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Talks with American Students. Claremont College, California

Talks with American Students, Chapter 6 1st Talk at Claremont College California 8th November, 1968

It would be rather interesting to know why most of you are here. Probably out of curiosity, or you have a genuine desire to find out what a man who comes from the East has to say. I think, first of all, it must be made quite clear that the speaker in no way represents India, Indian thought, Indian philosophy or any of that mysterious Oriental business.

I think it is important to establish a certain kind of communication between us; nowadays they talk a great deal about communication and make a lot of fuss about it. Surely it is fairly simple to communicate with one another; the difficulty lies in that each one of us unfortunately translates, compares or judges what is being said - in fact, we don't listen! On the other hand, if we listen attentively and seriously then communication becomes quite simple. One has only to say something, no matter how curious, and if you are at all serious, wanting to find out, you listen with care and attention, with a certain quality of affection, not only intellectually critical - which, of course, you must be - but also minutely examining and exploring everything that is being said. And to explore and listen attentively you must be free - free from the image, the tradition, the reputation which the speaker unfortunately has, so that you are capable of listening directly and immediately in order to understand. If, however, you try to follow a certain pattern of thought, certain tendencies in which you are caught, certain conclusions and prejudices which you have, then obviously all communication ceases.

It seems to me that right from the beginning it is very important to find out not only what the speaker has to say, but also how you listen. If you listen with a tendency to draw certain conclusions from what is being said, comparing it with what you already know, then what the speaker has to say merely becomes a matter of agreement or disagreement, a subject for mental examination or intellectual amusement. So during these talks if we could establish a right kind of relationship, a right kind of communication between yourselves and the speaker, then perhaps there might be a chance of going very deeply and seriously into this whole complex problem of living, to find out whether or not it is at all possible for human beings, who are so heavily conditioned, to change, to bring about within themselves an inward psychological revolution. And this is our main concern, not some Oriental philosophy or some kind of imaginative, conceptual thought pattern leading to various conclusions and substituting old ideas for new ones.

I hope you will not mind my suggesting that it is very important to learn the art of listening. We don't listen, or if we do, we listen through a screen of words, of conceptual thoughts and conclusions, coloured by our own experience. And this screen obviously prevents us from listening which, as we said before, is a great art and one which apparently we have totally neglected. To listen so intimately, so completely, so intensely, that not only do we communicate, but go beyond and commune with one another like two friends who are very serious, very earnest about something. Communion is entirely different from communication; to commune we must not only understand the meaning of words, knowing full well that the word is never the thing nor is the description ever the described, but we must also be in that state of mind whose quality is attention and care, and a sense of intimate concern; and that can only take place when both of us are very serious.

Life demands great seriousness, not casual, occasional attention, but constant alertness and watchfulness because our problems are immense, so extraordinarily complex. It is only a very serious mind, a mind that is really earnest, capable of enquiry, and therefore free, that can find a solution to all our problems; and that is what we are going to do. We are not only going to communicate with each other verbally, but at a different level, we shall commune with one another, which seems much more important than mere verbal communication. So during these talks if we could look with clear eyes at this enormously complex business of living, look with eyes, that are young and fresh and innocent, then maybe our problems will have a totally different meaning. As I said previously, we must not only listen to the words, but also realize that the word is never the thing nor is the description ever the described. And to listen in this way there must be a quality of freedom, freedom from conclusions, from prejudices, from images and symbols, to enable both of us to look directly, intimately, intensely at the problems of our daily life, of our whole existence, in order to find out if it has any meaning at all.

One observes right throughout the world that all human beings, whatever their colour, creed or nationality, have their problems; problems of relationship, problems of living in a society that is so corrupt, which man has built over the centuries. Man himself is responsible for this structure, this society which is the product of his own hopes and demands, the result of his own violence, the outcome of his fears and ambitions, and in this structure we human beings are caught. And the structure is not different from the human being.

