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The Flame of Attention

The Flame of Attention Chapter 6 1st Public Talk at New York 27th March 1982

It should be understood that we are not trying to convince you of anything. We are not making any kind of propaganda; nor putting forward new ideas or some exotic theory or fantastic philosophy; nor are we putting forward any kind of conclusion, or advocating any kind of faith. Please be quite convinced of that. But together, you and the speaker are going to observe what is happening in the world, not from any particular point of view, nor from any linguistic, nationalistic or religious attitude. We are together, if you will, going to observe, without any prejudice, freely, without distorting, what is actually happening throughout the world. It is important that we understand that we are simply observing, not taking sides, not having certain conclusions with which to observe; but observing freely, rationally, sanely, why human beings throughout the world have become what they are, brutal, violent, full of fantastic ideas, with nationalistic and tribalistic worship, with all the divisions of faiths, with all their prophets, gurus and all those religious structures which have lost all meaning.

Such observation is not a challenge, nor does it bring you the experience of something. Observation is not analysis. Observation, without distortion, is seeing clearly, not from any personal or ideological point of view; it is to observe so that we see things as they are, see both outwardly and inwardly, what is actually taking place externally and how we live psychologically. We are talking over together as two friends walking in a quiet lane, on a summer's day, observing and conversing about their problems, their pain, sorrows, miseries, confusions, uncertainties, the lack of security, and seeing clearly why human beings throughout the world are behaving as they do; we are asking why, after millennia upon millennia, human beings continue to suffer, to have great pain psychologically, to be anxious, uncertain and frightened, having no security, outwardly or inwardly.

There is no division between the outer and the inner, between the world which human beings have created outwardly, and the movement which is taking place inwardly it is like a tide, going out and coming in, it is the same movement. There is no division, as the outer and the inner, it is one continuous movement. To understand this movement we must examine together our consciousness, what we are, why we behave the way we do, being cruel and having no actual relationship with each other. We must examine why, after millennia upon millennia, we are living in constant conflict and misery and why religions have totally lost their meaning.

We are going to take our human existence as it is and observe it and actually find out for ourselves if there is any possibility of a radical change in the human condition not superficial change, not physical revolution, none of which has brought about a fundamental, radical, change in the psyche. And we are going to find out whether it is possible for the conflict, struggle, pain and the sorrow of our daily life to end. We are going to observe together and see if it is possible to be radically free of all this torture of life, with its occasional joy.

This is not a lecture; you are partaking, sharing, in this observation. We are not using any particular jargon, or any special linguistic references. We are using simple, daily English. Communication is only possible when both of us are together one must emphasize the word `together' all the time as we examine our lives and why we are what we have become.

What place has knowledge in the transformation of man? Has it any place at all in that transformation? Knowledge is necessary in daily living, going to the office, exercising various skills and so on; it is necessary in the technological world, in the scientific world. But in the transformation of the psyche, of which we are, has knowledge any place in it at all?

Knowledge is the accumulation of experience not only personal experience but the accumulation of past experience which is called tradition. That tradition is handed down to each one of us. We have accumulated not only individual, personal, psychological knowledge, but the psychological knowledge that has been handed down and conditioned man through millennia. We are asking whether that psychological knowledge can ever transform man radically, so that he is a totally unconditioned human being. Because if there is any form of conditioning, psychically, inwardly, truth cannot be found. Truth is a pathless land, and it must come to one when there is total freedom from conditioning.

There are those who accept and say that the conditioning of man is inevitable, and that he cannot possibly escape from it. He is conditioned and he can no more than ameliorate or modify that conditioning. There is a strong element of Western thought that maintains this position. Man is conditioned by time, by evolution, genetically and by society, by education, and by religion. That conditioning can be modified but man can never be free from it. That is what the Communists and others maintain, pointing out historically and factually that we are all conditioned, by the past, by our education, by our family and so on. They say that there is no escape from that conditioning, and therefore man must always suffer, always be uncertain, always follow the path of struggle, pain and anxiety.

What we are saying is quite different; we are saying that this conditioning can be totally eradicated, so that man is free. We are going to enquire into what this conditioning is, and what freedom is. We are going to see whether that conditioning, which is so deeply rooted, in the deep recesses of the mind, and also active superficially, can be understood, so that man is totally freed from all sorrow and anxiety.

