London 5th Public Talk 14th June 1962
This evening I would like to talk about something which for most of us will be a little foreign, a little outside our everyday life; but I think it is important to understand it. I am going to talk about meditation. That word has many connotations. In the Orient they are supposed to do a great deal of meditating; but I doubt it. Serious people do meditate. And in the West, if you are a religious person, you are supposed to do what is called contemplation, or you offer up a prayer occasionally when you are in difficulties. But to me meditation is something entirely different. As you know, I have been talking about fear, sorrow, time, death, and about the things with which we are faced every day of our life. There is the office routine, with its boredom, and the constant effort we make to maintain a certain outward standard of life; and inwardly also we seek to maintain some degree of dignity and freedom by following a set course from which we rarely deviate. These things are not something fantastic, mystical, they are part of our very existence, and we have to deal with them in the course of our everyday living.
Now, without laying the right foundation, one cannot possibly meditate. The foundation essential for meditation is self-knowledge - knowing oneself. Without knowing oneself, all meditation, all contemplation, all prayer, however profitable or seemingly beneficial, leads inevitably to various forms of illusion. Unless one has begun to be aware of oneself, of the unconscious as well as the conscious; unless one perceives one's own motives, conflicts, miseries, one's sense of guilt, one's anxieties and despairs, any form of meditation, contemplation or prayer can only lead to self-hypnosis. One may have visions, but they are merely the projection of one's conditioning. The Christian will see the Christ, and the Hindu his own particular God. People who have such experiences get very excited about them. But what they experience, what they see in their visions is really the response of their background, of their education, their culture; and to meditate rightly one must be free of this conditioning. Otherwise `meditation' is like going round and round in a circle: one's conditioning projects visions, which in turn strengthen the conditioning.
So, not only for meditating, but also our living fully - which is to throw off the burden of anxiety, the ceaseless battle of hope and despair - , it is absolutely essential to know oneself. And to know oneself requires a peculiar attention - an attention in which you observe without evaluation. That is, you see what is actually going on without condemning or judging. You see yourself, as it were, in a mirror, without thought - if I may use that word, which I shall presently explain.
We know what a flower is in the botanical sense, its name, its species, and so on, but we rarely look at a flower non-botanically. Most of us have neither the interest, the patience nor the capacity to look and to listen without all the misery and travail of the past, without projecting the things we have known, which interrupts perception. To know ourselves we need attention without choice; we have to be able to look and to listen without interpretation.
As this is going to be a rather difficult subject, may I suggest that you simply listen, without making an effort to understand. Not that I am mesmerizing you; hut just listen as you would listen to the song of a bird, or as you would see a leaf fluttering in the wind, or a cloud floating by, full of light and delight. Just listen, don't try to capture with reason the significance of what is being said. Not that we should not use reason. Without reasoning we shall not be able to go very far - and this evening I would like, if I can, to go very far. But to go very far we must begin very near; and the nearest thing is yourself. Without understanding yourself, not partially but totally, you may talk about God and be able to quote the Bible or some other sacred book, but you are not a religious person at all; you are merely a slave to the propaganda of the particular culture or society in which you live.
What is needed is this extraordinary state of attention in which you look and listen without decision, without motive, without purpose, which is really to attend without choice. And knowing yourself is not an additive process. You see yourself being angry, jealous, sexual, envious - you merely observe the fact; and that observation without analysis unfolds all the implications of the fact, you don't have to make an effort to uncover them. The moment you make an effort to analyze, to understand, you are distorting the fact; you are bringing in your conditioning as an analyst, as a Christian, as a this or a that.
As I said, knowing oneself is not an additive or accumulative process. The moment you accumulate knowledge about yourself, that knowledge interferes with perception. When you look at yourself through a screen of knowledge which you have accumulated about yourself, there is a distortion in what you see.
I hope I am making this clear, because it is a very important point. Most of us accumulate; we accumulate virtue, wealth, desires, experiences, ideas, and burdened with this accumulation we have further experience. Thus whatever we experience is conditioned by the knowledge or experience we have previously acquired. All experience has already been tasted, known; therefore there is nothing new.
