Saanen 8th Public Talk 7th August 1962
We were talking the day before yesterday about sorrow, and I would like to talk this morning about death. For most of us, death is in the frame of fear. We are afraid of death, and therefore we never understand its immense significance. Fear invariably distorts perception and makes us escape from that of which we are afraid; and when we escape from the fact of death, or are overwhelmed with sorrow at the death of a friend, it is impossible to go deeply into and understand the whole problem of death.
We have already discussed to some extent fear and sorrow, and I think we should now be able to consider wisely and deeply this problem of death. As I was saying the other day, love, sorrow and death go together; they are inseparable. This is not a mere philosophical concept - I am not talking philosophy. But if you go very deeply into yourself, you will see that love cannot be separated from sorrow, and sorrow cannot be separated from death, because the three are really one. Nor can the beauty and the immensity of death possibly be understood if there is any vestige of fear.
To understand death, I think we must go into the question of negative thinking arid denial. Now, please do not treat this as something theoretical that cannot be put into practice. It is a lazy, indolent mind that dismisses everything as a theory, or reduces it to a system, or to a pattern of activity, thereby missing the real essence, the deep significance of what is being said. So I would most earnestly request that you listen with openness, with friendliness, without agreement or disagreement, without any motive. If we can listen happily, easily, without motive to the problem of death, then perhaps we shall capture the full significance of this immense thing that is always awaiting us.
First of all, I would like to consider with you what may be called negative thinking. Very few of us ever think negatively, and negative thinking is the highest form of thinking; it is to see the false as false, to see what is true in the false, and to see what is true in the truth. We cannot see what is false if we merely consider the false as the opposite of the true; we can see what is false only when there is no contrast, no comparison. Contrast arid comparison are born of positive thinking. If I want to understand my son, for example, I must cease to compare; I must look at him as he is. If I consider him in terms of approval or disapproval, both of which are based on my acceptance of a pattern established by tradition, by experience, by opinion, and so on, then there are the so-called positive thinking and positive action which preclude understanding. Understanding is possible only when there is no comparison, no judgment, but merely a perceiving of the actual fact; and such perception is negative thinking.
I would like to explain this negative thinking a little more, because to realize the extraordinary beauty and vitality of it, one must first understand the state of a mind that is free from the known. Please do listen to what is being said, not as a philosophy that is being expounded, or as a system that you have to follow, but listen to find out the truth of the matter for yourself. As you are sitting here, actually experience what is being said. Don't wait and-think about it afterwards - ` afterwards' has no meaning; to understand you have to be with it now, at the present moment.
I was talking about negative thinking, and I said it is the highest form of thinking. Most of us are never in a state when we say, "I do not know", except in a very superficial sense. There are two states of riot knowing. In one, the mind says, "I do not know", and it is expecting or looking for an answer. In this state the mind translates what it finds according to its background or conditioning. In listening, please experiment with yourself and you will see that this is so. But there is another state in which the mind. says, "I do not know" and is not expecting or seeking an answer. It is completely empty, its state is one of total negation, and it is only for such a mind that there is the coming into being of this extraordinary thing called creation.
I hope I have made the two states clear: that of the positive mind which says, "I do not know" and tries to find out, and that of the mind which says "I do not know" and is not expecting an answer. To be in the state of not knowing without seeking an answer is extremely difficult for most of us, because we don't like to be uncertain: But the mind that is certain is still caught in the known, and one has to be completely free of the known to understand the unknowable, which is death. So, let us find out what is implied in the denial of the life of the known.
For most of us life is conflict, pain. There is an incessant striving, a passing joy, a great many stresses and strains, a background of accumulated memory which responds to every challenge and whose response is always inadequate. There is fulfilment and the sorrow of not fulfilling; there is greed, envy, anger, hatred, misery; there is so-called love, which is the flame within the smoke of attachment, dependence, jealousy. The boredom of going to the office every day, the familiarity and contempt in one's relationship with another, the constant undercurrent of fear - that is our life, and we want that life to continue. Our life from day to day has become a habit. It is shallow, empty, and we try to fill this emptiness with religious dogmas and beliefs, with saints, saviours, masters. Our life - with its sexual appetites, its longing for fame, its desire for comfort, power, position, prestige - is a closed circle of hope and despair. This is all we know; and when death comes we are frightened to leave the known, to leave this petty life of ours, because we are so used to it. That is why there is a conflict between living and dying. The possessions to which we cling, our money, our house, our family, our name, our character, our experience, our memory of the things that we have done and not done - all that is the known, and when death approaches there is fear of leaving it. We want a continuity of all the petty business of that which we have known.
