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The Flame of Attention

The Flame of Attention Chapter 5 5th Public Talk at Bombay 6th February 1982

The average person wastes his life; he has a great deal of energy but he wastes it. He spends his days in the office, or in digging the garden, or as a lawyer or something, or he leads the life of a sannyasi. The life of an average person seems, at the end, utterly meaningless, without significance. When he looks back, when he is fifty, eighty, or ninety, what has he done with his life?

Life has a most extraordinary significance, with its great beauty, its great suffering and anxiety, the accumulating of money in working from eight or nine in the morning until five for years and years. At the end of it all, what have we done with life? Money, sex, the constant conflict of existence, the weariness, the travail, unhappiness and frustrations that is all we have with perhaps occasional joy; or perhaps you love someone completely, wholly, without any sense of self.

There seems to be so little justice in the world. Philosophers have talked a great deal about justice. The social workers talk about justice. The average man wants justice. But is there justice in life at all? One is clever, well placed, with a good mind and is good looking; having everything he wants. Another has nothing. One is well educated, sophisticated, free to do what he wants. Another is a cripple, poor in mind and in heart. One is capable of writing and speaking; a good human being. Another is not. This has been the problem of philosophy with its love of truth, love of live. But perhaps truth is in life, not in books, away from life, not in ideas. Perhaps truth is where we are and in how we live. When one looks around, life seems so empty and meaningless for most people. Can man ever have justice? Is there any justice in the world at all? One is fair, another is dark. One is bright, aware, sensitive, full of feeling, loving a beautiful sunset, the glory of a moon, the astonishing light on the water; one sees all that and another does not. One is reasonable, sane, healthy and another is not. So one asks, seriously, is there justice in the world at all?

Before the law all are supposedly equal, but some are `more equal' than others who have not sufficient money to employ good lawyers. Some are born high, others low. Observing all this in the world there is apparently very little justice. So where is justice then? It appears that there is justice only when there is compassion. Compassion is the ending of suffering. Compassion is not born out of any religion or from belonging to any cult. You cannot be a Hindu with all your superstitions and invented gods and yet become compassionate you cannot. To have compassion there must be freedom, complete and total freedom, from all conditioning. Is such freedom possible? The human brain has been conditioned over millions of years. That is a fact. And it seems that the more we acquire knowledge about all the things of the earth and heaven, the more do we get bogged down. When there is compassion, then with it there is intelligence, and that intelligence has the vision of justice.

We have invented the ideas of karma and reincarnation; and we think that by inventing those ideas, those systems about something that is to happen in the future, that we have solved the problem of justice. Justice begins only when the mind is very clear and when there is compassion.

Our brains are very complex instruments. Your brain, or the speaker's brain, is of the brain of humanity. It has not just developed from when you were born until now. It has evolved through endless time and conditions our consciousness. That consciousness is not personal; it is the ground on which all human beings stand. When you observe this consciousness with all its content of beliefs, dogmas, concepts, fears, pleasures, agonies, loneliness, depression and despair, it is not your individual consciousness. It is not the individual that holds this consciousness. We are deeply conditioned to think that we are separate individuals; but it is not your brain or mine. We are not separate. Our brains are so conditioned through education, through religion, that we think we are separate entities, with separate souls and so on. We are not individuals at all. We are the result of thousands of years of human experience, human endeavour and struggle. So, we are conditioned; therefore we are never free. As long as we live with or by a concept, a conclusion, with certain ideas or ideals, our brains are not free and therefore there is no compassion. Where there is freedom from all conditioning which is, freedom from being a Hindu, a Christian, a Muslim or a Buddhist, freedom from being caught up in specialization (though specialization has its place) freedom from giving one's life entirely to money then there can be compassion. As long as the brain is conditioned, which it is now, there is no freedom for man. There is no 'ascent' of man, as some philosophers and biologists are saying, through knowledge. Knowledge is necessary; to drive a car, to do business, to go to from here to your home, to bring about technological development and so on, it is necessary; but not the psychological knowledge that one has gathered about oneself, culminating in memory which is the result of external pressures and inward demands.

