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The Flame of Attention

The Flame of Attention Chapter 3 2nd Public Talk at Benaras 26th November 1981

The speaker is not giving a lecture; you are not being talked at, or being instructed. This is as a conversation between two friends, two friends who have a certain affection for each other, a certain care for each other, who will not betray each other and have certain deep common interests. So they are conversing amicably, with a sense of deep communication with each other, sitting under a tree on a lovely cool morning with the dew on the grass, talking over together the complexities of life. That is the relationship which you and the speaker have we may not meet actually there are too many of us but we are as if walking along a path, looking at the trees, the birds, the flowers, breathing the scent of the air, and talking seriously about our lives; not superficially, not casually, but concerned with the resolution of our problems. The speaker means what he says; he is not just being rhetorical, trying to create an impression; we are dealing with problems of life much too serious for that.

Having established a certain communication between ourselves unfortunately it has to be verbal communication, but between the lines, between the content of the words, there is, if one is at all aware, much deeper, more profound relationship we ought to consider the nature of our problems. We all have problems sexual, intellectual, the problems of relationship, the problems which humanity has created through wars, through nationalism, through the so-called religions. What is a problem? A problem means something thrown at you, something that you have to face, a challenge, minor or major. A problem that is not resolved demands that you face it, understand it, resolve it and act. A problem is something thrown at you, often unexpectedly, either at the conscious level or at the unconscious level; it is a challenge, superficial or deep.

How does one approach a problem? The way you approach a problem is more important than the problem itself. Generally, one approaches a problem with fear or with a desire to resolve it, to go beyond it, to fight against it, escape from it, or totally neglect it, or else one puts up with it. The meaning of that word approach is to come as close as possible, to approximate. Having a problem, how does one approach it? Does one come near it, close to it, or does one run away from it? Or does one have the desire to go beyond it? So long as one has a motive, the motive dictates one's approach.

If one does not approach a problem freely one is always directing the solution according to one's conditioning. Suppose one is conditioned to suppress a certain problem, then one's approach is conditioned and the problem is distorted; whereas, if one approaches it without a motive and comes very close to it, then in the problem itself is the answer, an answer which is not something away from the problem.

It is very important to see how one approaches a problem, whether it be a political problem, a religious problem or a problem of intimate relationship. There are so many problems; one is burdened with problems. Even meditation becomes a problem. One never actually looks at one`s problems. Yet why should one live burdened with problems? Problems which one has not understood and dissolved, distort all one`s life. It is very important to be aware of how one approaches a problem, observing it and not trying to apply a solution; that is, to see in the problem itself, the answer. And that depends upon how one approaches it, on how one looks at it. It is very important to be aware of one`s conditioning when one approaches it and to be free of that conditioning. What is perception, what is seeing? How do you see that tree? Look at it for the moment. With what sight do you see it? Is it solely an optical observation, just looking at the tree with the optical reaction, observing the form,

the pattern, the light on the leaf? Or do you, when you observe a tree, name it, saying, `That is an oak' and walk by? By naming it you are no longer seeing the tree the word denies the thing. Can you look at it without the word?

So, are you aware how you approach, how you look at, the tree? Do you observe it partially, with only one sense, the optical sense; or do you see it, hear it, smell it, feel it, see the design of it, take the whole of it in? Or, do you look at it as though you are different from it of course, when you look at it you are not the tree. But can you look at it without a word, with all your senses responding to the totality of its beauty? So perception means not only observing with all the senses, but also to see, or be aware of whether there is a division between you and that which you observe. Probably you have not thought anything about all this. It is important to understand this, because we are going to discuss presently the approach to fear and the perceiving of the whole content of fear. It is important to be aware of how you approach this burden which man has carried for millennia. It is easier to perceive something outside of you, like a tree, like the river, or the blue sky, without naming, merely observing, but can you look at yourself, the whole content of your consciousness, the whole content of your mind, your being, your walk, your thought, your feeling, your depression, so that there is no division between all that and you?

If there is no division there is no conflict. Wherever there is division there must be conflict: that is a law. So in us, is there a division as between the observer and the thing observed? If the observer approaches fear, greed, or sorrow, as though it was something different from himself which he has to resolve, suppress, understand, go beyond, then division and all the struggle comes into it.

Then how do you approach fear; do you perceive fear without any distortion, without any reaction to escape, suppress, explain, or even analyse? Most of us are afraid of something or of many things; you may be afraid of your wife or your husband, afraid of losing a job, afraid of not having security in old age, afraid of public opinion which is the most silly form of fear afraid of so many things darkness, death and so on. Now we are going to examine together, not what we are afraid of, but what fear is in itself. We are not talking about the object of fear, but about the nature of fear, how fear arises, how you approach it. Is there a motive behind one's approach to the problem of fear? Obviously one usually has a motive; the motive to go beyond it, to suppress it, to avoid it, to neglect it; and one has been used to fear for the greater part of one's life so one puts up with it. If there is any kind of motive one cannot see it clearly, cannot come near it. And when one looks at fear does one consider that fear is separate from oneself, as if one was an outsider looking inside, or an insider looking out? But is fear different from oneself? Obviously not nor is anger. But through education, through religion, one is made to feel separate from it, so that one must fight it, must get over it. One never asks if that thing called fear is actually separate from oneself. It is not, and in understanding that, one understands that the observer is the observed.