I was talking the other day about death. You must die to all knowledge about yourself, not go on accumulating knowledge about yourself; because the self is never static, it is always changing, not only physically but also psychologically. You are not what you were yesterday, though you would like to be; a change has been going on, of which you may not be conscious.
To know yourself - and you must know yourself completely, right through - the accumulative process of knowledge about yourself must come to an end; and there can be that coming to an end only when you cease to judge, to evaluate, to condemn, to justify. This sounds very simple, but for most of us it is not, because we are trained to condemn, to judge, to evaluate, to compare, to justify. That is our conditioning. And to see things clearly as they are, without the distortion introduced by our conditioning, is not a matter of time; it is a matter of immediate necessity. You obviously cannot see what is actually the fact as long as you bring all your memories and opinions into it. If that is clear not just verbally or intellectually, but factually, then we can proceed with an investigation of the unconscious.
The unconscious plays a very great part in our life. Most of us don't know the unconscious except through dreams, through an occasional hint or intimation of things that are concealed. I don't think it is necessary to dream at all; it is a waste of energy. If you are awake, choicelessly aware from moment to moment and therefore not adding to what you have already known; if you are watching everything about you as well as every movement of thought within yourself, then you will find that dreaming ceases altogether - however much psychologists say that you cannot help dreaming, though you may not always remember it. This is not a matter of dispute or argumentation. You can test it out for yourself. If you are not half asleep during the day, but wide awake, watching everything around you and inside yourself - every movement of thought, every feeling every reaction - , then you will find that when you go to sleep you do not dream.
The unconscious, which is hidden and of which one is so little aware, can be approached negatively. That is what I am trying to indicate in saying that there is no need to dream.
I don't know how far you have gone into all this for yourself. Probably you feel it is too bothersome to talk about the unconscious; it is too Jungian, or Freudian, or whatever it is. But you must know the unconscious, because it is the unconscious that guides most of our life, that shapes our thoughts, our Feelings, and brings about various kinds of conflict. Without knowing the unconscious, you may talk about God, about prayer, war, peace, the atom bomb, but it will have very little meaning.
In the unconscious are rooted not only the everyday responses of the individual, but also the collective responses of the race to which you belong, of the culture in which you have been brought up - not just the immediate culture of a few years, but the tremendous accumulation of man's endeavour throughout the ages. It is all there. To uncover the whole of the unconscious through analysis, through investigating it step by step, is absolutely impossible; because if at some point in the process you analyze incorrectly, as you are sure to do, the rest of your analysis will also be wrong. If you see the futility of such analysis, if you see that it cannot go very far into and certainly not beyond the unconscious, then you have to approach the unconscious negatively - that is, totally. I shall explain what I mean.
I hope all this is not too much. I am not being patronizing, clever or superior - nothing of the kind. But most of you have probably not thought about this matter at all; and logically, sanely to follow what is being said without getting confused or worried, you have just to listen. Perhaps much of it you won't understand; but you will understand if the seed falls into soil which is prepared through right listening.
If one's approach in the process of examination or observation is negative, then there is in that process no separation between the thinker and the thought. But for most of us there is a separation, a conflict between the thinker and the thought, between the observer and the observed, between the part of the mind which says, "I must", and another part which says, "I must not". One desire is pulling in a particular direction, and another desire in the opposite direction. We all know this duality of the censor who is always watching, judging, evaluating thought.
Now, is there in fact a separation between the observer and the observed, between the thinker and the thought? We assume there is; but is there? This is very important to find out; because if there is no censor, no thinker, no centre from which there is judgment, evaluation, then conflict ceases altogether.
Surely, there is only thought - thought as the machine-like response of accumulated memory. This thought has created the thinker as a permanent entity, the `me', which it then calls the ego, the soul, the higher self; but it is still the result of thought, because it can be conditioned to think whatever society wants it to think. The Communists do not believe in God at all, but you do, because you have been brought up in that belief. It is a matter of propaganda. To understand this whole process, the totality of the unconscious, you have to watch it negatively - and that is the only way you can watch it, because any positive watching of the unconscious brings about a division between the observer and the observed.