Our lives are broken up, fragmented, divided, they are never whole; we never have holistic observation. We observe from a particular point of view. We are in ourselves broken up so that our lives are in contradiction in themselves, therefore there is constant conflict. We never look at life as a whole, complete and indivisible. The word `whole' means to be healthy, to be sane; it also means holy. That word has great significance. It is not that the various fragmented parts become integrated in our human consciousness. (We are always trying to integrate various contradictions.) But is it possible to look at life as a whole, the suffering, the pleasure, the pain, the tremendous anxiety, loneliness, going to the office, having a house, sex, having children, as though they were not separate activities, but as a holistic movement, a unitary action? Is that possible at all? Or must we everlastingly live in fragmentation and therefore for ever in conflict? Is it possible to observe the fragmentation and the identification with those fragments? To observe, not correct, not transcend, not run away from or suppress, but observe. It is not a matter of what to do about it; because if you attempt to do something about it you are then acting from a fragment and therefore cultivating further fragments and divisions, Whereas, if you can observe holistically, observe the whole movement of life as one, then conflict with its destructive energy not only ceases but also out of that observation comes a totally new approach to life.

I wonder if one is aware of how broken up one's daily life is? And if one is aware, does one then ask: how am I to bring all this together to make a whole? And who is the entity, the `I', who is to bring all these various parts together and integrate them? That entity, is he not also a fragment? Thought itself is fragmentary, because knowledge is never complete about anything. Knowledge is accumulated memory and thought is the response of that memory and therefore it is limited. Thought can never bring about a holistic observation of life.

So, can one observe the many fragments which are our daily life and look at them as a whole? One is a professor, or a teacher, or merely a householder, or a sannyasi who has renounced the world; those are fragmented ways of living a daily life. Can one observe the whole movement of one's fragmented life with its separate and separative motives; can one observe them all without the observer? The observer is the past, the accumulation of memories. He is that past and that is time. The past is looking at this fragmentation; and the past as memory, is also in itself the result of previous fragmentations. So, can one observe without time, without thought, the remembrances of the past, and without the word? Because the word is the past, the word is not the thing. One is always looking through words; through explanations, which are a movement of words. We never have a direct perception. Direct perception is insight which transforms the brain cells themselves. One's brain has been conditioned through time and functions in thinking. It is caught in that cycle. When there is pure observation of any problem there is a transformation, a mutation, in the very structure of the cells.

We have created time, psychological time. We are masters of that inward time that thought has put together. That is why we must understand the nature of time which man has created psychological time as hope, time as achievement. Why have human beings, psychologically, inwardly, created time - time when one will be good; time when one will be free of violence; time to achieve enlightenment; time to achieve some exalted state of mind; time as meditation? When one functions within the realm of that time one is bringing about a contradiction and hence conflict. Psychological time is conflict.

It is really a great discovery if one realizes the truth that one is the past, the present and the future; which is time as psychological knowledge. One creates a division between our living in our consciousness and the distant time which is death. That is, one is living with all one's problems and death is something to be avoided, postponed, put at a great distance which is another fragmentation in one's life. To observe holistically the whole movement of life is to live both the living and the dying. But one clings to life and avoids death; one does not even talk about it. So not only has one fragmented one's life, superficially, physically, but also one has separated oneself from death. What is death; is it not part of one's life? One may be frightened, one may want to avoid death and to prolong living, but always at the end of it there is death.

