Saanen 7th Public Talk 21st July 1963
We have been exploring many problems which concern our daily life, because without understanding these daily problems of conflict, greed, ambition, envy, the travail of love, and so on - without understanding them completely - it is utterly impossible to discover for oneself whether there is something beyond the things that the brain puts together: the everyday respectable morality, the inventions of the various churches throughout the world, the obviously materialistic outlook, and the intellectual attitude towards life.
Now, it seems to me that any human problem which continues to be a problem inevitably dulls the mind and makes it insensitive, because the mind merely goes round in circles without ever coming out of its confusion and misery. So it is vitally necessary to understand each problem and be finished with it as it arises. I think very few of us realize that if any human problem is not resolved immediately it gives to the mind a sense of continuity in which there is unending conflict, and this makes the mind insensitive, dull, stupid. This fact must be clearly understood; and also it must be understood that we are not talking in terms of any particular system of philosophy, or looking at life along any special line of thought. As you know, we have discussed many things, but not from either an oriental or an occidental point of view. We have tackled each problem, not as Christians, or Hindus, or Zen Buddhists, or from any other slanted viewpoint, but simply as rational, intelligent human beings, without any bias or neuroticism.
This morning I would like to talk about an important question, which is that of death - death not only of the individual, but death as an idea which exists throughout the world and which has been carried on as a problem for centuries without ever being resolved. There is not only the particular individual's fear of death, but also an enormous, collective attitude towards death - in Asia as well as in the Western countries - which has to be understood. So we are going to consider together this whole issue.
In considering such a vast and significant problem, words are only intended to enable us to communicate, to have communion with each other. But the word itself can easily become a hindrance when we are trying to understand this profound question of death unless we give our complete attention to it, and not just verbally, flippantly or intellectually try to find a reason for its existence. Before, or perhaps in the process of understanding this extraordinary thing called death, we shall have to understand also the significance of time, which is another great factor in our lives. Thought creates time, and time controls and shapes our thought. I am using the word `time', not only in the chronological sense of yesterday, today and tomorrow, but also in the psychological sense - the time which thought has invented as a means to arrive, to achieve, to postpone. Both are factors in our lives, are they not? One has to be aware of chronological time, otherwise you and I couldn't meet here at eleven o'clock. Chronological time is obviously necessary in the events of our life - that is a simple, clear matter which need not be gone into very deeply. So what we have to explore, discuss and understand is the whole psychological process which we call time.
Please, as I have been saying at every meeting here, if you merely hear the words and do not see the implications behind the words, I am afraid we cannot go very far. Most of us are enslaved by words and by the concept or formula which the words have put together. Do not just brush this aside, because each one of us has a formula, a concept, an idea, an ideal - rational, irrational, or neurotic - according to which be is living. The mind is guiding itself by some pattern, by a particular series of words which have been made into a concept, a formula. This is true of each one of us, and please make no mistake about it - there is an idea, a pattern according to which we are shaping our lives. But if we are to understand this question of death, and life, all formulas, patterns and ideations - which exist because we do not understand living - must entirely go. A man who is living totally, completely, without fear, has no idea about living. His action is thought, and his thought is action; they are not two separate things. But because we are afraid of the thing called death, we have divided it from life; we have put life and death in two separate watertight compartments with a great space between them, and live according to the word, according to the formula of the past, the tradition of what has been; and a mind that is caught in this process can never possibly see all the implications of death, and of life, nor understand what truth is.
So, when you inquire with me into this whole question, if you inquire as a Christian, a Buddhist, a Hindu, or what you will, you will be completely at a loss. And if you bring to this inquiry the residue of your various experiences, the knowledge which you have acquired from books, from other people, again you will not only be disappointed, but rather confused. The man who would really inquire must first be free of all these things, which make up his background - and that is our greatest difficulty. One must be free from the past, but not as a reaction, because without this freedom one cannot discover anything new. Understanding is freedom. But, as I said the other day, very few of us want to be free. We would rather live in a secure framework of our own making, or in a framework put together by society. Any disturbance within that pattern is very disquieting, and rather than be disturbed we live a life of negligence, death and decay.
