New Delhi 1963
New Delhi 5th Public Talk 6th November 1963
To commune with each other our minds must be at the same level with the same intensity, and we must have the same urgency. We must both have, if we are going to commune with each other, a sharpness, a clarity, an understanding of not only the words but also the significance that lies beyond the words. We must, each one of us, if we wish to commune with one another, obviously have the capacity to meet each other equally, at the same level and continue to hold that level. Otherwise, our communion, our communication is cut short especially when we are discussing matters that are very difficult, psychological, and need a great deal of thought and penetration inside.
This evening, I want to go, if I may, into something which requires a great deal of insight and understanding. I hope that we can maintain our communion with each other all the time. After all, love is that state of being or that state when two people or many people meet each other at the same level, at the same time, with the same intensity. Otherwise, love becomes merely a sentiment, a remembrance and all communication then ceases. In the same way, to take a journey together into something that requires a very subtle, penetrating look, observation, one must have this intensity - not sporadically, not occasionally - and continue in that state of intensity, because what we are trying to do at these gatherings is not to exchange ideas, not to discover for ourselves which is the best opinion and to discuss those opinions. What we are trying to do is to find out for ourselves for each one of us what is true and what is false. And to find it out, to observe it and to have a feeling for it, we must not only listen but also observe how we listen, with what quality of mind we observe.
I want to talk this evening about something which is called death. And to go into the whole problem of death, not theoretically but factually, you need humility. I am using that word `humility' not as a virtue that is cultivated by the vain, by the proud, but as that natural state of mind which comes about when you are really enquiring and really wanting to find out for yourself. Because virtue does not grow within the borders of time. It is a flower that comes into being involuntarily. One hasn't to search for virtue or to cultivate virtue. If you do, it ceases to be virtue. To see the truth that to cultivate virtue is no longer virtue, demands a mind that is in a state of humility, because without humility you cannot learn. I am using the word `learn' not in the sense of accumulation which is knowledge. We are using that word `learning' in the sense of a mind that is not seeking for something, that is not searching for an end with a motive, that is pliable, quick, that is able to see what is true immediately. And to do that you need an extraordinary humility which has in it that peculiar quality of austerity of observation. Austerity, as we know it, is harsh, brutal; it becomes narrow, bigoted, opinionated, dogmatic - but that is not austerity. We are using the word `austerity' in the sense that a mind that has observed, that has seen what is true, is, out of that very observation, in a state of freedom out of which there comes the discipline which is austere.
There must be that austerity with humility. And at that level we are going to commune with each other, this evening. You are not going to learn from the speaker anything. If you do, the speaker becomes the authority. Therefore, you cease to be really an observer - a man who is earnestly seeking what is true, and putting away what is false; you will become merely a follower, and a follower can never find out what is true. Truth has to be discovered from moment to moment, and you have to discover it - not merely follow the description verbally. You have to find it with all your being; and to find it, you need humility.
One of the things that one observes in the world and within oneself is the peculiar state of mind that is constantly declining, deteriorating. I do not know if you have observed for yourself your own mind, not theoretically, not in terms of a formula or in terms of success and non-success, but with the quality of the mind that can sustain efficiency, clarity, the capacity to observe what is true, without an opinion, without a thought. When one observes not only the minds of others but also one's own mind, one finds that there is a slow decline, not that one has ever reached a height from which one declines; one finds that one does not have the sharpness, the clarity, the energy, the precision required for observation, for a reasoned observation without any sentimentality. Most of us are dull, settled in comforting belief; have a job, a position, a family to maintain; and we have in the darkness of security. When one begins to observe for oneself one's own mind, one must have seen for oneself how the mind, as it grows, as the physical organism matures,-gradually begins to decline. We accept this disintegration, this deterioration, and we are not aware. And when we do become aware of it, it becomes a tremendous conflict: how to maintain the mind that is getting worse, that is declining? Probably we have never put to ourselves the question whether the mind need ever decline. Probably we have never found for ourselves by putting that question whether it is possible to stop the deterioration, the decline.
After all, the decline of the mind, the worsening of sensitivity, the coarsening of all our observation - that is truly death, is it not? So, must we not find out for ourselves whether it is possible at all times to sustain a quality of mind that knows no decline. When I use the word `mind' I include in that the brain - the totality - not just the capacity to acquire a particular technique and to function along that technique for the rest of your life and then die. I am using the word `mind' in the sense not only of the conscious mind but also of the unconscious mind in which the brain is included - the brain with all its reactions, the brain that thinks, that acts, that gets irritated, that responds to all the nervous strains. And as we observe, as we grow older, this thing begins to decline. Observe the old people, observe all the old politicians, observe how even the young people want to fall into the groove of a particular thought and run along that groove.