The society, whether in Europe, Asia or here in America, is not different or separate from each one of us; we are the society, we are the community, not only the individual, the human entity, but also the total, the collective. So there is no division, no separation between the society and ourselves; we are the world and the world is us and to bring about a radical revolution in society - which is absolutely essential - there must first of all be a radical transformation in our- selves, and therefore we must enquire whether such a revolution in ourselves is at all possible. I am not using that word `revolution' in its Communist, socialist or bloody sense, but I am speaking of a revolution which brings about a complete and radical transformation in the psyche itself, in the whole structure of the heart and mind. That is the central issue, not what the philosophers think or what the psychologists and analysts say; neither is it what the theologians assert nor what the believers or non-believers imagine.

The real issue then is whether human beings, as we are now, living in this complex and corrupt society with its wars, its struggles, its ambitions and competition, can bring about within ourselves a radical transformation, not gradually, that is through time, through many days or many years, but whether it is possible to change immediately, without accepting time at all. Apparently man has committed himself to war, to violence and this violence exists throughout the world, although in Asia and especially in India - where ideologies flourish as a fungus on damp ground - they talk a great deal about non-violence. And we human beings are committed to violence, to a way of life that leads to war, a way of life that is divided by religions and nationalities into beliefs, dogmas, rituals and extraordinary prejudices. Man is committed to this strange pattern of existence, righteously condemning one war, yet willing to take part in another; he is himself violent, brutal and aggressive which the anthropologists say he has inherited from the animal. Whatever the anthropologists or specialists say however has very little meaning, because we can examine and find out for ourselves the nature of our own violence, how brutal we are towards one another, not only verbally but in our thought and gesture. For thousands of years we have accepted a way of life that must inevitably lead to war, to wholesale slaughter, and we have not been able to change it; the politicians have tried but have never succeeded.

We are ordinary human beings - not specialists or experts - living in this society and conditioned by our own background; we accept a way of life that is so corrupt, in which there is no love, not a single word of compassion. Observing all this, the problem then is whether it is at all possible for human beings, such as we are, to bring about a radical transformation within ourselves, and go further, to come upon that state which man has everlastingly sought and has called God or whatever name you wish to give it (names are not important).

Now, can human beings ever find this thing, or is it reserved only for the very few? We must first ask ourselves what place the religious mind has in the world today and whether it is possible to come upon this quality of love. You know, that word is so heavily laden with ugliness; it is like the word `God', everybody uses it, the theologian, the grocer and the politician; the husband uses it for his wife, the boy for his girl friend and so on, but if you look at that word, go into it, you will see that it is the cause of so much suffering so much misery, so much conflict and so many tortures; it also begets envy, jealousy and fear. One asks therefore whether the mind can be free of all this, so that there is a quality of love which is not corrupt, which is not made ugly by thought.

These are some of our problems: the relationship between man and man, whether a man can ever live at peace with himself and with his neighbour, whether there is a reality that is not put together by thought, whether there is such a quality of love, compassion and affection that has never been touched by jealousy, never tainted by fear, anxiety and guilt. Can the mind which is so heavily conditioned ever completely and totally free itself and discover, in that freedom, whether or not there is an ultimate reality? If we don't explore and find out for ourselves the truth of all this, then we must inevitably make life into a mechanical affair, a life in which there is constant struggle and which becomes utterly meaningless. I am sure we are aware of all this; at least those of us who are serious must have asked ourselves this question, whether it is possible to uncondition the mind, so that it looks at life in a totally different way, so that it is no longer a Christian mind or a Buddhist mind, a Muslim or a Hindu mind, and all these other absurd divisions. Is it possible for such a conditioned mind ever to be free, to be innocent, and therefore vulnerable?

The main difficulty is that man lives in fragments, not only within himself, but outwardly; he is a scientist, a doctor, a soldier, a priest, a theologian, an expert or specialist of one kind or another. Inwardly his life is broken up, fragmentary; his mind, his intellect is at times cunning and clever, brutal and aggressive, while at other times it can be kind, gentle and affectionate. He tries to be moral - although the morality of society is utterly immoral - and his many desires tearing one against the other cause this fragmentation within and without, produce this contradiction inwardly as well as outwardly. And man is forever trying to bridge the gap, bring about an integration which of course is absurd; there cannot be integration. If you examine that word and go behind it, you are forced to ask yourself who is the entity who is going to bring about this integration. Surely this entity who is going to integrate these many fragments is himself part of those fragments and therefore cannot possibly effect an integration between these various fragments. If one sees this clearly-namely that the broken parts of desire in this fragmentary, divided life can never be put together, can never be integrated, because the entity, the observer, who is trying to put them together is himself part of the fragmentation - then obviously there must be a different approach, which is to see the contradiction, the fragments, the opposing demands and conflicting desires, observe them and find out whether it is possible to go beyond them, and it is this going beyond which is the radical revolution. Then the mind is no longer torn, no longer tortured; it is no longer in conflict with itself, and therefore with its neighbour, whether that neighbour be next door, in Russia or in Vietnam.