I wonder if you have noticed that in the moment of seeing something without thought, there is no observer; there is just observation. If you look at a cloud without the accumulated memory of clouds, you are just watching. In the same way one has to observe the unconscious; and when you do so observe, negatively, is there the unconscious? Have you not wiped away the unconscious with all its content? So there is an immediate perception of the totality of consciousness. But you cannot see the totality of consciousness as long as you are looking through your conditioning, through the accumulated experience of the past.
When you have gone that far, as you must, then you will have laid the foundation for meditation; because then you will have altogether eliminated sorrow. This does not mean that there is no compassion. But you will have eliminated sorrow, which dulls the mind and makes it insensitive - sorrow being self-pity, self-concern. which has nothing whatsoever to do with compassion. Now, what is meditation? There are those who say that in meditation you must control your thought. What does such control imply? It implies contradiction, which is a form of conflict. You try to concentrate on something and other thoughts creep in which you keep pushing away; so concentration gradually becomes a process of exclusion. It is like the schoolboy who wants to look out of the window, but the teacher tells him to look at his book; and the effort to look at his book is called concentration. But such concentration is exclusion.
I think there is a state of attention in which concentration is not exclusion. When the mind concentrates through discipline, through control, through suppression, through various forms of punishment and reward, that concentration divides the mind against itself and brings about conflict. In attention there is no conflict. Attention can be understood only when you see the significance of trying to concentrate through control - which means that the effort to concentrate ceases. As long as you are making an effort to concentrate, there is contradiction, conflict, therefore there is no attention; and you must have attention.
Meditation is not prayer. Prayer implies supplication, begging, and that is utterly immature. You pray only when you are in difficulties. A happy man doesn't pray. It is only the sorrowful man who prays, the man who is asking for something, or who is afraid of losing something. And contemplation as practised by Westerners - that also is not meditation.
Please, I have used the word `Westerners' merely as a means of communication. To me there is no division of East and West. That is all too absurdly nationalistic and prejudicial.
What is generally called contemplation implies a centre from which to contemplate; it means being in a state to receive, to accept; and again that is not meditation.
To lay the foundation for meditation one has to understand all this, so that there is no fear, no sorrow, no motive, no effort of any kind. If you cease to make effort merely because someone has told you that you mustn't make effort, you are trying to achieve that effortless state; and it cannot be achieved. You have to understand the whole structure of effort, and only then will you have laid the foundation for meditation. That foundation is not fragmentary, it is not a thing to be gradually put together by thought, by the desire for success, achievement, or in the hope of experiencing something much wider and greater. All that has to stop. And when the foundation has been laid, then the brain becomes completely quiet. It is no longer responding to any form of influence or suggestion; it has ceased to have visions; it is no longer caught in or conditioned by the past. To be in that state of quietness is absolutely essential. The brain is the result of centuries of time. It is the biological, the animalistic result of influence, of culture, of the whole psychological structure of society. And it is only when the brain is completely quiet, without a movement, but alive, not made dead by discipline, by control, by suppression - it is only then that the mind can begin to operate. But this absolute quietness of the brain is not a state to he achieved. It comes about naturally, easily, when you have laid the foundation, when there is no longer a division as the thinker and the thought.
All this is part of meditation; meditation is not just at the end of it. Laying the foundation is being free of fear, sorrow, effort, envy, greed, ambition - free of the whole psychological structure of society. When through self-knowledge the brain is no longer an accumulative machine, then it is quiet, still, silent. You must come to that state of silence, otherwise you are really not a religious person; you are merely playing with things that have no meaning at all. You may call yourself a Christian, a Hindu, a Buddhist, or what you will, but those words are merely the result of propaganda and they have no value for a man who is really religious. But when there is that state of silence, then there is the coming into being of that immensity, that unnameable. There is then neither acceptance nor denial; there is no entity who experiences the immensity. There is no experiencer - and that is the most marvellous part of it. There is only that immense, timeless movement; and, if you have gone that far, you will know what creation is.
Perhaps you would like to ask some questions.
Questioner: What is the purpose of man's life on this planet?
