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Saanen 1963

Saanen 4th Public Talk 14th July 1963

This morning I would like, if I may, to talk about something which may be rather abstruse. Most of us are slaves to words, and words have become extraordinarily important. Words are necessary as a means to communicate, but for most of us the word is the mind, and we are enslaved by words. Until we understand this deep question of verbalization, and the importance of the word, and how slavish we are to words, we shall go on thinking mechanically, like computers. The computer is the word and the problem. Without the problem and the word, there would be no computer, it would have no value. For the majority of human beings too, the word and the problem are tremendously significant; so we should go into this question of words.

I do not know if we are aware of how bound we are to the word, to the symbol, to the idea. We never question the importance or the significance of the word. When I use the term `word', I mean the symbol, the process of naming, with its extraordinary depth or shallowness, whereby we think we have understood the whole significance of life. I do not think that each one of us realizes to what an extent the mind, our whole being, depends on the word, the symbol, the name, the term; and it seems to me that as long as we are slaves to words and remain at that level, all our activity, both physical and psychological, is bound to be superficial.

There is a great deal of discussion nowadays concerning the philosophy of words, and the building up of a structure, a system of words. I think we should be aware of this question, and observe how deeply or superficially it plays a part in our life; and we should inquire to find out whether the mind can ever be free of the word.

Now, I want to go into this matter, because it seems to me that the word is the past, it is not the active present. In a world of such violence, of such hatred and brutality as the present one, a word like `compassion' has very little meaning. We are all aware of what is going on in the world: the competition, the ambitions and frustrations, the extraordinary brutality, hatred and violence arising from the conflict between political parties, the right against the left and the left against the right. Certain words are twisted to fit expediency and have lost all their meaning. There is violence in all of us, conscious or unconscious. There is aggressiveness, the desire to be or to become something, the urge to express oneself at any cost, to fulfil oneself sexually, in relationship, in writing, in painting - which are all forms of violence.

I do not know how deeply each one of us is aware of all this, without being told. There is an extraordinary amount of cruelty in a world where a small group of people takes complete charge of millions of others and directs their lives through tyranny, as is going on in the East and in Russia. And I wonder to what depth we are aware of our own cruelty, our own aggressive ambitions, our urge to fulfil ourselves at any cost, so that a word like 'compassion' has very little meaning?

As I was saying the other day, unless there is a complete change, a total mutation in the whole consciousness of the individual, any society built on acquisitive drives and aggression is bound to become more and more cruel, more and more tyrannical, more and more given over to materialistic values - which means that the mind will become constantly more slavish to those values. I do not know if you are aware of all this. Probably most of you read the newspaper every day, and unfortunately you get used to it - used to reading about the cruelties, the murders, the brutalities. Reading it all every day dulls the mind, and so one gets accustomed to these things. So I would like this morning to discuss or talk over with you the question of how to break through the layers of this ugly, stupid, environmental conditioning that has made the mind a slave to words, and also a slave to the social structure in which we live.

As I have been trying to explain, I feel that the crisis that has arisen in the world is not an economic or a social crisis, but a crisis in the mind, in consciousness; and there can be no answer to this crisis unless there is a deep, fundamental mutation in each one of us. This mutation can take place only if we understand the whole process of verbalization, which is the psychological structure of the word. Please do not brush it off by saying, "Is that all?". This is not a matter that can be lightly dismissed, because the word; the symbol, the idea has an extraordinary grip on the mind. We are talking of bringing about a mutation in the mind, and for that there must be the cessation of the word. When you hear a statement of that kind for the first time you will probably not know what it means, and you will say, "What nonsense!" But I do not quite see how the mind can be totally free as long as we have not understood the influence of the word, and the interpretation of the word - which means that we have to understand the whole process of our own thinking, because it is all based on the word.

Please, this is not an `intellectual' talk. I have a horror of the intellectual mind that just spins words without much meaning. You have gone to a lot of trouble to come here, and it would be rather a pity if you did not take seriously what we are talking about. Surely, we must consider this problem of the word with great determination and depth.

Now, if the word is removed, what have you left? The word represents the past, does it not? The innumerable pictures, images, the layers of experience, are all based on the word, on idea, on memory. From memory comes thought, and we give to thought an extraordinary importance; but I question that importance altogether. Thought cannot, by any means whatsoever, cultivate compassion. I am not using that word `compassion' to mean the opposite, the antithesis of hate or violence. But unless each one of us has a deep sense of compassion, we shall become more and more brutal, inhuman to each other. We shall have mechanical, computer-like minds which have merely been trained to perform certain functions; we shall go on seeking security, both physical and psychological, and we shall miss the extraordinary depth and beauty, the whole significance of life.

