Saanen 6th Public Talk 18th July 1963
This morning I would like to talk about sorrow. It is a very complex problem, and as one cannot go into it in great detail, I shall, if I may, go only into the essentials of it.
Without understanding sorrow, there is no wisdom; the ending of sorrow is the beginning of wisdom. To understand sorrow and to be completely free of it demands an understanding, not only of the particular individualistic sorrows, but also of the enormous sorrow of man. To me, without being totally free of sorrow, there can be no wisdom, nor is the mind capable of really inquiring into that immeasurable something which may be called God, or by any other name.
Most of us have sorrow in different forms - in relationship, in the death of someone, in not fulfilling oneself and withering away to nothing, or in trying to achieve, trying to become something and meeting with total failure. And there is the whole problem of sorrow on the physical side - illness, blindness, incapacitation, paralysis, and so on. Everywhere there is this extraordinary thing called sorrow - with death waiting round the corner. And we do not know how to meet sorrow, so either we worship it, or rationalize it, or try to run away from it. Go into any Christian church and you will find that sorrow is worshipped; it is made into something extraordinary, holy, and it is said that only through sorrow, through the crucified Christ, can you find God. In the East they have their own forms of evasion, other ways of avoiding sorrow; and it seems to me an extraordinary thing that so very few, whether in the East or in the West, are really free of sorrow.
It would be a marvellous thing if in the process of your listening - unemotionally, not sentimentally - to what is being said this morning, and before you leave this tent, you could really understand sorrow and be totally free of it; because then there would be no self-deception, no illusions, no anxieties, no fear, and the brain could function clearly, sharply, logically. And then, perhaps, one would know what love is.
Now, to understand sorrow one must inquire into the whole process of time. Time is sorrow, not only the sorrow of the past, but also the sorrow which involves the future - the idea of arriving, the struggle to achieve, the hope that you will someday be something, with its inevitable shadow of frustration. This whole idea of achievement, of becoming something in the future, which is psychological time, is to me the greatest sorrow - not the fact that my son dies, or that my wife or husband leaves me, or that I am not a success. All this, it seems to me, is rather trivial, if I may use that word, which I hope you will not misunderstand. There is a much deeper sorrow, which is psychological time: thinking that I will change in future years, that, given time, I will transform myself, I will break away from habit, I will achieve liberation, acquire wisdom, find God. All this implies time - and that, to me, is the greatest sorrow. But to go deeply into the problem, one has to find out why there is sorrow within oneself - this wave of sorrow in which one is caught and which makes one a prisoner. By first understanding the particular sorrow within ourselves, perhaps we can understand also the collective sorrow of man, the despair of humanity.
Why do we suffer? And is there an end to sorrow? There are so many ways of suffering. Ill health is one type of suffering - the incapacity to think due to feebleness of the brain, and the various kinds of physical pain. Then there is the whole field of psychological suffering - feeling frustrated because one is not able to achieve, or has no capacity, no understanding, no intelligence, and also this constant battle of conflicting desires, of self-contradiction, with its anxieties and despairs. There is furthermore the idea of changing oneself through time, becoming better, nobler, wiser, in which also there is sorrow without end. And ultimately there is the sorrow of death, the sorrow of separation, of isolation, the sorrow of being completely lonely, of being cut off and having no relationship with anything.
We all know these various forms of sorrow. The very learned, the intellectual, the saintly, the religious people all over the world are as tortured as we are by sorrow, and if there is a way out they have not found it. To inquire very deeply into ourselves is to know that this is the first thing we want - to put an end to sorrow - , but we do not know how to set about it. We are well acquainted with sorrow, we see it in others and in ourselves, and it is in the very air we breathe. Go where you will - retire to a monastery, walk in the crowded streets - , sorrow is always present, openly, or hidden, waiting, watching.
Now, how does one meet sorrow? What does one do about it? And how is one to be free of it, not just superficially, but totally, so that there is no sorrow at all? To be completely free of sorrow does not mean that one feels no love, no sympathy, that one has no kindliness, no understanding of another. On the contrary, in total freedom from sorrow there is no indifference. It is a freedom which brings great sensitivity, openness; and how does one come to that freedom? You all know sorrow, it is not something to which you are a stranger. It is there. And how do you meet it? Do you meet it only superficially, verbally? Please do follow this. Step by step let us go together to the very end of it. See if you can listen this morning with complete attention, being aware of your own reactions, and go deeply with me into this problem of sorrow - not that you are going to follow me, that would be too absurd. But if we can understand this thing together, inquire into it widely and deeply, then perhaps, when you leave here, you can look at the sky, and sorrow will never touch you again. Then there will be no fear; and when all fear is gone, that immeasurable something may walk with you.