To inquire into this enormous question of death, we must not only be choicelessly aware of our slavery to formulas, concepts, but also of our fears, our desire for continuity, and so on. To inquire, we must come to the problem afresh. Please, this is really very important. The mind must be clear and not be caught in a concept or an idea if one would go into something which is quite extraordinary - as death must be. Death must be something extraordinary, not this thing that we try to cheat and are afraid of.
Psychologically we are slaves to time - time being the memory of yesterday, of the past, with all its accumulated experiences; it is not only your memory as that of a particular person, but also the memory of the collective, of the race, of man throughout the ages. The past is made up of man's individual and collective sorrows, miseries, joys, his extraordinary struggle with life, with death, with truth, with society. All that is the past, yesterday multiplied by thousands; and for most of us the present is the movement of the past towards the future. There are no such exact divisions as the past, the present and the future. What has been, modified by the present, is what will be. That is all we know. The future is the past modified by the accidents of the present; tomorrow is yesterday reshaped by the experiences, reactions and knowledge of today. This is what we call time.
Time is a thing that has been put together by the brain, and the brain in turn is the result of time, of a thousand yesterdays. Every thought is the result of time, it is the response of memory, the reaction of yesterday's longings, frustrations, failures, sorrows, impending dangers; and with that background, we look at life, we consider everything. Whether there is God, or no God, what the function of the State is, the nature of relationship, how to overcome or to adjust oneself to jealousy, anxiety, guilt, despair, sorrow - we look at all these questions with that background of time.
Now, whatever we look at with that background is distorted; and when the crisis demanding attention is very great, if we look at it with the eyes of the past, we either act neurotically, which is what most of us do, or we build for ourselves a wall of resistance against it. That is the whole process of our life.
Please, I am verbally exposing these things, but if you merely look at the words and do not observe your own process of thinking, which is to see yourself as you are, then when you leave here this morning you will not have a complete understanding of death; and there must be that understanding if you are to be free of fear and enter into something quite different.
So, we are everlastingly translating the present in terms of the past, and thereby giving a continuity to what has been. For most of us, the present is the continuation of the past. We meet the everyday happenings of our life - which always have their own newness, their own significance - with the dead weight of the past, thereby creating that which we call the future. If you have observed your own mind, not only the conscious, but also the unconscious, you will know that it is the past, that there is nothing in it which is new, nothing which is not corrupted by the past, by time. And there is what we call the present. Is there a present untouched by the past? Is there a present which does not condition the future?
Probably you have not thought about this before, and we shall have to go into it a little bit. Most of us just want to live in the present because the past is so heavy, so burdensome, so inexhaustible, and the future so uncertain. The modern mind says, "Live completely in the present. Don't bother about what will happen tomorrow, but live for today. Life is such a misery anyhow, and the evil of one day is enough; so live each day completely and forget everything else". That is obviously a philosophy of despair.
Now, is it possible to live in the present without bringing into it time, which is the past? Surely, you can live in that totality of the present only when you understand the whole of the past. To die to time is to live in the present; and you can die to time only if you have understood the past, which is to understand your own mind - not only the conscious mind which goes to the office every day, gathers knowledge and experience, has superficial reactions, and all the rest of it, but also the unconscious mind, in which are buried the accumulated traditions of the family, of the group, of the race. Buried in the unconscious also is the enormous sorrow of man and the fear of death. All that is the past, which is yourself, and you have to understand it. If you do not understand that; if you have not inquired into the ways of your own mind and heart, into your greed and sorrow; if you do not know yourself completely, you cannot live in the present. To live in the present is to die to the past. In the process of understanding yourself you are made free of the past, which is your conditioning - your conditioning as a communist, a Catholic, a Protestant, a Hindu, a Buddhist, the conditioning imposed upon you by society, and by your own greeds, envies, anxieties, despairs, sorrows and frustrations. It is your conditioning that gives continuity to the `the', the self.