So, it seems to us that it is very important to find out for ourselves whether it is possible to sustain that clarity of observation actually, not theoretically - actually in the sense of the living present, in the active present. I use that word `present' not in the sense of time as tomorrow or yesterday. and now. The active present is always present, it has no tomorrow or yesterday. You should not have the idea that you will have this active, vital energy tomorrow; but you have to be aware of the active present with all your capacity, not technological capacity only but with all your aesthetic powers, with your affections, with your sorrows, with your miseries, the frustrations, the ambitions and the failures and the hopeless agony. Is it possible to be aware of all that, and to sustain clarity of observation and innocency of enquiry? If this is not possible, whatever action we do has no vital meaning, it becomes mechanical.
Please observe your own minds. You are not listening to the speaker. Don't be caught in the words of the speaker. He is merely describing, and what is described is not the fact. The word is not the thing, the word `tree' is not the fact, which is the tree. And if you would observe the tree, the word has little importance.
So, we are asking a fundamental question, and you have to find out and discover the truth of it. The question is: can the mind ever not lose its clarity, its capacity to reason - not according to some prejudice, not according to a particular fancy or opinion or knowledge - and to sustain itself in a healthy state without any dark, unexplored, rotting corners? Is it possible? To find that out, one has to be aware of the causes of this decline. Now, we are using the word `cause' merely to indicate the source from which the mind is made dull. By discovering the cause, you are not going to free the mind. You may discover the cause of your illness, but you have to do something about it, you have to go to a doctor, you may have to have an operation; you have to act. But most of us think that, by merely discovering the cause, we have solved the whole thing. And so the repetition goes on. The repetition is one of the factors of deterioration - the repeating process, the formation of habits and living in those habits. So, the discovery of the cause is not going to free the mind from the factor of deterioration.
One of the major factors of deterioration is imitation, psychological imitation - not putting on a shirt or a coat, or going to office, or learning; a particular technique, which you repeat; that is too superficial. It is the habit-forming mechanism of the mind which, in psychological states, functions in beliefs, in dogmas, in opinions. I observe, you will see how your mind functions in habit. It functions in habit because it is essentially afraid not to be secure. So, one of the real factors of deterioration is fear, psychological fear, not the natural normal fear of being bitten by a snake and therefore protecting oneself - that is a different matter.
You know, one of our difficulties is that we are always satisfied with the obvious answers and we always put the obvious questions. Take the problem of simplicity - `to be simple'. Our immediate response which is fairly obvious, platitudinous and banal, is: you must have only two clothes and have only one meal; and then you are supposed to be very very simple. That is not simplicity at all - it verges on exhibitionism and traditional acceptance of what it is to be simple. But simplicity is something entirely different. To be simple means a mind that is clear, without conflict, that has no ambition, that is really incorruptible by its own desires. But we are so easily satisfied by the obvious. We say that a man is a saint, because he leads a very simple life, has one meal a day and two clothes; and we think we have solved the problem of simplicity. He may be having a hell of a time inside. And a man who is in conflict, however saintly he is, is not a simple man; nor is he a religious man.
So, in trying to find out what are the factors of degeneration, one must not be satisfied with the obvious questions and the obvious answers. One must push those aside and go behind, tear down to find the truth of the matter; and that requires energy. And that energy can only come when you are really not concerned with what is going to happen with your particular life when you are simple. To find out the factors of deterioration you must enquire, you must ask the fundamental question whether a mind can live without habit, nonconforming. This means the whole enquiry into authority, not only the authority imposed but also the authority of one's own experiences, knowledge, visions and all the rest of it. So one begins to see that there is deterioration as long as there is conflict of any kind, at any level, consciously or unconsciously. And most of our lives are a hideous conflict, without any resolution, without any issue - endless conflict. So the question is whether habit, conflict and imitation can end, not eventually, not when you die, but now, in the active present. By imitation I mean not the superficial imitation, but the psychological, deep-rooted imitation which is called a method, conforming to a discipline, to a pattern - the Hindu pattern, the American pattern, or the Russian pattern, or the Catholic pattern and so on. That imitation comes only when there is the urge, the search for comfort in security - psychological security. We seek psychological security inwardly, and therefore there is no outward security for any of us. If you think that over, you will see the truth of the matter. We have no time to go into all the details now.