By compassion I do not mean a thing to be acquired. Compassion is not the word, which is merely of the past, but something which is of the active present; it is the verb and not the word, the name, or the noun. There is a difference between the verb and the word. The verb is of the active present, whereas the word is always of the past and therefore static. You may give vitality or movement to the name, to the word, but it is not the same as the verb which is actively present. And I am not using the term `present' in the existentialist sense at all.

Most of us live in an environment of aggression, violence, brutality, and, like those around us, we are driven by ambition, by the urge to fulfil ourselves. Whatever talent we may have - some absurd little capacity to paint pictures, to write poems, or what you will - demands expression, and we make of that an enormous thing through which we hope to gain for ourselves glory or renown. In one degree or another, that is our life, with all its satisfactions, frustrations and despairs.

Now, the mutation must take place in the very seed of thought itself, not in the outward expressions of that seed, and this can happen only if we understand the whole process of thought-which is the word, the idea. Take a word like `God'. The word `God' is not God; and one will come upon that immensity, that immeasurable something, whatever it may be, only when the word is not, when the symbol is not, when there is no belief, no idea-when there is complete freedom from security.

So we are talking of a mutation at the very source, in the very seed of thought. As we found when we went into it the other day, what we call thought is reaction, it is the response of memory, the response of one's background, of one's religious and social conditioning; it reflects the influence of one's environment, and so on, and so on. Until there is the decay of that seed, there is no mutation and therefore no compassion. Compassion is not sentiment, it is not this woolly sympathy or `empathy'. Compassion is not something which you can cultivate through thought, through discipline, control, suppression, nor by being kind, polite, gentle, and all the rest of it. Compassion comes into being only when thought has come to an end at its very root. If you are hearing this statement for the first time, it will probably have no meaning for you at all. You will say, "How can thought end?; or, "What happens to a mind that is incapable of thinking?" You will have innumerable questions. But we have already talked it over, we have more or less gone into it, though perhaps not in detail.

What I want to go into this morning is the question of observing the self. But first let us understand what it means to observe, and then we can go into what that word `self' means. Take the word `observation'. What does it mean? Most of us observe dead things, the things that are gone, the things that are over. We never observe a thing that is living, moving, active.

Please, as I talk, as I explain, do not be caught in the explanation, in the word, but observe yourself; notice how you see, how you observe. What comes next is very important, and it will be very difficult to understand what comes next if you do not first understand the beauty of observation.

Most of us observe with a sense of concentration, which means there is a detaching of the thing observed from the whole context of which it is a part. There is the observer and the thing observed, and therefore a conflict arises between the observer and the thing observed - the struggle to eliminate it, or to modify it; or else one identifies oneself with what has been observed, which will inevitably bring other problems. Such observation is merely a process of analysis, which we went into previously. That is what most of us do - we analyze what we observe. I want to know, I want to understand this extraordinarily complex entity, this consciousness which is myself, and I say, "I will observe myself". And I observe by looking at one thought, separating it from the whole movement of thought. It is as if one were to observe that stream by casually taking up a cup of water and looking at it as a separate thing, away from the full flow, away from the noise and the power of the stream itself. Obviously, that would not convey the full significance of the stream. To observe the stream, one has to watch every wave, however small, and be aware of the curving of that wave before it breaks; one has to move with that extraordinarily rapid water. In observation there is no time to interpret, no time to say this is right, that is wrong, this is beautiful, that is ugly, this must be, that must not be. There is no censor - in observing a living, moving thing, a thing as vital as that stream, you cannot possibly have a censor, a judge. There is a censor, a judge only when you separate a little of the water from the stream and look at it.

So please understand very clearly that the moment you separate something from its context in order to observe it, you have brought into being the censor, and therefore there is conflict, there is the word, the whole process of verbalization with its fulfilment and the agony of frustration. You separate yourself from the thing you are looking at, and then you say, "I have watched myself and I know that I am this, I am that, I am the other, but I can't get any further". Obviously, because those are the observations of an outside observer who has separated himself from the flow, from the movement, from the rapidity of thought. If this is not clear we will discuss it at the end of this talk. To observe oneself without conflict is like following that stream, being ahead of the waterfall, ahead of the movements of every little wave, seeing every little stone that makes the wave break. This is not a theory. I am dealing with the question scientifically, objectively; I am not being sentimental, ideational, or hypothetical, but factual. When once you have really grasped the deep significance of observation, you will find that the very process of observation, of seeing, is the end of conflict, because you have removed this division between the observer and the observed; you have completely wiped it away, and therefore you are looking at thought, not as a separate entity, but as the thing itself. You are that thought, and not a thinker looking at his thought. If you are really following something very alive, very rapid, something that is in tremendous movement, you have no time to judge, to evaluate, to condemn, or to identify yourself with that thing. It is so dynamically vital that you have no time - and this is important - you have no time to verbalize, no time to name it, no time to give it a word, which are all separative functions.