As I was pointing out the other day, if you do not know yourself, your unconscious as well as your conscious state; all your inquiry will be twisted, given a bias. You will have no foundation for thinking which is rational, clear, logical, sane. Your thinking will be according to a certain pattern, formula, or set of ideas - but that is not really thinking. To think clearly, logically, without becoming neurotic, without being caught in any form of illusion, you have to know this whole process of your own consciousness, which is put together by time, by the past. And is it possible to live without the past? Surely, that is death. Do you understand? We will come back to the question of the present when we have seen for ourselves what death is.
What is death? This is a question for the young and for the old, so please put it to yourself. Is death merely the ending of the physical organism? Is that what we are afraid of? Is it the body that we want to continue? Or is it some other form of continuance that we crave? We all realize that the body, the physical entity wears out through use, through various pressures, influences, conflicts, urges, demands, sorrows. Some would probably like it if the body could be made to continue for 150 years or more, and perhaps the doctors and scientists together will ultimately find some way of prolonging the agony in which most of us live. But sooner or later the body dies, the physical organism comes to an end. Like any machine, it eventually wears out.
For most of us, death is something much deeper than the ending of the body, and all religions promise some kind of life beyond death. We crave a continuity, we want to be assured that something continues when the body dies. We hope that the psyche, the `me, - the `me' which has experienced, struggled, acquired, learned, suffered, enjoyed; the `me' which in the West is called the soul, and by another name in the East - will continue. So what we are concerned with is continuity, not death. We do not want to know what death is; we do not want to know the extraordinary miracle, the beauty, the depth, the vastness of death. We don't want to inquire into that something which we don't know. All we want is to continue. We say, "I who have lived for forty, sixty, eighty years; I who have a house, a family, children and grandchildren; I who have gone to the office day after day for so many years; I who have had quarrels, sexual appetites - I want to go on living". That is all we are concerned with. We know that there is death, that the ending of the physical body is inevitable, so we say, "I must feel assured of the continuity of myself after death". So we have beliefs, dogmas, resurrection, reincarnation - a thousand ways of escaping from the reality of death; and when we have a war, we put up crosses for the poor chaps who have been killed off. This sort of thing has been going on for millennia.
Now, we have never really given our whole being to find out what death is. We always approach death with the condition that we must be assured of a continuity hereafter. We say, "I want the known to continue" - the known being our qualities, our capacities, the memory of our experiences, our struggles, fulfilments, frustrations, ambitions; and it is also our name and our property. All that is the known, and we want it all to continue. Once we are granted the certainty of that continuance, then perhaps we may inquire into what death is, and whether there is such a thing as the unknown - which must be something extraordinary to find out.
So you see the difficulty. What we want is continuance, and we have never asked ourselves what it is that makes for continuance, that gives rise to this chain, this movement of continuity. If you observe, you will see that it is thought alone which gives a sense of continuance - nothing else. Through thought you identify yourself with your family, with your house, with your pictures or poems, with your character, with your frustrations, with your joys. The more you think about a problem, the more you give root and continuance to that problem. If you like someone, you think about that person, and this very thought gives a sense of continuity in time. Obviously, you have to think; but can you think for the moment, at the moment - and then drop thinking? If you did not say, "I like this, it is mine - it is my picture, my self-expression, my God, my wife, my virtue - and I am going to keep it", you would have no sense of continuity in time. But you don't think clearly, right through every problem. There is always the pleasure which you want to keep and the pain which you want to get rid of, which means that you think about both; and thought gives continuity to both. What we call thought is the response of memory, of association, which is essentially the same as the response of a computer; and you have to come to the point where you see for yourself the truth of this.
Most of us do not really want to find out for ourselves what death is; on the contrary, we want to continue in the known. If my brother, my son, my wife or husband dies, I am miserable, lonely, self-pitying, which is what I call sorrow, and I live on in that messy, confused, miserable state. I divide death from life, the life of quarrels, bitterness, despair, disappointments, frustrations, humiliations, insults, because this life I know, and death I don't know. Belief and dogma satisfy me till I die; and that is what takes place for most of us.