The desire to be secure breeds fear, fear to live and fear to die. Fear is not an abstract thing. It is there actually like your shadow. Every minute of the day it is there - fear of your boss, fear of your wife, fear of your husband, fear of losing. And with that fear we try to live. So we do not know what it is to live. How can a mind that is afraid, live? It can build a shelter; it can warm itself; it can isolate itself; it can follow a pattern, a religious illusion, a fiction - it can live in all that, but it is not living. And this fear makes death as something far away. We put fear many years ahead of us, a great distance between that fact and the illusion which fear has created and which we call living. So our life is neither rich nor full - I do not mean full by knowledge, book learning, or reading the latest book and talking about it endlessly. I mean `rich life' in the sense: it understands; it is clear, sharp, awake, alive, full of energy and efficient in its own observation and discipline; and therefore it can see a tree and enjoy the tree, look at the stars, look at the people without envy. Therefore such a life is not a life of ambition, greed and the worship of success.
Please? sirs, the speaker means exactly what he is talking about. These are not just words which you listen to, and then you go back to your old life again. We are talking about something very very serious. There must be a new generation, new people, new minds, not the dead old minds with their fears, with their corruption, with their nationalities, with their petty little Governments.
A new human being must be brought into being to solve this immense problem of living, and nobody is going to create that human being except you and I. And you have to do it - not in some future generation, but immediately: which means one has to see the urgency of the thing. You know, when you see the urgency of something that needs to be done immediately, urgently, all your capacities, all your energy, all your efficiency, come into being. You do not have to cultivate them, they are there when you feel the urgency of something - like the urgency of being hungry - , and then you act.
We do not know what it is to live, nor do we know what it is to die. The thing that you call `living' is a torture with occasional pleasure which is a sensation - being well-fed, having a good meal, sex, driving in a good car or wanting to drive in a good car, or being envious of those who are driving in a good car and so on. That is our life. Please observe yourself, and you will see what an ugly, brutal thing living has become, without any love, without any beauty, without any care. That is our life and we are satisfied with that. We put up with it. We do not say, "I am going to break through and find out". We invent all kinds of spurious and phoney reasons.
And to live fully, completely, you cannot possibly have an ideal over there and you live over here. So the ideal has no meaning, it is a fiction. What is a fact is your daily travail, daily anxieties, hopes, fears; that is the actual; and to that we become accustomed. And with the memory of our tortures, hopes, fears, ambitions, we turn to look at death which is far away. So what happens? We are frightened of death and we are frightened of living.
Now, to find out what is death demands a mind that has no fear. I do not know if you have observed the pilots - the persons who fly those extraordinary aeroplanes that go two thousand miles and more an hour - , how they are trained more than all the yogis put together. They have to face death, and therefore their response must be immediate, unconscious. They are trained for years to face death - to survive they must respond immediately to all the instruments, to all the orders. That is one way of not being afraid of death - that is, to train yourself so completely, so involuntarily that you die at the orders of another for your country and all the rest of that nonsense. Then there is death by suicide: that is, you face life and life has no meaning, you have come to the end of things, and you jump over the bridge or you take pills. Then there is the other way, the so-called religious way: you have extraordinary beliefs in reincarnation, in resurrection; and death you rationalize, because you are going to live the same kind of hideous life in the next life with torture, agony, despair, with lies, with hypocrisy; and you are satisfied by these beliefs because temporarily they give you comfort, they hide your fear.
Now all those ways of dying are very ordinary, unreal and undependable. We are talking of dying of a different kind, which is to live with death. You understand? To live with death, not to have this time interval between you and the eventual end. The eventual end may be fifty years or a hundred years hence; or the doctors or the scientists may add another fifty years to it; but the inevitable end is always there. We are talking of a voluntary living with death. I am going into that because that is the only way to resolve the whole question of death, not through beliefs, not through ideals, not through the structure of fear and all the rest of the paraphernalia.
And to find out what is death there must be no distance between death and you who are living with your troubles and all the rest of it; you must understand the significance of death and live with it while you are fairly alert, not completely dead, not quite dead yet. That thing called death is the end of everything that you know. Your body, your mind, your work, your ambitions, the things that you have built up, the things that you want to do, the things that you have not finished, the things that you have been trying to finish - there is an end of all these when death comes. That is the fact - the end. What happens afterwards is quite another matter; that is not important, because you will not enquire what happens afterwards if there is no fear. Then death becomes something extraordinary - not sadistically, not abnormally, unhealthily - because death then is something unknown, and there is immense beauty in that which is unknown. These aren't just words.