Now, you may have ideas, theories about reincarnation, resurrection, or you may cling to some other belief, but death is the ending of the life of the known; and what matters is to deny the life of the known - to deny it without a motive. By the life of the known I mean the life of our pettiness, of our jealousies, of our ambition, greed. This we have to deny totally, we have to cut it off at the very root, but without a motive; because when we have a motive, that very motive gives a continuity to the life of the known, and therefore there is no experiencing of the extraordinary depth of death.
Most of us come to the end of the known bitterly; we come to the end of our tether with anxiety, with fear. We do not die happily, easily, gracefully. At the thought of dying we are in a state of despair, and out of that, if we are very clever, we invent a philosophy of despair - or we turn to a philosophy of hope, which is what most so-called religious people do. Now, what matters is to deny all this because we understand it, which is to deny without a motive the life that we know; and then we shall find that the mind is in a state where it is beginning to free itself from the known. That is one of the things that we must do if we are to understand the immensity and the creativeness of death.
Then there is the question of time. There is chronological time and psychological time. I am not talking about chronological time, the time marked by the ringing of that church bell. I am talking about the ending of psychological time, and this ending takes place only when the mind is not seeking, getting, arriving; it has understood this whole process, and therefore there is no tomorrow as the result of the experiences of yesterday.
The time by which we go to the office, keep an appointment, catch a bus, and so on, is entirely different from the psychological time that we build up through hope: I do not know, but I shall know; I am angry, but eventually I shall be in a state of peace; I am nationalistic, narrow, bigoted, but time will gradually bring freedom from this petty state. Time is used by the mind to move psychologically from here to there and as long as this psychological time exists in each one of us, we cannot possibly understand what death is.
To understand what death is, the mind must be completely free of fear it must be in a state when it says to itself, "I do not know" without seeking or wanting an answer, which is the state of freedom from the known. This means that the mind is no longer psychologically building itself up through time in order to become something. Then you will find, if you have gone this far, that all sense of continuity has come to an end. The mind dies to all its petty little anxieties, greeds, envies, vanities, dies to them immediately, and in that dying there is no sense of continuity. It is only when there is an end that there can be a new beginning. When there is an end to the past there is a coming into being of something totally new.
What we call thought gives to the mind a sense of continuity, which is psychological time, because our thought is the result of our conditioning, of our memory, of our experience. Every challenge evokes from that background a response, and this response is thought in action; therefore there is no spontaneity, there is never a response that is free of the past. But when there is an end to one's thought, to one's greed, to one's envy, to one's ambition and thirst for power, to the whole psychological structure of society which is the `me' - when all that has come to an end without any motive, then the mind is in a state of not knowing, it is completely empty; and only then is there death.
What actually takes place when you physically die? You leave everything behind. You can't take anything with you. However many motives you may have for living, you can't argue with death. You can't say to death, "I still have to do this and that, please give me another month, another year". When death comes, it is there, absolutely and finally. You may believe in reincarnation, or in some other form of resurrection in the future, but all beliefs are irrelevant when you are confronted with the fact of death. And if you inwardly die to the psychological structure of society, to all the accumulations of the past, then you will find that death is creation - not the creation of the writer, of the musician, of the painter, of the scientist but a creation which has no beginning and no end. And without being in this state of creation, which is death, which is love, our life has very little meaning.
So, do not treat all this as some logical or super-logical philosophy, but actually go into yourself, understand yourself completely. Totally deny everything that you have considered to be life - your experiences, your ambition, your greed, your envy - and you will see that in this ending there is a death which is timeless creation and which, if you want to give it a different name, may be called God, the immeasurable, the unknown.
Do you now want to ask questions about this?
Questioner: Should we not remain quiet for a few moments?
Krishnamurti: Were you not quiet while you were listening? Were you not very attentive, watchful? And when you are attentive, watchful, there is a peculiar quality of silence. The speaker was explaining something, and though he talked for forty minutes - if you will not misunderstand what I mean - he was not using thought. The speaker was moving from fact to fact, and words were used to explain; but if in listening you moved only as it were horizontally, at the verbal level, then you will not have gone vertically and deeply into yourself. So, quietness is a state of attention, a state of real uncovering. You are not quiet if the mind is made quiet, or if you are merely hypnotized by the words and the feeling of the speaker.
Questioner: If understanding is not permanent,if it is only to be caught in a flash, then what happens during the interval between flashes?