Supposing one is envious. One may think the envy is different from oneself but the actual fact is that one is part of it. One is part of the envy, as one is part of greed, anger, suffering, pain; so that pain, suffering, greed, envy, anxiety or loneliness is oneself. One is all that. First see that logically it is so. And seeing it logically, does one make an abstraction of what one sees, so that it becomes an idea, a mere semblance of the fact? One makes an abstraction, an idea that one should escape from it, and then one works on the basis of that idea; and that prevents one from observing very closely what fear is. But if one does not make an abstraction but sees it as a fact, then one approaches it without any motive. One observes it as something not different from oneself; one understands the combination. One observes it as part of oneself, one is that, there is no division between oneself and that; therefore one`s observation is that the observer is the observed; the observed is not different from oneself.

So what is fear? Come very close to it. Because one can only see it very clearly if one is very near. What is fear? Is it time as a movement of the past, the present modified and continued? One is the past, the present and also the future. One is the result of the past, a thousand years and more; one is also the present with its impressions, its present social conditions, its present climate, one is all that and also the future. One is the past, modified in the present, continued in the future; that is inward time. And also there is outward time, time by the watch, by the rising and setting of the sun; the succession of the morning, the afternoon, the evening. It takes outward time to learn a language, to learn the skill to drive a car, to become a carpenter, an engineer, or even a politician. There is time outwardly, to cover the distance from here to there, and there is also time as hope, inward time. One hopes to become non-violent which is absurd. One hopes to gain, or avoid, pain or punishment, one hopes to have a reward. So there is not only time outwardly, physically, but there is also time inwardly, psychologically. One is not this but one will become that; which means time. The physical time is actual, it is there, it is eleven o`clock or twelve o`clock, now. But inwardly, psychologically one has assumed there is time: that is, `I am not good but I will be good.` Now one is questioning that inward time, questioning whether there need be such inward time. When there is time inwardly there is fear. One has a job, but one may lose that job, which is the future, which is time. One has had pain and hopes one will never have such pain again. That is the remembrance of the pain, and the continuation of that memory, hoping there will be no future pain.

So one asks, is not time part of fear? Is not inward time fear? And is not another factor of fear thought? One thinks about one's pain, which one had last week, and which is now recorded in the brain; one thinks one might have that pain again tomorrow. So there is the operation of thought, which says: `I have had that pain, I hope not to have it again.` So thought and time are part of fear. Fear is a remembrance, which is thought and it is also time, the future. I am secure now, I may be insecure tomorrow, fear arises. So time plus thought equals fear. Now just see the truth of it in yourself, not listening to me, to the speaker and verbalizing and remembering it; but actually see that is a fact, not an abstraction as an idea. You have to be aware of whether it is by hearing you have made up an idea, made an abstraction of what you have heard into an idea, or whether you are actually facing the fact of fear, which is time and thought.

Now, it is important how you perceive the whole movement of fear. Either you perceive by negating it, or you perceive it without the division as me and fear, perceiving that you are fear, so you remain with that fear.

There are two ways of negating fear; either by totally denying it, saying, `I have no fear' which is absurd or negating it by perceiving that the observer is the observed so that there is no action. We normally want to negate fear, negate it in the sense of getting over it, running away from it, destroying it, finding some way of comforting ourselves against it all forms of negation; such negation is acting upon it. Then there is a totally different form of negation, which is the beginning of a new movement, in which the observer is the observed, fear is `me'. The observer is fear. Therefore he cannot do anything about it; therefore there is a totally different kind of negation which means a totally different beginning. Have you realized that when you act upon it you strengthen it? Running away, suppressing, analysing, finding the cause, is acting upon it. You are trying to negate something as if it was not you. But when you realize you are that and that therefore you cannot act or do anything about it, then there is non-action and a totally different movement taking place.

Is pleasure different from fear? Or is fear pleasure? They are like two sides of the same coin when you understand the nature of pleasure, which is also time and thought. You have experienced something very beautiful in the past and it is recorded as memory and you want that pleasure repeated; just as you remember the fear of a past event and want to avoid it. So both are movements of the same kind although you call one pleasure and the other fear.

