are destroyed. All we know is resistance and defence. We say, `What will happen to me if I have no resistance against my wife, my husband, my neighbour, my boss?, nothing may happen, or everything may happen. To find the truth about it there must be freedom from resistance, from fear.
Question: While we are listening to you perhaps we do live in that state, but why don't we live in it all the time?
Krishnamurti: You are listening to me, are you not?, because I am rather insistent; because I am energetic and I love what I am talking about. Not that I love just talking to an audience - that does not mean a thing to me. To find out what it means to live with death is to love death, to understand it, to go into it completely, totally, every minute of the day. So you are listening to me because I am forcing you into a corner to look at yourselves. But afterwards you will forget all about this. You will be back in the old rut and then you will say, `How am I going to get out of this rut?' So it is really much better not to listen at all than to create another problem of how to continue in another state. You have enough problems - wars, your neighbours, your husbands, wives, children, your ambitions. Do not add another. Either die completely, knowing the necessity, the importance, the urgency of it; or carry on. Do not create another contradiction, another problem.
Question: What about physical death?
Krishnamurti: Does not all machinery wear out? Machinery, however precisely put together, beautifully oiled, must wear out eventually. By eating rightly, taking exercise, finding the right drug, you may live for a hundred and fifty years; but the machinery will collapse in the end and then you will have this problem of death. You have the problem at the beginning and you have the problem at the end. Therefore it is much wiser, saner, more rational to solve the problem now and be finished with it.
Question: How are we to answer the child who asks about death?
Krishnamurti: You can only answer the child if you know what death is yourself. You can tell the child that fire burns because you have burnt yourself. But you cannot tell the child what love is, can you?, or what death is? Neither can you tell the child what God is. If you are a Catholic, a Christian with beliefs and dogmas, you will answer the child accordingly; but that is merely your conditioning. If you yourself have inwardly entered the house of death, then you will really know what to say to the child. But if you have never tasted what it means to die, actually, inwardly, then whatever answer you give the child will have no validity at all; it will merely be a lot of words.
September 19, 1961
Paris 7th Public Talk 19th September 1961
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