Krishnamurti: I wonder why we want a purpose? Isn't living in itself the purpose of life? But our life is so sordid, so mean, so ugly, so mediocre. Our life is a battlefield, and therefore we want a superior purpose, something for which we can live - an ideal, a Utopia, a marvellous heaven. If you could free yourself from all this turmoil, I wonder if you would still ask what is the purpose of life? I am afraid you would not, for then you would live a full, rich life, not a life of sorrow, misery and confusion. It is because we are confused that we want clarity, but we don't find out how to free ourselves from confusion. We want something beyond, and so again we are caught in the dualistic battle of what is and what should be.
I am afraid there is no purpose to life - which doesn`t mean that you must accept the sordid life that you are now living. On the contrary, you must tear through it, destroy completely the psychological structure of society. Then you will find out for yourself what ; an extraordinary thing life is.
Questioner: You said that the thinker and the thought are one. Would you be so kind as to go more into detail about this?
Krishnamurti: What is thought? Thought is the response of memory. I ask you where you live, and your response is immediate, because that is something with which you are very familiar. The thinking process is instantaneous, like the functioning of a computer, the electronic brain. But if one asks a more difficult question, there is a time interval, a lag between the question and the answer, between the challenge and the response. In that time interval, thought is going on; memory begins to inquire, it goes back into itself looking for the answer; and presently the answer comes. If one then asks you a much more difficult question, you say, "I don't know". But when you say that, you actually want to know, you are waiting to find the answer, and either you go and look it up in an encyclopaedia, or you ask somebody. The `I don't know' is merely temporary.
But there is an `I don't know', a state of not knowing which has a completely different significance. Up to now there has always been the thinker and the thought. You say' I.don t know", but you are actually waiting to know. When at last you do know, what you know will be added to the knowledge you have already accumulated, and you will then be able to reply very quickly next time that question is asked. So your `I don't know' is really a process of accumulation.
Now, there is an entirely different `I don't know' in which there is no thinker and no accumulation of thought. It is a fact: you don't know. And for most of us that state of not knowing is rather terrifying. We never really say, "I don't know; there is always the vanity of knowing, the feeling of the superior and the inferior, and all the rest of it. But when one says, "I don't know" without any sense of wanting or waiting to know, then there is neither the thinker nor thought. It is a state of complete negation. In that state of negation one can look negatively at the unconscious, at the whole content of consciousness. Then there is no conditioning, no conflict between the thinker and the thought; therefore the mind is fresh, young, new, alive.
Questioner: When one gets to the point of realizing that mere verbalization is static, where does one go from there?
Krishnamurti: First of all, you are assuming that you can be free of verbalization. Is it possible to see the limitation of the word and be free of the word? All verbalization is a process of thinking. Can we think without the word, without a symbol, without an image? And how is the word to come to an end? Most of us are slaves to words. You are British, and that word means a great deal to you. When you say that you believe in God, you are a believer in the word, not in God. You don't know anything about God and how can you believe in something you don't know? Which doesn't mean you are an atheist - that is equally absurd.
Most of us are lonely, we know what the word means. We know - at least we think we know - what that state of loneliness is. Do we recognize it by the word? And if the word were not there, when we have a certain feeling would we recognize it as loneliness? Most of us are such slaves to words that we are incapable of looking at the fact.
There is a state of loneliness; and can you look at that state without the word? Take a much closer thing. Can you look at the fact of your anger or your jealousy without the word, without the symbol? The word has associations, memories, through the word there is recognition, and all the rest of it. To look at the fact one must be free of the word. And when one does look at the fact without the word, is the fact what one thought it was?
Sir, naming or verbalization is a very complex process. When you understand that the word is not the thing, you are then in contact with the thing, not through the word but directly and vitally. And what happens then?
Take jealousy. Becoming aware that you are experiencing a certain feeling, you recognize it through the word `jealousy'. You have had the same feeling before and the memory of that feeling, which you have named `jealousy', pops up every time the feeling recurs and you say, "I am jealous". So you never look at the fact, but merely recognize what you think is the fact.
Now, what happens when you look at the feeling without the word `jealousy' - that is, without the whole business of verbalization, recognition, association, memory? When without the word you look directly at that which you have called jealousy, is there jealousy?