Is there an end to sorrow? Man has done everything possible to transcend sorrow. He has worshipped sorrow, run away from sorrow, has held sorrow to his heart, has tried to seek comfort away from sorrow, has pursued the path of happiness, holding on to it, clinging to it in order to avoid suffering. Yet man has suffered. Human beings have suffered right through the world throughout ages. They have had ten thousand wars think of the men and women who have been maimed, killed and the tears that have been shed, the agony of the mothers, wives, and all those people who have lost their sons, their husbands, their friends through wars, for millennia upon millennia, and we still continue, multiplying armaments on a vast scale. There is this immense sorrow of mankind. The poor man along that road will never know a good clean bath, clean clothes or ride in an aeroplane; all the pleasures that one has, he will never know. There is the sorrow of a man who is very learned and of a man who is not very learned. There is the sorrow of ignorance; there is the sorrow of loneliness. Most people are lonely; they may have many friends, a lot of knowledge, but they are also very lonely people. You know what that loneliness is, if you are at all aware of yourself a sense of total isolation. You may have a wife, children, a great many friends, but there comes a day or an event that makes you feel utterly isolated, lonely. That is tremendous sorrow. Then there is the sorrow of death; the sorrow for someone you have lost. And there is the sorrow which has been gathering, which has been collecting, through the millennia of mankind's existence.

Then there is the sorrow of one's own personal degeneration, personal loss, personal lack of intelligence, capacity. And we are asking whether that sorrow can ever end? Or does one come to sorrow with sorrow and die with sorrow? Logically, rationally, intellectually, we can find many reasons for sorrow, there are all the many explanations according to Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity or Islam. But in spite of the explanations, the causes, the authorities that seek to explain it all away, sorrow still remains with us. So, is it possible to end that sorrow? For if there is no end to sorrow there is no love, there is no compassion. One has to go into it very deeply and see if it can ever end.

The speaker says there is an end to sorrow, a total end to sorrow; which does not mean that he does not care, that he is indifferent or callous. With the ending of sorrow there is the beginning of love. And you naturally ask the speaker: how? How is sorrow to end? When you ask `how?' you want a system, a method, a process. That is why you ask. `Tell me how to get there. I will follow the path, the road.' You want direction, when you say: `How am I to end sorrow?' That question, that demand, that enquiry says, `Show me.' When you ask how, you are putting the wrong question, if I may point out, because you are only concerned with getting over it. Your approach to it is: tell me how to get over it. So you never come near it. If you want to look at that tree you must come near it to see the beauty of it, the shade, the colour of the leaf, whether or not it has flowers you must come near it. But you never come near sorrow. You never come near it because you are always avoiding it, running away from it. So, how you approach sorrow matters very greatly, whether you approach it with a motive to escape, to seek comfort and avoid it, or whether you approach and come very, very close to it. Find out whether you come very close to it. You cannot come close to it if there is self pity or if there is the desire to somehow find the cause, the explanation; then you avoid it. So it matters very much how you approach it, come near it, and how you see it, how you perceive sorrow.

Is it the word `sorrow' that makes you feel sorrow? Or is it a fact? And if it is a fact do you want to come close to it so that sorrow is you? You are not different from sorrow. That is the first thing to see that you are not different from sorrow. You are sorrow. You are anxiety, loneliness, pleasure, pain, fear, the sense of isolation. You are all that. So you come very close to it, you are it, therefore you remain with it.

When you want to look at that tree you come to it, you look at every detail, you take time. You are looking, looking, looking, and it tells you all its beauty. You do not tell the tree your story, it tells you, if you watch it. In the same way if you come near sorrow, hold it, look at it, not run away from it, see what it is trying to tell you, its depth, its beauty, its immensity, then if you remain with it entirely, with that single movement, sorrow ends. Do not just remember that and then repeat it! That is what your brains are accustomed to do: to memorize what has been said by the speaker and then say, `How shall I carry that out?' Because you are it, you are all that and therefore you cannot escape from yourself. You look at it and there is no division between the observer and the observed, you are that, there is no division. When there is no division you remain entirely with it. It requires a great deal of attention, a great deal of intensity, clarity, the clarity of the mind that sees instantly the truth. Then out of that ending of sorrow comes love. I wonder if you love anything. Do you? Do you love anything? Your wife, your children, your so-called country; do you love the earth, love the beauty of a tree, the beauty of a person? Or are you so terribly self-centred that you never have any perception of anything at all? Love brings compassion. Compassion is not doing some social work. Compassion has its own intelligence. But you do not know anything of all that. All that you know are your desires, your ambitions, your deceptions, your dishonesty. When you are asked most profound questions, which stir you up, you become negligent. When I ask you a question of that kind, whether you love somebody, your faces are blank. And this is the result of your religion, of your devotion to your nonsensical gurus, your devotion to your leaders not devotion, you are frightened, therefore you follow. At the end of all these millennia you are what you are now; just think of the tragedy of all this! That is the tragedy of yourself, you understand. So ask yourself, if one may suggest it, walking along that path with you as a friend: do you know what love means? Love that does not demand a thing from another. Ask yourselves. It does not demand a thing from your wife, from your husband nothing, physically, emotionally, intellectually is demanded from another. Not to follow another, not to have a concept, and pursue that concept. Because love is not jealousy, love has no power in the ordinary sense of that word. Love does not seek position, status, power. But it has its own capacity, its own skill, its own intelligence.

26 November 1981

The Flame of Attention

The Flame of Attention Chapter 3 2nd Public Talk at Benaras 26th November 1981

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