So, how do you meet sorrow? I'm afraid that most of us meet it very superficially. Our education, our training, our knowledge, the sociological influences to which we are exposed, all make us superficial. A superficial mind is one that escapes to the church, to some conclusion, to some concept, to some belief or idea. Those are all a refuge for the superficial mind that is in sorrow. And if you cannot find a refuge, you build a wall around yourself and become cynical, hard, indifferent, or you escape through some facile, neurotic reaction. All such defences against suffering prevent further inquiry. I hope you are going along with me, for this is what most of us actually do.
Now, observe a superficial brain, or mind - please, whether I use the word `mind' or `brain', I mean the same thing. The other day we went into the separation of the brain and the mind, but the separation is only verbal and does not matter. I am going to use the word `mind' and I hope you will follow and understand what is being said.
The superficial mind cannot solve this problem of sorrow because what it tries is to avoid sorrow. It escapes from the fact of sorrow through an easy and immediate response. If you have a severe toothache, naturally you go immediately to the dentist because you want to be free of that physical pain - which is a normal and right response. But psychological pain is much deeper and more subtle, and no doctor, no psychologist, nothing can dissolve it for you. Yet your instinctive response is to run away from it. You turn on the radio, watch television, go to the cinema - you know all the distractions that modern civilization has invented. Entertainment of every kind, whether it is a church service or a football match, is essentially the same. It is merely a way of escaping from your own misery, your emptiness - and this is what you are all doing everywhere throughout the world: using various forms of the circus to forget yourself.
Similarly, it is the superficial mind that tries to find explanations. It says, "I want to know why I suffer. Why should I suffer and not you?" It feels that it has done nothing particularly wrong in this life, so it accepts the theory of past lives and the idea of what in India is called karma, cause and effect. It says, "I have done something wrong in the past, and now I am paying for it; or "I am now doing something good, and I shall get the benefit of it in the future". So the superficial mind gets caught in explanations.
Please watch your own mind, observe how you explain your sorrows away, lose yourself in work, in ideas, or cling to a belief in God, or in a future life. And if no explanation, no belief has been satisfactory, you escape through drink, through sex, or by becoming cynical, hard, bitter, brittle. Consciously or unconsciously, this is what is actually taking place with each one of us. But the wound of sorrow is very deep. Generation after generation it has been passed on by parents to their children, and the superficial mind never takes the bandage off that wound; it does not really know, it is not really acquainted with sorrow. It merely has an idea about sorrow. It has a picture, a symbol of sorrow, but it never meets sorrow - it meets only the word `sorrow'. Do you understand? The word `sorrow` it knows, but I am not at all sure it knows sorrow.
Knowing the word `hunger', and actually being hungry, are two very different things, are they not? When you are hungry, you are not satisfied with the word `food'. You want food, the fact. Now, most of us are satisfied with words, symbols, ideas, and with our reaction to those words, and we are never completely with the fact. When we suddenly come face to face with the fact of sorrow, it gives us a shock, and our reaction is to run away from it. I wonder if you have noticed this in yourself? Please follow your own state of mind, and don't merely listen to the words that are being spoken. We never meet sorrow, we never live with it. We live with a picture, with the memory of what has been, and not with the fact. We live with a reaction.
Now, if in facing sorrow the mind has a motive, that is, if it wants to do something about sorrow, there can be no understanding of sorrow, any more than there can be love if there is a motive for love. Do you understand? Most of us have a motive when we look at sorrow, we want to do something about it. That is, suppose I have lost somebody by death; deeply, psychologically I can no longer get what I want from that person, and I am in sorrow. If I have no motive in looking at my sorrow, will it still be sorrow, or will sorrow be something quite different? Are you following all this?
Let us say that my son dies and I am in sorrow because I am alone. I had invested all my hopes in him, and now my whole world has collapsed. I had wanted to establish for myself a certain immortality, a continuity through my son; he was to have perpetuated my name, inherited my property, carried on my business, and the ending of all that has given me a shock. Now, can I understand the sorrow I am in, if there is a motive behind my looking at it? And if there is a motive behind love, is it love? Don't please agree with me, just observe yourselves. Surely, there cannot be a motive if I want to understand sorrow, if I want to discover the full depth and significance of sorrow-or of love, because they always go together. Death, love and sorrow are inseparable, they are always together, and with them goes also creation; but that is another matter and we will go into it some other time. If I want to understand deeply, completely, the fact of sorrow, I cannot have a motive which dictates my reaction to that fact. I can live with the fact and understand it only when I have no motive. Do you understand? If not, you can ask questions afterwards about this point.
If I `love' you because you can give me something - your body, your money, your flattery, your companionship, or whatever it is - , surely that is not love, is it? Of course, you get something from me also, and that exchange for most of us is love. I know we cover it all up with fine words, but behind the verbal facade there is this pressure to have, to own, to possess.