So to find out the whole significance of death, what it means, to see the immensity of it - not just the stupid, symbolic image of death - , this fear of living and the fear of dying must completely cease, not only consciously but also deep down. Most of us want to die, wish to die, because our lives are so shallow, so empty. And our life being empty, we try to give significance to life, meaning to life; we ask, "What is the purpose of living?". Because our own lives are so empty, shallow, worthless, we think we must have an ideal to live by. It is all nonsense. So fear is the origin of the separation between that fact which you call death and that fact which you call living. What does it mean actually, not theoretically? We are not discussing theoretically; we are not discussing merely to formulate an idea, a concept; we are not. We are talking of facts; and if you reduce a fact merely into a theory, it is your own misfortune. You will live with your own shadow of fear, and your life will end miserably as it has begun miserably.
So you have to find out how to live with death - not a method. You cannot have a method to live with something you don't know. You cannot have that idea and say, "You tell me the method, and I would practise it and I will live with death" - that has no meaning. You have to find out what it means to live with something that must be an astonishing thing, actually to see it, actually to feel it - to be aware of this thing called death and of which you are so terribly frightened. What does it mean to live with something which you don't know? I don't know if you have ever thought about it at all in that way; probably you have not. All that you have done is: being frightened of it, you try to avoid it, you do not look at it; or you jump to some hopeful ideal, belief, and thereby avoid it. But you have really to ask the fundamental question which is: to find out what death means, and if you can live with it as you would live with your wife, with your children, with your job, with your anxiety. You live with all these, don't you? You live with your boredom, your fears. Can you live in the same way with something that you don't know?
To find out what it means to live, not only with the thing called life but also with death, which is the unknown, to go into it very deeply, we must die to the things that we know. I am talking about psychological knowledge, not of things like your home, your office: if you don't have them, you won't get your money tomorrow or you lose your job, or you have no food. We are talking about dying to the things that your mind clings to. You know, we want to die to the things which give us pain; we want to die to the insults, but we cling to the flattery. We want to die to the pain, but we hold on like grim death to the pleasure. Please observe your own mind. Can you die to that pleasure, not eventually but now? Because you do not reason with death, you cannot have a prolonged argument with death. You have to die voluntarily to your pleasure which does not mean that you become harsh, brutal, ugly, like one of these saints - on the contrary, you become highly sensitive; sensitive to beauty, to dirt, to squalor; and being sensitive, you care infinitely.
Now, is it possible to die to things, to that which you know about yourself ? To die - I am taking a very very superficial example - to a habit, to put away a particular habit either of drinking or smoking, having a particular kind of food, or the habit of sex, completely to withdraw from it without an effort, without a struggle, without a conflict, without saying, "I must give it up". Then you will see that you have left behind the knowledge, the experience, the memories of all the things that you have known and learnt and lived by. And therefore you are no longer afraid, and your mind is astonishingly clear to observe what this extraordinary phenomenon is of which man has been frightened through millennia, to observe something which you are confronted with, which is of no time, and which in its entirety is the unknown. Only that mind can so observe, which is not afraid and which is therefore free from the known - the known of your anger, of your ambitions, your greeds, your petty little pursuits. All these are the known. You have to die to them, to let them go voluntarily, to drop them easily, without any conflict. And it is possible - this is not a theory. Then the mind is rejuvenated, young, innocent, fresh; and therefore it can live with that thing called death.
Then you will see that life has an entirely different substance. Then life and death are not divided; they are one, because you are dying every minute of the day in order to live. And you must die every day to live; otherwise, you merely carry along the repetition like a gramophone record, repeating, repeating, repeating.
So when you really have the perfume of this thing - not in somebody else's nostrils but in your nostrils, in your breath, in your being; not on some rare occasions, but every day, waking and sleeping - , then you will see for yourself, without somebody telling you, what an extraordinary thing it is to live, with actuality, not with words and symbols, to live with death and therefore to live every minute in a world in which there is not the known, but there is always the freedom from the known. It is only such a mind that can see what is truth, what is beauty and that which is from the everlasting to the everlasting.
November 6, 1963
New Delhi 1963
New Delhi 5th Public Talk 6th November 1963
Texts and talks of Jiddu Krishnamurti. Krishnamurti quotes. Books about
J Krishnamurti. Philosophy.