Now, this sense of continuity which thought gives to consciousness, is quite shallow as you can see. There is nothing mysterious or ennobling about it; and when you understand the whole significance of it, you think, where thought is necessary, clearly, logically, sanely, unsentimentally, without this constant urge to fulfil, to be or to become somebody. Then you will know how to live in the present; and living in the present is dying from moment to moment. You are then able to inquire, because your mind, being unafraid, is without any illusion. To be without any illusion is absolutely necessary, and illusion exists only as long as there is fear. When there is no fear there is no illusion. Illusion arises when fear takes root in security, whether it be in the form of a particular relationship, a house, a belief, or position and prestige. Fear creates illusion. As long as fear continues, the mind will be caught in various forms of illusion, and such a mind cannot possibly understand what death is.
We are now going to inquire into what death is - at least, I will inquire into it, expose it; but you can understand death, live with it completely, know the deep, full significance of it, only when there is no fear and therefore no illusion. To be free of fear is to live completely in the present, which means that you are not functioning mechanically in the habit of memory. Most of us are concerned about reincarnation, or we want to know whether we continue to live after the body dies, which is all so trivial. Have we understood the triviality of this desire for continuity? Do we see that it is merely the process of thinking, the machine of thought that demands to continue? Once you see that fact, you realize the utter shallowness, the stupidity of such a demand. Does the `I' continue after death? Who cares? And what is this `I' that you want to continue? Your pleasures and dreams, your hopes, despairs and joys, your property and the name you bear, your petty little character, and the knowledge you have acquired in your cramped, narrow life, which has been added to by professors, by literary people, by artists. That is what you want to continue, and that is all.
Now, whether you are old or young, you have to finish with all that - you have to finish with it completely, surgically, as a surgeon operates with a knife. Then the mind is without illusion and without fear; therefore it can observe and understand what death is. Fear exists because of the desire to hold on to what is known. The known is the past living in the present and modifying the future. That is our life day after day, year after year, till we die; and how can such a mind understand something which has no time, no motive, something totally unknown?
Do you understand? Death is the unknown, and you have ideas about it. You avoid looking at death, or you rationalize it, saying it is inevitable, or you have a belief that gives you comfort, hope. But it is only a mature mind, a mind that is without fear, without illusion, without this stupid search for self-expression and continuity - it is only such a mind that can observe and find out what death is, because it knows how to live in the present.
Please follow this. To live in the present is to be without despair, because there is no hankering after the past and no hope in the future; therefore the mind says, "Today is enough for me". It does not avoid the past or blind itself to the future, but it has understood the totality of consciousness, which is not only the individual but also the collective, and therefore there is no `me' separate from the many. In understanding the totality of itself, the mind has understood the particular as well as the universal; therefore it has cast aside ambition, snobbishness, social prestige. All that is completely gone from a mind that is living wholly in the present, and therefore dying to everything it has known, every minute of the day. Then you will find, if you have gone that far, that death and life are one. You are living totally in the present, completely attentive, without choice, without effort; the mind is always empty, and from that emptiness you look, you observe, you understand, and therefore living is dying. What has continuity can never be creative. Only that which ends can know what it is to create. When life is also death, there is love, there is truth, there is creation; because death is the unknown, as truth and love and creation are.
Do you want to ask any questions and discuss what I have been talking about this morning?
Questioner: Is dying an act of will, or is it the unknown itself?
Krishnamurti: Sir, have you ever died to your pleasure - just died to it without arguing, without reacting, without trying to create special conditions, without asking how you are to give it up, or why you should give it up? Have you ever done that? You will have to do that when you die physically, won't you? One can't argue with death. One can't say to death, "Give me a few more days to live". There is no effort of will in dying - one just dies. Or have you ever died to any of your despairs, your ambitions - just given it up, put it aside, as a leaf that dies in the autumn, without any battle of will, without anxiety as to what will happen to you if you do? Have you? I am afraid you have not. When you leave his tent, die to something that you cling to - your habit of smoking, your sexual demand, your urge to be famous as an artist, as a poet, as this or that. Just give it up, just brush it aside as you would some stupid thing, without effort, without choice, without decision. If your dying to it is total - and not just the giving up of cigarettes or of drinking, which you make into a tremendous issue - , you will know what it means to live in the moment supremely, effortlessly, with all your being; and then, perhaps, a door may open into the unknown.
July 21, 1963
Saanen 7th Public Talk 21st July 1963
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