So first we must look at our consciousness, what it is made of, what is its content. We must question whether that content of consciousness, with which we identify ourselves as individuals, is in fact individual consciousness. Or is this individual consciousness, which each one of us maintains as separate from others, individual at all? Or is it the consciousness of mankind? Please, listen to this first. You may totally disagree. Do not reject, but observe. It is not a question of being tolerant tolerance is the enemy of love; just observe, without any sense of antagonism what we are saying: the consciousness with which we have identified ourselves as individuals, is it individual at all? Or is it the consciousness of humanity? That is, consciousness, with all its content of pain, remembrance, sorrow, nationalistic attitudes, faith, worship, is constant right throughout the world. Everywhere you go, man is suffering, striving, struggling, anxious, full of uncertainty, agony, despair, depression, believing all kinds of superstitious religious nonsense. This is common to all mankind, whether in Asia or here or in the West.

So, your consciousness, with which you have identified yourself as your `individual' consciousness, is an illusion. It is the consciousness of the rest of mankind. You are the world and the world is you. Please, consider this, see the seriousness of it, the responsibility that is involved in it. You have struggled all your life, as an individual, something separate from the rest of humanity, and when you discover that your consciousness is the consciousness of the rest of mankind, it means you are mankind, you are not individual. You may have your own particular skill, tendency, idiosyncrasy, but you are actually the rest of mankind, because your consciousness is the consciousness of every other human being. That consciousness is put together by thought. That consciousness is the result of millennia upon millennia of thought. Thought has always been most extraordinarily important in our lives. Thought has created modern technology, thought has created wars, thought has divided people into nationalities, thought has brought about separate religions, thought has created the marvellous architecture of ancient cathedrals, temples and mosques. The rituals, the prayers, all the circus if I may use that word that goes on in the name of religion, is put together by thought.

Consciousness is the activity of thought and thought has become so immensely important in our lives. We have to observe what thinking is, that has brought about such extraordinary confusion in the world. Thought plays a part in our relationships with each other, intimate or not. Thought is the source of fear. We have to observe what place thought has in pleasure, what place it has in suffering and whether thought has any place at all in love. It is important to observe the movement of thought per se.

Observing the movement of thought is a part of meditation. Meditation is not just some absurd repetition of words, spending a few minutes at it morning, afternoon an and evening. Meditation is part of life. Meditation is to discover the relationship of thought and silence; the relationship of thought and that which is timeless. Meditation is part of our daily life, as death is part of our life, as love is part of our life.

It is fairly simple, when you are asked a question, which is familiar, to reply immediately. You are asked your name, your reply is instantaneous; because you have repeated your name so often it comes easily. But if you are asked a complicated question, there is an interval between the question and the answer. During that interval, thought is investigating and finally finding an answer. But when you are asked a very deep question and you reply, `I do not know', there is an end to thought. Very few people actually say, `I do not know', they pretend to think they know. Probably many of you believe in god. That is the last hope, the last pleasure, the ultimate security. And when you actually ask yourself the question, seriously, with great earnestness: do you really know god, do you really believe? then if you are honest, you say `Really, I do not know.` Then your mind is really observing.

The accumulation of experience stored up in the brain as memory is knowledge and the reaction to that memory is thought. Thought is a material process there is nothing sacred about thought. The image we worship as sacred, is still part of thought. Thought is always divisive, separative, fragmentary, and knowledge is never complete, about anything. Thought, however sublime or however trivial, is always fragmentary, is always divisive, because it is derived from memory. All our actions are based on thought, therefore all action is limited, fragmentary, divisive, incomplete it can never be holistic. Thought, whether of the greatest genius, of daily activity of thought, is always limited, fragmentary, divisive. Any action born out of that thought must bring about conflict. There are the nationalistic, tribal divisions, to which the mind clings in its search for security. That very search for security brings about wars. The search for security is also the activity of thought; so there is no security in thought.

The essence of the content of our consciousness is thought. Thought has brought about a structure in consciousness, of fear, of belief. The idea of a saviour, faith, anxiety, pain all that is put together by thought and is the content of consciousness. We are asking whether that content of consciousness can be wiped away so that there is a totally different dimension altogether. It is only in that dimension that there can be creativeness; creativeness not within the content of consciousness.