If one could observe this fact, because we are only dealing with facts, not with suppositions or ideals. Ideals have no meaning whatsoever; they are idiotic, the invention of a cunning clever mind when it cannot solve a problem like violence; so it invents non-violence as an ideal. Being unable to solve this problem of violence, and having created the ideal of non-violence that is, to be gentle, some time in the future, then that very invention of an ideal produces another conflict, another struggle, another state of contradiction.

So, it is important to observe the fact that we human beings are extraordinarily violent, that our culture, the society in which we live, our whole way of life with its greed, envy and competition, inevitably breed this violence. And it is even more important to be aware of this violence within oneself, actually to be aware of what is, not what should be, because the `what should be' is a fiction, a myth, a romantic notion which all religions and idealists throughout the ages have nurtured and exploited. What good is the ideal of non-violence if I am full of violence? Please, this is very important to understand! Do listen quietly and attentively, don't automatically reject what is being said! You may be great idealists working for some cause, or you may have committed yourself to a certain formula, and you are suddenly confronted with a speaker who points out - politely but firmly - that all this is absurd. So it behooves one to listen, in order to find out; and to listen, one must put aside one's own particular formula, theory or myth. One can see quite clearly how ideals have divided man - the Christian ideal, the Hindu ideal and the Communist ideal - and according to their beliefs, they in their turn are split into innumerable sects, the Catholics and Protestants, and so on. Man therefore is held by ideals, he is a slave to them and consequently is incapable of observing what is; he is always thinking about what should be.

The first demand then, the first challenge is to observe what is, which is to know yourself as you really are, not as you should be, that is a childish game, an immature struggle that has no meaning - but to look at violence and observe it. Can one look and how does one look? This is an extraordinarily difficult problem because there are certain factors which we must understand very clearly. Firstly, we must observe without identification, without the word, without the space between the observer and the thing observed; we must look without any image, without the thought, so that we are seeing things as they actually are. This is very important, because if we do not know how to look, how to observe what we are, then we will inevitably create conflict between what we see and the entity who sees. I hope this is fairly clear. I observe that I am violent in my speech, in my gestures and thoughts, and in my daily activities, both at home and in the office. Now I can only observe that I am violent if I do not attempt to escape from it or avoid it, and I will inevitably escape from it if I seek refuge in some ideal which says I must not be violent; because such an ideal is meaningless. When I say to myself I must not be violent, then there is the fact of my own violence and the ideal of what should be (that I must not be violent), hence there is a conflict between what is and what should be, and, for most of us, that is our life.

So it is important if we are at all serious - and life is only for those who are serious - to observe the nature and the structure of violence within ourselves, and to find out why we are violent. The mere discovery of the cause of violence does not end it, neither does analysis, however clever, however subtle, bring violence to an end, nor is it to be overcome by thinking about non-violence. Violence is merely a word, and the description of that violence is obviously not the fact. Please follow this! You may not be used to this kind of observation or exploration, you may prefer to leave it to the experts and just follow blindly, thereby creating an authority which becomes a terrible thing. If however you would be free of violence, which is buried so deep, you must first learn about yourself. You can only learn if you observe yourself - not according to Jung or Freud or some other specialist - then you are merely learning what they have already told you, so that is not learning at all. If you really want to learn about yourself, then you must put away all the comforting authority of others, and observe.