Now, is not sorrow self-pity? You have been deprived in some way, your relationship with another has been a failure, you have not fulfilled yourself by being recognized as a big man in the name of social reform, in the name of art, in the name of any one of a million things, with all the stupid nonsense it implies; so there is sorrow. To understand sorrow is to live with it, to look at it, to know it for what it really is - and you cannot possibly know it if you look with a motive, which is time. A superficial mind that is everlastingly concerned with bettering itself, pitying itself, torturing itself in a particular relationship, wanting to be free of sorrow and not facing the fact - such a mind will go on suffering indefinitely. The fact is that you are lonely. Through your education, your activities, your thoughts and feelings, you have deeply isolated yourself inside, and you cannot live with that extraordinary sense of loneliness, you do not know what it means, because you approach it with a word that evokes fear.
So you see the difficulty - the subtle ways in which the mind has built escapes so that it is incapable of living with that extraordinary something which we call sorrow. To be free of sorrow, this whole process has to be understood, consciously as well as unconsciously, and you can understand it only when you live with the fact, look at it without motive. You have to see the tricks of your own mind, the escapes, the pleasurable things which you hold on to, and the painful things that you want to get rid of quickly. You have to observe the emptiness, the dullness and stupidity of a mind that merely escapes. And it makes little difference whether you escape to God, to sex, or to drink, because all escapes are essentially the same. Do you understand?
What happens when you lose someone by death? The immediate reaction is a sense of paralysis, and when you come out of that state of shock, there is what we call sorrow. Now, what does that word `sorrow' mean? The companionship, the happy words, the walks, the many pleasant things you did and hoped to do together - all this is taken away in a second, and you are left empty, naked, lonely. That is what you are objecting to, that is what the mind rebels against: being suddenly left to itself, utterly lonely, empty, without any support. Now, what matters is to live with that emptiness, just to live with it without any reaction, without rationalizing it, without running away from it to mediums, to the theory of reincarnation, and all that stupid nonsense - to live with it with your whole being. And if you go into it step by step you will find that there is an ending of sorrow - a real ending, not just a verbal ending, not the superficial ending that comes through escape, through identification with a concept, or commitment to an idea. Then you will find there is nothing to protect, because the mind is completely empty and is no longer reacting in the sense of trying to fill that emptiness; and when all sorrow has thus come to an end, you will have started on another journey - a journey that has no ending and no beginning. There is an immensity that is beyond all measure, but you cannot possibly enter into that world without the total ending of sorrow.
Questioner: Is humour an escape from sorrow?
Krishnamurti: Before you ask a question, please remain silent for a little while and think out, go further into what has just been said. If you pop up immediately with a question, it means that you haven't really gone into it at all. What we have been considering together has great significance. It isn't something cheap that you can buy to end sorrow, and then say, "Well, I have ended sorrow". That would be too childish. When we have uncovered the whole field of human experience which has been enriched through centuries of man's sorrow, you cannot just brush it off with a word, with a symbol, or by running away. To get the right answer you must ask the right question; and you will ask the right question only when you are really in it, when you have exposed yourself to the problem.
Questioner: What about the sorrow which is not one's own sorrow, but sorrow for somebody else?
Krishnamurti: Before we go into that question, let us look at the former question: "Is humour an escape from sorrow?" If you can laugh about your sorrow, is that an escape? There is this enormous thing called sorrow; and do you see what you have reduced it to when you ask such a question? When you are in sorrow you may perhaps laugh it away, but there is still sorrow. There is the suffering, the torture that is going on in the world: the misery of having no food, of being afraid of death, of seeing the rich man in the big car and feeling envious, the brutality, the tyranny that is going on in the East, and all the rest of it. Can you laugh all that away? I am afraid you are not really aware of your own sorrow.
The second question is: What about the sorrow one feels for somebody else? When you see somebody else suffering don't you suffer also? When you see a man who is blind, or a man who has no food, or a man who is not loved, who is caught in misery, strife, confusion, don't you suffer with him? Now, why should one suffer with him? I know it is the accepted, the traditional, the respectable thing to say, "I suffer with you". But why should you suffer? If you have a little, you give of that little. You give your sympathy, your affection, your love. But why should you suffer? Please follow this. If my son contracts polio and is dying, why should I suffer? I know this sounds terribly cruel to you. Having done everything possible, given him my love, my sympathy, brought the doctor, the medicine, and having sacrificed-but is it sacrifice? Is that the right word?-, having done everything in my power, why should I suffer? When I suffer for somebody, is that suffering? Do think it out, go into it, don't just accept what I am saying. You know, when you go to India and to other places in the East, you see immense poverty - poverty such as you know not a thing about in the West. When you walk in the streets you rub shoulders with people who have leprosy and other diseases. You do everything you can, but what is the need to suffer? Does love suffer? Oh, you will have to go into all this. Surely, love never suffers.