As long as you are merely going through the process of recognizing, which is looking at the new thing in terms of what has been, conflict is inevitable; therefore there is no renewing, there is nothing new. This is a psychological fact. If you go deeply into yourself, you will see it all in a flash; you don't have to listen to me or to anyone else. In throwing off the burden of words, in being free of the whole structure of symbols, ideas, and looking directly at the thing itself, there is a rejuvenation, a freshness; something totally new is taking place.
But just see how difficult it is for a Christian to throw off the symbol of the cross, or for you to throw off the word `British'. And you must throw off the symbol, you must be free of the word. You must be free of the word `God' to find out what there is. Questioner: One gets to the point of inwardly realizing the truth of what you say, but one has to live in the outside world, and the great difficulty is the application of these things.
Krishnamurti: There is no application, because there is no contradiction; the world outside and the world inside are not two separate things. The world outside is mechanical, and one has to apply to it the mechanical process of thought. Naming, which implies the whole accumulative process of knowledge, is really very detrimental. Not that you must not have mechanical knowledge - we are not discussing that. You must have mechanical knowledge, otherwise you wouldn't know what to do the next minute. That is not the problem. Knowledge or experience becomes a detriment when there is merely recognition in terms of that background. It is only when the process of recognizing ceases that there is observation; and from that observation there comes a movement of life.
Questioner: How can stillness of the mind be prolonged?
Krishnamurti: Oh, I am afraid you have got it all wrong! You like the state of stillness, so you want it to continue. But that which continues is not stillness, it is your memory of the thing that has been. Stillness or silence has no continuity. If ever you come to that silence - and you cannot come to it without laying the right foundation - , you will never ask this question. Never. In that silence there is no time, no continuity, no sense of perpetuating something that you have already experienced. Love has no continuity, has it? If it has continuity, it is no longer love. Oh, you don't see the beauty of it, unfortunately!
Questioner: You said that life is sordid. Is it good to assume that life is sordid?
Krishnamurti: I don't assume it. I don't take it for granted. I see it. I see sorrow, fear, anxiety, guilt; I see the insults, the public houses, the drinking, the smoking - not that they are right or wrong. I see the routine of life, going to the office day after day, the utter boredom of it. If you don't like to call it sordid, call it something else, but that is the fact. I used the word `sordid' just to describe what is taking place. And shouldn't we intelligent people break away from all that, die to all that? Have you ever tried dying to the habit of smoking? Not fighting it with reason, not finding a substitute for it, not going through all the misery of resisting something which gives you pleasure, but just dropping it?
Questioner: Having emptied ourselves of the `I', what is there to fill the mind?
Krishnamurti: How can I answer you? First empty the mind and then you will find out. Not you personally sir
This is a general question. We have such fear of being nothing. We have such fear of emptiness, we want to fill it. We are afraid of our own exhausting loneliness, and we try to run away from it. It is the running away that breeds fear, but it makes us active, and in running away we think we are being very positive. When you have understood that loneliness, gone through it and beyond it, you will find out for yourself what there is when the `I' is not. As in everything else, sir, you must begin with emptiness. The cup is useful because it is empty. But to understand that emptiness, one must go through it in a flash, as it were, and lay the right foundation. Then you will know, and you will never ask another what there is beyond that emptiness.
Questioner: Surely, the meaning of life is that the cup should be useful. Krishnamurti: The cup is useful only when it is empty. You can then fill it with what you like. But if your cup is already full - full of pain-, misery, conflict - , of what use is it? Sir, of what use is our life as it is: competition, wars, nationalistic conflicts, the division between East and West, between this religion and that? What is the use of it?
Questioner: You misunderstand me. By saying that the cup should be useful I mean that the purpose of life is to do the will of God.
Krishnamurti: Every politician, every businessman, every general who is preparing for war talks about the will of God. The Communist also talks about the will of God, only in his case it is the will of the State, and so on and so on. What is the will of God? You can find out only when you are empty, when you are not seeking, when you are not asking, when you don't belong to any particular group of people, when you have no fear, when you are in a state of complete uncertainty - which is not insanity. In that state of uncertainty thought is no longer seeking an abode in which to be secure. Then perhaps that which may be called God, or what you like, will function.
June 14, 1962
London 5th Public Talk 14th June 1962
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