That observation is very complex, full of difficulties. First of all, is the observer different from the thing observed? I observe that I am violent, not only superficially, consciously but deep down; throughout my whole being I am violent. So I observe it in my speech, my walk, my gestures and in my ambitious drive to succeed. In this country particularly, success is praised to the heavens; we must succeed at all costs, but in the success there is a great deal of violence, aggression and brutality. So I see that I am violent and is this entity who observes different, separate from the violence, the thing he observes? Please do this as the speaker is explaining! If I may suggest, don't just listen to the words because words have no importance; what is important is to see whether or not the mind can ever be free from this terrible disease called violence, and in seeing it, is the seer, the observer different from the thing seen, the thing observed, or are the observer and the observed one? Do you understand all this? Is the observer who says `I am violent' different from the violence itself? Obviously he is not, therefore what takes place? Do please follow this carefully if you are interested! What takes place when the observer realizes that he himself is the violence which he has observed Then what is he to do to be free of that violence? I hope you understand the complexity of this problem and that we are communicating with each other.

Please, I am not trying to analyse you; that is something quite different and it has nothing whatever to do with what we are discussing. Now let's go into it step by step! When the observer finds out for himself that he is the observed, lie is the violence, and that it is not something separate from him which he can change or control, then the division between the observer and the observed no longer exists, so the observer has instantly removed the cause of conflict and contradiction within himself. However the fact of violence remains - I am still violent by nature, my whole being is violent, and it is sheer nonsense to say that part of me is gentle and loving, while the other part is violent. Violence means division, contradiction, conflict, separateness, and a lack of love; but I have now realized the central fact, which is, that the observer is the observed, and is, therefore, no longer in conflict with the observed. I am the world and the world is me; I am the community and the community is me. So to bring about a radical transformation in society and in oneself, the observer must undergo a tremendous change - that is, to realize that the observer and the observed are one. Now can my mind observe the image of what I consider to be violence and also my vested interests in that violence, because the whole image I have about myself and the violence must disappear, so that the mind is free to observe. And after observing, the fact still remains that I am violent, even though I may say that I and the violence are one; so what am I to do? When I observe that I am violent and I see very clearly that the observer is that violence, then I realize I cannot possibly do anything at all, because any action whether it be positive or negative is still part of that violence.

Look, sirs, let's put it differently! There is this whole problem of egocentricity; we are enormously selfish, extraordinarily self-centred. We may go out of our way to help others, but deep down, the root, the core is this self-centred activity. It is like a tree whose main root has a thousand roots, and whatever the mind does or does not, nourishes this root. Am I making it clear, because we are dealing with a very complex problem, so please bear in mind what we said earlier - that the description is never the described. Mindful of this therefore one sees the necessity of being in direct contact with the fact of this egocentric operation that is going on all the time within each one of us, which is the action of separation, isolation, division and fragmentation, and whatever one does is part of that action, so one asks oneself whether there is a different kind of action, but the very asking of that question is still part of this fragmentation. One then realizes one must look at violence in complete silence. (Pause) Is the speaker conveying anything at all? (Assent) Please don't agree, sir! This is not a matter of agreement or disagreement but a matter of perception on your part. The speaker is not important at all; what is important is for you to find out these things for yourself, so that you are free and not secondhand human beings. You must look to find out, to find out whether or not it is possible for the mind to be completely and totally free of this violence, pride and arrogance, and so come upon a different quality altogether. And to find that out you must look most intimately and discover for yourself; then it is your own, not somebody else's, not something that you have been told, because there is no teacher and no follower. Unfortunately that word `guru' has been bandied about recently in this country; the word in Sanskrit means `the one who points', like a signpost by the roadside. However you don't worship that post, hang garlands around it; neither do you follow it around and carry out all the mysterious orders a guru is supposed to give; he is just a signpost by the roadside, you read and pass by.

So, you have to be your own teacher and your own disciple, and there is no teacher outside, no saviour, no master; you yourself have to change and, therefore, you have to learn to observe, to know yourself. This learning about yourself is a fascinating and joyous business; it is to learn about violence which is part of the structure of your life. And to learn, the mind must be free; it cannot learn about violence if you have already accumulated knowledge about violence. That is one of the things we have done with our learning; knowledge and learning are two different things. The doctor, the scientist, the engineer have accumulated knowledge and they add to it as new discoveries are made, and therefore their knowledge becomes a storehouse, a tradition, but that is not learning; learning is only possible in a state of constant movement, it only takes place in the active present. Learning is a movement, whether you are learning in a college or learning about yourself; you are learning as you go along, not having learnt and then applying what you have learnt, what you have accumulated; that is not learning at all, that is merely the accumulation of knowledge.