So, let us look at one of the contents of our consciousness, which is relationship between human beings. Between a man and a woman, why is there such conflict in that relationship, such misery, and constant division? It is important to enquire into this, because man exists in relationship; there is no saint, hermit or monk, who is not related, though he may withdraw into a monastery or go to some Himalayan cave he is still related. It is important to understand why human beings never live in peace in relationship, why there is this terrible struggle and pain, jealousy, anxiety, and to see whether it is possible to be free of all that and therefore be in real relationship. To find out what real relationship is demands a great deal of enquiry, observation. Observation is not analysis. This is again important to understand, because most of us are accustomed to analysis. We are observing the actual relationship of man to man and woman, between two human beings; asking why there should be so much struggle, anxiety, pain. In the relationship of two human beings, be they married or not, do they ever meet, psychologically? They may meet physically, in bed, but inwardly, psychologically, are they not like two parallel lines, each pursuing his own life, his own ambition, his own fulfilment, his own expression So, like two parallel lines, they never meet, and therefore there is the battle, the struggle, the pain of having no actual relationship. They say they are related, but that is not true, that is not honest, because each one has an image about himself. Added to that image each one has an image of the person he lives with. Actually we have two images or multiple images. He has created an image about her, and she has created an image about him. These images are put together through the reactions which are remembered, which become the image, the image you have about her and she has about you. The relationship is between these two images which are the symbols of the remembrances, the pain. So actually there is no relationship.

So one asks: is it possible not to have any image about another at all? So long as one has an image about her and she has about oneself, there must be conflict, because the cultivation of images destroys relationship. Through observation can one discover whether it is possible not to have an image about oneself or about another completely not to have images? As long as one has an image about oneself, one is going to get hurt. It is one of the miseries in life, from childhood through school, college, university and right through life, one is constantly getting hurt, with all its consequences and the gradual process of isolation so as not to get hurt. And what is it that is hurt? It is the image that one has built about oneself. If one were to be totally free of all images, then there would be no hurt, no flattery.

Now most people find security in the image they have built for themselves, which is the image that thought has created. So we are asking, observing, whether this image built from childhood, put together by thought, a structure of words, a structure of reactions, a process of remembrances long, deep, abiding incidents, hurts, ideas, pain can end completely for only then can you have any kind of relationship with another. In relationship, when there is no image, there is no conflict. This is not just a theory, an ideal; the speaker is saying it is a fact. If one goes into it very deeply, one finds that one can live in this monstrous world and not have a single image about oneself; then one's relationships have a totally different meaning there is no conflict whatsoever.

Now please, as you are listening to the speaker, are you aware of your own image and the ending of that image? Or are you going to ask: 'How am I to end that image?' When you ask 'how', see the implication in that word. The `how' implies that somebody will tell you what to do. Therefore that somebody, who is going to tell you what to do, becomes the specialist, the guru, the leader. But you have had leaders, specialists, psychologists, all your life; they have not changed you. So do not ask `how' but find out for yourself whether you can be free of that image, totally. You can be free of it when you give complete attention to what another says. If your wife or your friend, says something ugly and if at that moment you pay complete attention, then in that attention there is no creation of images. Then life has a totally different meaning.

We are observing our consciousness, with its content. The content, like the hurt, like relationship, makes our consciousness. Another content of our consciousness is fear; we live with fear, not only outwardly but much more deeply, in the dark recesses of the mind, there is deep fear, fear of the future, fear of the past, fear of the actual present. We ought to talk over together whether it is possible for human beings, living in this world as it is at the present time threatened by wars, living our daily life to be totally, completely, free of all psychological fear. Probably most of you may not have asked such a question. Or you may have done so and tried to find a way of escaping from fear, or suppressing it, denying it, rationalizing it. But if you are really observing deeply the nature of fear, then you have to look at what fear is, actually see what the contributing causes of fear are. Most of us are frightened, frightened of tomorrow, frightened of death, frightened of your husband or your wife or your girlfriend; of so many things are we frightened. Fear is like a vast tree with innumerable branches; it is no good merely trimming the branches, you must go to the very root of it and see whether it is possible to eradicate it so completely that you are free of it. It is not a question of whether we will always remain free of fear; when you have really eradicated the roots, when there is no possibility of fear entering into your psychological life.

One of the reasons for fear is comparison, comparing oneself with another. Or comparing oneself with what one has been and what one would like to be. The movement of comparison is conformity, imitation, adjustment; it is one of the sources of fear. Has one ever tried never to compare oneself with another, either physically or psychologically? When one does not compare then one is not becoming. The whole of cultural education is to become something, to be something. If one is a poor man one wishes to become a rich man if one is a rich man one is seeking more power. Religiously or socially one is always to become something. In this wanting, in this desire to become, there is comparison. To live without comparison is the extraordinary thing that takes place when one has no measure. As long as one measures psychologically there must be fear, because one is always striving and one may not achieve.