So, if that is understood, let us look at this complex thing called the self, which is the `me', the field of consciousness. We are looking to find out if it is true, and not just my idea or your idea, that to bring about a complete mutation, a total revolution in consciousness, thought can have no place in it.

Thought is not compassion - to think that it is would be too absurd. You cannot cultivate compassion, any more than you can cultivate love. Do what you will, you cannot produce love through the mind, you cannot manufacture it by thought. Now, can one observe the conscious as well as the unconscious movements of this whole entity called the `me', bearing in mind that there is no time? Time is the word. The moment you say, "That is anger", "That is jealousy", "That is bad", you have already separated it from yourself and are looking at something that is dead; so you are not observing yourself. And if you do not know yourself, all about yourself, your thought has no raison d'etre; in any movement of thought, in any action, you are just functioning blindly, like a machine. Most of us do not think completely, but fragmentarily; what we think at one level is contradicted by our thought at another level. We feel something at a certain level, and deny it at another, so our daily action is equally contradictory, fragmentary, and such action breeds conflict, misery, confusion.

Please, these are all obvious psychological facts, and to understand them, you don't have to read a single book on psychology or philosophy, because there is the book inside you, the book which has been put together through centuries by man.

So, we are dealing, not only with action, but also with compassion, because action has within it compassion. Compassion is not something separate from action, it is not an idea to which action is approximating itself. Please do look at this, consider it carefully; because, for most of us, idea is important, and from idea there is action. But idea separated from action creates conflict. Action includes compassion; it is not just at the technological level, or at the level of relationship between husband and wife, or between the individual and the community, but it is a total movement of one's whole being. I am talking about total action, not action in fragmentation. When there is observation and therefore no observer - the observer being the idea, the word - and you begin to understand this whole complex thing called the self, the `me', then you will know this total action, not the separative, fragmentary action in which there is conflict.

I do not know whether you understand all this.

What is the point of my talking? You are sitting there, and I am talking. What is the point? I am not talking to fulfil myself. This is not my metier, it is not my bread and butter. So why am I talking? Why are you listening, and what are you listening to? You and I are on a journey together to find out what is the fact, what is the truth-not an abstract idea of truth, not a word apart from the fact, but the fact itself. One observes the catastrophic state of the world, and one feels that there must be a tremendous revolution, a complete mutation in the mind, so that the human being really is a human being - one who is free of problems, free of sorrow, one who lives a full, rich, complete existence - , and is not the tortured, driven, conditioned entity he is now. That is why I talk, and I hope that is also why you are listening.

Now, what does it mean to observe, let us say, the movement of ambition? I am taking ambition as one of the ugly things in our life - although some of you may call it beautiful. What does it mean to observe the structure, the anatomy of ambition? - not the word, because the word is not the thing. The word `tree' is not the tree. You may say, "Yes, that is so; but psychologically, when we observe ambition in ourselves, we immediately identify ourselves with that state, with that word, and we are caught in it. It is simple to see that the word `tree' is not the tree; but to observe in oneself, without the word, that extraordinary state called ambition, is quite another matter. That state is built into you, into your thought, into your very being, by the society, the environment in which you live, by your education, by the church, by countless centuries of man's aggressive endeavour to achieve, to get ahead, to kill, and all the rest of it. And what matters is to observe that state in yourself, not only now as we are talking about it, but to observe it as you go to the office, as you read in the newspaper the praise of some hero or successful man. If you observe without naming it, you will see that it is not a static thing, but a movement unidentified with the word, and therefore unidentified with the name, with you; and if you observe it with intensity, with a certain swiftness, you will go beyond ambition. It will have lost its significance - and yet you can be totally in action. But to observe that state in oneself, to look at thinking without an observer, without a thinker who is watching, is extremely arduous.

Observation implies no accumulation of knowledge, even though knowledge is obviously necessary at a certain level: knowledge as a doctor, knowledge as a scientist, knowledge of history, of all the things that have been. After all, that is knowledge: information about the things that have been. There is no knowledge of tomorrow, only conjecture as to what might happen tomorrow, based on your knowledge of what has been. A mind that observes with knowledge is incapable of following swiftly the stream of thought. It is only by observing without the screen of knowledge that you begin to see the whole structure of your own thinking. And as you observe - which is not to condemn or accept, but simply to watch - you will find that thought comes to an end. Casually to observe an occasional thought leads nowhere. But if you observe the process of thinking and do not become an observer apart from the observed, if you see the whole movement of thought without accepting or condemning it, then that very observation puts an end immediately to thought - and therefore the mind is compassionate, it is in a state of constant mutation.