And in that learning there is great joy, there is no despair at what you see, because you are not comparing it with your ideal, with what you should be; there is only what is, and to observe what is, your learning is infinite. Everything is in you - like the speaker, you don't have to read any book - because man is as old as the hills, and more. He is a living thing and a living thing is not to be conditioned, but we have conditioned it, and that is why our life has become such a torture, such a meaningless struggle.

I wonder if you would like to ask any questions. You know, to ask a question one must be completely sceptical about everything, including what the speaker says; the speaker has no authority whatsoever, and one must be sceptical, although, of course, one must know when to let go of the leash so that one is not sceptical all the time. Obviously you must ask questions but you must ask the right question, which is J most difficult thing to do. Please, this does not mean that I am trying to stop you asking questions! It is very important to ask a really extraordinary question, one which taxes you to the full, a question which is true to you, not to the speaker or to anybody else; obviously you must ask that kind of question, but at the same time you must never wait for an answer from another because no one can answer your question; it is only fools who give advice. So please ask a serious question, not something irrelevant without any depth or meaning!

Questioner: You have talked about silence, and occasionally my mind is silent, but what is this silence you speak about?

Krishnamurti: The speaker can tell you what that silence is, but unless it is yours, it will have very little meaning. Silence is absolutely necessary to look, to listen, and to observe; if your mind is chattering - and our minds are everlastingly chattering - how can you possibly listen? How can you possibly look at a tree, at a cloud or a bird without that silence? If you want to look at a tree, or the light on a cloud, naturally your mind must be silent, but you can't force it, simply because you want to see the beauty of the tree. It is very important to look, to see without the image and you must be silent to look at your husband or your wife without the image; you are no longer silent, however, if you carry, with you the image of your husband or your wife. It is only in silence that you learn and love is completely silent.

This love is unknown to us because thought, which breeds pleasure and fear, is always casting a shadow over everything. This silence is part of meditation (we are not going into that now because it involves a great deal), but without understanding meditation, the beauty of it, the ecstasy of it and its very benediction, life has no meaning. Meditation is not something separate from every day life, nor is it learning some trick in a monastery, whether it be Zen or some other religion, because meditation is a way of life, and part of this immense silence about which we were speaking. Perhaps during these three public talks we shall be able to discuss meditation, as well as what love is and what death is. Questioner: Could we discuss observation without the observer?

Krishnamurti: What is the observer? Please, find out! Let's go into it together! Don't just listen and accept or reject, but let both of us take the journey together. What is the observer? The observer is the experience whether it be the experience of yesterday or of a thousand yesterdays. The observer is the accumulated knowledge, memory; the observer is essentially the tradition, the past, the dead ashes of many thousand yesterdays. The observer is the one who says I am hurt, I am angry, I have been insulted, this is my view, that is my opinion, the one who thinks and is caught up in formulas; all that is the observer. So the observer is essentially the past, and can you look, observe without the past? Can you observe a tree? Let's begin with something simple! Can you observe a tree without the past? Can you observe a tree, a cloud, a bird outwardly, without the past, which means without the word, without your knowledge, without all the images you have about the tree, about the cloud, about the bird. So can you look without the past? It is comparatively easy to look at some familiar object without the past, without yesterday, but can you look at your wife or at your husband without the image of the past, the hurts and the nagging, the quarrels and the brutality, the pleasures and the delights and the various forms of hidden and unexpressed demands, hopes and fears. Can you look without all this, so that you are looking with fresh eyes. It is quite an arduous task because it demands attention, it demands the joy of learning.

We human beings have no relationship with one another, with our husbands or wives, no matter how intimate we may be, no matter how many times we have slept together. We have images, and the relationship is between two images, not between human beings because human beings are living things, and it is very dangerous, uncertain, to have a relation- ship with a living thing; above all we want to be certain in our relationship. That's why we say I know my wife or my husband, my neighbour or my friend. And to look without the observer, which means looking without the past, without the memory, without all the accumulated hopes and fears, the pleasure and enjoyment, the sorrow and despair - to look in such a manner is the beginning of love.

8th November 1968


Talks with American Students. Claremont College, California

Talks with American Students, Chapter 6 1st Talk at Claremont College California 8th November, 1968

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