Another reason for fear is desire. We have to observe the nature and structure of desire and why desire has become so extraordinarily important in our lives. Where there is desire, there must be conflict, competition, struggle. So it is important, if you are at all serious and those who are serious, really live, for them life has tremendous significance, responsibility to find out what desire is. Religions throughout the world have said, `Suppress desire'. Monks not the sloppy religious people, but those who have committed themselves to a certain form of religious organization in their particular faith have tried to transfer or sublimate desire in the name of a symbol, a saviour. But desire is an extraordinarily strong force in our lives. We either suppress, run away from or substitute the activities of desire, we rationalize, seeing how it arises, what is the source of it. So let us observe the movement of desire. We are not saying it must be suppressed, run away from, or sublimate whatever that word may mean.

Most of us are extraordinary human beings. We want everything explained, we want it all very neatly set out in words or in a diagram, and then we think we have understood it. We have become slaves to explanations. We never try to find out for ourselves what the movement of desire is, how it comes into being. The speaker will go into it, but the explanation is not the actuality. The word is not the thing. One must not be caught in words, in explanations. The painting of a mountain on a canvas is not the actual mountain. It may be beautifully painted, but it is not that extraordinary deep beauty of a mountain, its majesty against the blue sky. Similarly the explanation of desire is not the actual movement of desire. The explanation has no value so long as we do not actually see for ourselves.

Observation must be free, without a direction, without a motive, in order to understand the movement of desire. Desire arises out of sensation. Sensation is contact, the seeing. Then thought creates an image from that sensation; that movement of thought is the beginning of desire. That is, you see a fine car and thought creates the image of you in that car and so on; at that moment is the beginning of desire. If you had no sensation you would be paralysed. There must be the activity of the senses. When the sensation of seeing or touching arises, then thought makes the image of you in that car. The moment thought creates the image there is the birth of desire.

it requires a highly attentive mind to see the importance of total sensation not one particular activity of the senses followed by the activity of thought creating an image. Have you ever observed a sunset with the movement of the sea with all your senses? When you observe with all your senses, then there is no centre from which you are observing. Whereas, if you cultivate only one or two senses then there is fragmentation. Where there is fragmentation there is the structure of the self, the 'me'. In observing desire as one of the factors of fear, see how thought comes in and creates the image. But if one is totally attentive then thought does not enter into the movement of sensation. That requires great inward attention with its discipline.

Another of the factors of fear is time psychological time, not time as sunrise and sunset, yesterday and today and tomorrow, but psychological time, as yesterday, today and tomorrow. Time is one of the major factors of fear. It is not that time as movement must stop but that the nature of psychological time be understood, not intellectually or verbally but actually observed psychologically, inwardly. We can be free of time or be slaves of time.

There is an element of violence in most of us that has never been resolved, never been wiped away so that we can live totally without violence. Not being able to be free of violence we have created the idea of its opposite, non-violence. Non-violence is non-fact violence is a fact. Non-violence does not exist except as an idea. What exists, `what is', is violence. It is like those people in India who say they worship the idea of non-violence, they preach about it, talk about it, copy it they are dealing with a non-fact, non-reality, with an illusion. What is a fact is violence, major or minor, but violence. When you pursue non-violence, which is an illusion, which is not an actuality, you are cultivating time. That is, `I am violent, but I will be non-violent`. The `I will be' is time, which is the future, a future that has no reality, it is invented by thought as an opposite of violence. It is the postponement of violence that creates time. If there is an understanding and so the ending of violence, there is no psychological time. We can be masters of psychological time; that time can be totally eliminated if you see that the opposite is not real. The 'what is' has no time. To understand `what is', requires no time, but only complete observation. In the observation of violence, for example, there is no movement of thought but only holding that enormous energy which we call violence, and observing it. But the moment there is a distortion, the motive of trying to become non-violent, you have introduced time.

Comparison, with all its complexity, desire and time, are the factors of fear deep-rooted fear. When there is observation, and therefore no movement of thought merely observing the whole movement of fear there is the total ending of fear; and the observer is not different from the observed. This is an important factor to understand. And as you observe, completely, there is the ending of fear, the human mind then is no longer caught in the movement of fear. If there is fear of any sort, the mind is confused, distorted and therefore it has no clarity. And there must be clarity for that which is eternal to be. To observe the movement of fear in oneself, to watch the whole complexity, the weaving of fear, and to remain with it so completely, without any movement of thought, is the total ending of it.

27 March 1982

The Flame of Attention

The Flame of Attention Chapter 6 1st Public Talk at New York 27th March 1982

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