Can we discuss what I have talked about just now?

Questioner: How are we to be free of influence so that we can see a fact as a fact?

Krishnamurti: First of all, we must be aware of this whole question of influence, must we not? There are influences all around us, and we are influenced. When you pick up a newspaper, read a book, listen to the radio, or watch television, consciously or unconsciously you are being influenced. Your whole education is a series of influences and directives; and with that conditioning, how can you see a fact as a fact? You can't, obviously. So you have to begin by understanding influence.

Now, is it possible to be free of influence? You can put that question only when you are aware of being influenced, not before. Probably you are being influenced by the present speaker. If you are, then you are not looking at the fact. If because the speaker has a certain reputation you are accepting what he says, you are obviously being influenced. That is the nature of propaganda - and we are not doing propaganda here. Either you see for yourself what is true, or you do not see it. It is up to you. It is not my intention to influence you; but everything in life is an influence. Your wife and children influence you, as you influence them. Influence may be conscious or unconscious. If it is conscious, you can more or less push it aside - that is comparatively easy. If your wife nags you, you can accept it, or do something about it - you can walk out of the house. But if you are influenced unconsciously, if the influence is deep and you are not aware of it, it is much more difficult to be free of - and that is our problem. Influence takes many forms. There is the influence of tradition, the influence of words like `communist', `Catholic', `Protestant', the influence of the party you belong to, and so on.

Now, is it possible to be aware of all the influences that are pouring in upon us? Please don't immediately say `yes' or `no', because you don't know. Is it possible? Surely, to be free of influence you must have an extraordinarily sensitive body, and also a mind, a brain, that has not been made dull by tradition, by society, by the church with its beliefs and dogmas. All these influences, and many more, are making the brain dull. To be aware of and to understand these innumerable influences, and to be free of them, one has to break through the dullness, the lethargy that has settled upon the mind - and most of us don't want to. Most of us are comfortably settled in life. We are Catholics, Protestants, communists - oh, you know the innumerable things we cling to: our nationalities, our class divisions, and all the rest of it. We have settled in a nice comfortable stagnating mind, and we are satisfied. We are `yes-sayers'; we accept, and we never question.

So, one has to be aware of the many influences, just be aware of them, and not say, "I am for this and against that". To be aware, one has to observe. One can be aware of the influences that are pouring into the unconscious - completely aware of them. As we discussed the other day, it is only when the brain is quiet - not resistant, not made dull, but only when the brain is very sensitive, very alert and watchful - that it can perceive all the unconscious influences, and therefore be free of influence. Then one can see the fact as a fact, and it's not so very difficult. That is, one can be aware of oneself, with all the complicated twists of ambition. One can observe all of that in oneself, and observe all the unconscious influences. Then one sees the fact as a fact, the truth in the false, and the truth as the truth. It is not divided, it is a total process.

Questioner: The brain is a dead thing, and how can it come to life?

Krishnamurti: Is the brain a dead thing? Surely, it is dead only when it is paralysed, when the nerves have no longer any sensitivity. But for most of us the brain is made dull through conflict, through pain, through suffering, through the innumerable securities and sanctions with which we live. It is made dull by fear, by the do's and don'ts of society. If you are specialized exclusively in one direction as a doctor, as a scientist, as an engineer, or whatever it may be, one part of your brain may be extraordinarily bright, but the rest is obviously made dull. Knowing all this, observing all this, and probing into the whole process of thinking, you will find that the brain is not dull; but you have to break through the dullness and not just accept it.

Questioner: I put the question wrongly. What I meant to ask is this: How can a mechanical thing like the brain become part of the total thing called the mind?

Krishnamurti: Sir, when we say that the brain is mechanical, do we mean that? I don't think we do. If you lose your job, or if your wife turns to somebody else, you don't say, "My brain is mechanical". You are aflame with anxiety" with jealousy. So you see how misleading words can be. You say that the brain is mechanical, and you leave it at that. You don't find out if it really is mechanical. If the brain were a mechanical thing like the computer, it would have no problems. A machine has no problems; but the operator of the machine has problems. So you see how extraordinarily easy it is to fall into the trap of a word and get caught in it.

As we saw the other day, biologically as well as psychologically the brain is an instrument which can be highly sharpened, made extremely sensitive. But society - by which I mean our relationships on the job, in the family, the whole psychological structure of society - is not going to make it sensitive. On the contrary, it is only when one understands this whole psychological structure of society, of which one is a part, by observing and understanding the process of thought - it is only then that the brain becomes sharp, alive, keen, aware.

July 14, 1963


Saanen 1963

Saanen 4th Public Talk 14th July 1963

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