What is living? What is living,which is our consciousness? Consciousness is made up of its content; and the content is not different from consciousness. Consciousness is what one believes, one's superstitions, ambitions, one's greed, competitiveness, attachment, suffering, the depth of loneliness, the gods, the rituals all that is one's consciousness, which is oneself. But that consciousness is not one's own, it is the consciousness of humanity; one is the world and the world is oneself. One is one's consciousness with its content. That content is the ground upon which aIl humanity stands. Therefore, psychologically, inwardly, one is not an individual. Outwardly one may have a different form from another, yellow, brown, black, be tall or short, be a woman or a man, but inwardly, deeply, we are similar perhaps with some variations, but the similarity is like a string that holds the pearls together. We must comprehend what living is, then we can ask what dying is. What is before is more important than what happens after death. Before the end, long before the last minute, what is living? Is this living, this travail and conflict without any relationship with each other? This sense of deep inward loneliness; that is what we call living. To escape from this so-called living, you go off to churches, temples, pray and worship, which is utterly meaningless. If you have money you indulge in extravagance the extravagance of marriage in this country. You know all the tricks you play to escape from your own consciousness, from your own state of mind. And this is what is called living. And death is the ending. The ending of everything that you know. The ending of every attachment, all the money you have accumulated which you cannot take with you; therefore you are frightened. Fear is part of your life. And so whatever you are, however rich, however poor, however highly placed, whatever power you have, whatever kind of politician you are, from the highest to the lowest crook in politics, there is the ending, which is called death. And what is it that is dying? The `me' with all the accumulations that it has gathered in this life, all the pain, the loneliness, the despair, the tears, the laughter, the suffering that is the `me' with all its words. The summation of all this is `me'. I may pretend that I have in 'me' some higher spirit, the atman, the soul, something everlasting, but that is all put together by thought; and thought is not sacred. So this is our life; the `me' that you cling to, to which you are attached. And the ending of that is death. It is the fear of the known, and the fear of the unknown; the known is our life, and we are afraid of that life, and the unknown is death of which we are also afraid. Have you ever seen a man or a woman frightened of death? Have you ever seen closely? Death is the total denial of the past, present and the future, which is `me'. And being frightened of death you think there are other lives to be lived. You believe in reincarnation probably most of you do. That is a nice, happy projection of comfort, invented by people who have not understood what living is. They see living is pain, constant conflict, endless misery with an occasional flare of smile, laughter and joy, and they say `We will live again next life; after death I will meet my wife' or husband, my son, my god. Yet we have not understood what we are and what we are attached to. What are we attached to? To money? If you are attached to money, that is you, the money is you. Like a man attached to old furniture, beautiful l4th century furniture, highly polished and of great value, he is attached to that; therefore he is the furniture. So what are you attached to? Your body? If you were really attached to your body you would look after that body, eat properly, exercise properly, but you don't. You are just attached to the idea of the body the idea but not the actual instrument. If you are attached to your wife it is because of your memories. If you are attached to her she comforts you over this and that, with all the trivialities of attachment, and death comes and you are separated.

So one has to enquire very closely and deeply into one's attachment. Death does not permit one to have anything when one dies. One's body is cremated or buried, and what has one left? One`s son, for whom one has accumulated a lot of money which he will misuse anyway. He will inherit one's property, pay taxes and go through all the terrible anxieties of existence just as one did oneself; is that what one is attached to? Or is one attached to one's knowledge, having been a great writer, poet or painter? Or is one attached to words because words play a tremendous part in one's life? Just words. One never looks behind the words. One never sees that the word is not the thing, that the symbol is never the reality.

Can the brain, the human consciousness, be free of this fear of death? As one is the master of psychological time, can one live with death not separating death off as something to be avoided, to be postponed, something to be put away? Death is part of life. Can one live with death and understand the meaning of ending? That is to understand the meaning of negation; ending one's attachments, ending one's beliefs, by negating. When one negates, ends, there is something totally new. So, while living, can one negate attachment completely? That is living with death. Death means the ending. That way there is incarnation, there is something new taking place. Ending is extraordinarily important in life to understand the depth and the beauty of negating something which is not truth. Negate, for example one`s double talk. If one goes to the temple, negate the temple, so that your brain has this quality of integrity.

Death is an ending and has extraordinary importance in life. Not suicide, not euthanasia, but the ending of one's attachments, one's pride, one's antagonism, or hatred, for another. When one looks holistically at life, then the dying, the living, the agony, the despair, the loneliness and the suffering, they are all one movement. When one sees holistically there is total freedom from death not that the physical body is not going to be destroyed. There is a sense of ending and therefore there is no continuity there is freedom from the fear of not being able to continue.

When one human being understands the full significance of death there is the vitality, the fullness, that lies behind that understanding; he is out of the human consciousness. When you understand that life and death are one they are one when you begin to end in living then you are living side by side with death, which is the most extraordinary thing to do; there is neither the past nor the present nor the future, there is only the ending.

The Flame of Attention

The Flame of Attention Chapter 5 5th Public Talk at Bombay 6th February 1982

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