Questioner: Can deep suffering turn to deep joy?
Krishnamurti: Do you put such a question when you are suffering? Please, what are you talking about?
Questioner: I mean suffering in itself changes to joy.
Krishnamurti: If suffering changes to joy, where are you at the end of it? Sir, some people, fortunately or unfortunately, have listened to me for forty years, and I know those people quite well. We have met off and on over the years. Do I suffer because they have no understanding? They are still asking about authority, about self-expression, about God - you know all the childish things that are asked. Do I suffer? I would suffer only if I expected something from them; I would be disappointed if I had put myself in a position to be disappointed by feeling that I am somebody who is giving something to somebody else. I hope you understand what I am talking about.
Please, what is important is not how to transform sorrow into joy, or whether sorrow changes into joy, or whether you should suffer when you see others suffering - all those questions have no importance at all. What is important is to understand sorrow for yourself, and thereby to end sorrow. Only then will you find out what lies beyond sorrow. Otherwise it is like sitting on this side of the mountain and speculating about what lies on the other side. You are just talking, guessing. You don't grapple with the problem, you don't face it, you don't go deeply into yourself and look, search, understand; and you don't do it because you know it would mean really letting go of many things - letting go of your pet ideas, of your traditional, respectable responses.
Questioner: One suffers if one cannot help somebody.
Krishnamurti: If you can help somebody physically or economically, you do, and that is the end of it. But why do you suffer if you can't? You haven't tackled the basic problem yourself, so who are you to `help' another? The priests all over the world are `helping' somebody - which means what? They are helping to condition others according to their own particular beliefs and dogmas. Disinterestedly feeding the starving, building a better land, a better world - that is a help. But to say to another, "I will give you help psychologically" - what conceit! Who are you psychologically to help another? Leave that to the communists, who think they are providence and can dictate to millions of people what they should do. But why should you suffer if you can't help another? You do everything you can to help, which may not be much; but why go through this torture of suffering? Oh, you don't see, you have not gone into the real problem at all!
Questioner: I realize that to be completely free of sorrow one has to be totally aware, fully attentive all the time. I have rare moments of total awareness, but the rest of the time I am caught in a state of inattention. Is this my lot for the rest of my life, and can I therefore never be free of sorrow?
Krishnamurti: As the Questioner says, to be free of sorrow is to be completely attentive. Attention is virtue in itself. But unfortunately one is not attentive all the time. I am attentive today, but tomorrow I am not, and I pick it up again the day after tomorrow. In the intervening period I am inattentive, and all kinds of activities go on, of which I am not fully aware. So the Questioner says, "I see that I am caught in the state of inattention, and does this mean that I am bound never to be free of sorrow?"
Now, sir, the idea of being free forever implies time, does it not? We say, "I am not free now, but by becoming attentive I shall be free, and I want that freedom to continue for the rest of my days". So we are concerned with the continuity of attention. We say, "Somehow I must be attentive always, otherwise I shall always be in sorrow". We want this state of attention to continue day after day.
Now, what continues? What is it that has continuity? Don't answer me, please; just listen for two minutes, and you will see something extraordinary. What has continuity? Surely, it is when I think about a thing, whether it is pleasurable or painful, that it has continuity. Do you understand? When I think about a pleasure or a pain, my thinking about it gives it continuity. If I like you, I think about you, and my thinking about you gives continuity to the pleasing image I have formed of you; so through the continuity of thought, association, memory, my response to you becomes a mechanical response, does it not? It is like that of a computer, which responds according to memory, association, on the basis of an immense amount of stored-up information.
Now, with that same mentality we say, "I must have continuity of attention". Do you follow, sir? But if we see what is implied in both attention and continuity, we will never put the two things together. I don't know if you have understood what I am trying to convey. The mistake that we are making is in trying to relate continuity with attention. We want the state of attention to continue; but what will continue is our thought about that state, and therefore it will not be attention. It is thought that gives continuity to what we call attention; but when thought gives continuity to attention, it is not the state of attention. If you give your whole mind to this and understand it, you will find there is a peculiar state of attention without continuity, without time.
Questioner: To what extent is sorrow attenuated by acceptance?
Krishnamurti: Why should I accept sorrow? That is merely another superficial activity of the mind. I don't want to accept sorrow, or to attenuate it, or to run away from it. I want to understand sorrow, I want to see what it means, I want to know the beauty, the ugliness, the extraordinary vitality it has. I don't want to make it into something it is not. By accepting sorrow, or by running away from it, or by approaching it with a concept, a formula, I am not dealing with it. So a mind that would understand sorrow cannot do anything about it; it cannot transform sorrow, or make it gentle. To be free of sorrow, you cannot do a thing about it. It is because we have always done something about it that we are still in sorrow.
July 18 1963
Saanen 6th Public Talk 18th July 1963
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