Krishnamurti: One has to understand the whole inward nature of experience. For most of us, experience is a reaction, it is the response of our memory to a challenge. That memory of things we have known may be very ancient or very modern, it may be superficial or profound, and we experience according to that background. This further experience is accumulated, stored up, and so it strengthens the background.
Now, when there is a flash of understanding it is not the response of the background. At that moment the background is completely silent. If the background is not silent, there is no understanding, for you are merely interpreting in terms of the old whatever you hear or see. The flash of understanding is not continuous, not permanent. Continuity or permanency belongs entirely to the background of experience and knowledge which is everlastingly responding to challenge. Understanding comes only in a flash; and how does this flash take place? This flash cannot take place in a mind that is lazy, distorted, traditional, dull, stupid, nor in a mind that is seeking power, position, prestige. This flash of understanding occurs only in a mind that is very alert; and when there is no flash, the mind is still alert. Such a mind is completely awake, aware. And to be totally, choicelessly aware, observing every movement of thought and feeling, seeing everything that is going on - this is far more important than to await the flash of understanding.
Questioner: Can you go further into the question of seeing the true in the false?
Krishnamurti: That is so simple and clear, does it need further explanation? Take any false thing, like nationalism. To see the falseness of nationalism is to see the truth in the false. To see the falseness of authority, the falseness of the church, is to discover what is true. To see the truth in jealousy, in ambition, in the search for power, position, prestige, is to see their complete falseness; and when you see this truth not just a little bit but totally, then that very perception frees the mind from the false. Questioner: Is there not the danger of merely condemning certain things of which we do not happen to approve?
Krishnamurti: Condemnation is a reaction, a resistance, and what we condemn we obviously do not understand. Suppose I am a Catholic, a Communist, or what you will, and because I want to find out the truth of the matter for myself, I begin to look at it, go into it. I then see the falseness of all clinging to dogma and belief, so I reject it. That rejection is not a condemnation of Communism or the church. I just see that these things have no meaning for a man who is real]y serious in wanting to find out what is true.
Questioner: When the mind is perfectly still, silent, who is aware of that silence?
Krishnamurti: When you are joyous, happy, the moment you are aware that you are happy, you are no longer happy. Have you noticed this? No? The moment you identify yourself with happiness, happiness ceases. Then happiness is only a memory. Similarly, silence is not to be experienced by the me'. Perhaps we shall go into this question when I talk about meditation the day after tomorrow.
Questioner: One of the causes of conflict within me is the consideration of others and the question of what is the right thing to do.
Krishnamurti: Sir, what is compassion? Is it not a state of sympathy, pity, consideration? And in that state there is surely no feeling that you are helping another. Am I helping all of you who are listening to me? Yes? I hope not. (laughter). really mean it. If I feel that I am helping you, then I consider myself a person who knows more than you do, and that makes you the followers. We are not talking about helping each other, we are trying to find out what is true; and to find out what is true requires immense compassion. In that state of compassion one may help, one may give sympathy to another, but there is no conflict within oneself.
Questioner: You have said that ambition is false. I do not see how this can be. If I give up my purely materialistic ambitions in order to reach your measureless understanding, that is still a form of ambition. Ambition is necessary if one wants to get somewhere in life.
Krishnamurti: There are so many things involved in ambition. First of all, there is authority - the authority of a pattern which you have established and require yourself to pursue, or the authority of the psychological structure of society. Now, authority implies obedience. The psychological structure of society demands that you be competitive, ambitious, greedy, acquisitive, envious, power-seeking, and all the rest of it If you see the falseness of all that, must you not deny - in the sense of that word which I tried to explain this morning - the psychological structure of society? It is the psychological structure of society which makes us conform, which makes us dull, utterly stupid; therefore a religious mind must surely be free from the psychological structure of society.
When you say that one must have ambition to get anywhere in life, what does that mean? It means climbing the heap, struggling to get to the top of this confused and miserable society in which we live. And is it not possible to live in this world without ambition, without a goal?
How do you establish a goal? Either you project it from the background of your own desire, or you follow the example, worship the success of another. So the goal is established by each one of us according to the conditioning which a particular society or culture has imposed upon us. Our projection of a goal is determined by our own reactions, noble or ignoble.
Now, why do we want a goal? To want a goal means that living completely from day to day is not enough. We want to feel that we are getting somewhere, so we establish a goal to give a deeper significance to our living. Our daily life and activities have very little significance for most of us, so we project an ideal which we think will give some meaning to our life; but it does not, because that which we project is created out of ourselves. What is important is not to have a goal, but to see if our daily existence has a meaning in itself.
August 7, 1962
Saanen 8th Public Talk 7th August 1962
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