The Flame of Attention
New Delhi 3rd Public Talk 6th November, 1982
If one may point out that we are probing together, questioning together, doubting, asking, and this is not a lecture. We are together enquiring, taking a walk together into the whole field of existence, not dealing with a particular problem but the problem of man, the problem of human beings. And one of the factors in our existence is that we live in disorder. And apparently after thirty, forty thousand years or more we have not been able to live in total order, like the universe which is in complete order, absolute order, not relative order, but order that under all circumstances, wherever we live, socially, politically, and so on, to have within oneself order. And we are going to probe into that question, together.
Please bear in mind, if I may repeat again and again, the person, the speaker, is in no way important. The personality of the speaker has no place in this whatsoever. But what is important is that we, you and I, the speaker, should unfold the causes of disorder, not merely listen to the explanation or the description which the speaker might offer, but together think, observe, go into ourselves, not in any way selfishly, or self-centredly, egotistically, but to look at our lives, to look what we have made of the world, why man, the human being, lives in perpetual disorder outwardly and inwardly. One may like to live in disorder, then that's quite a different matter, but to enquire if it is possible to live inwardly first, then outwardly, not the other way round, but first inwardly, deep within ourselves, if we can live in complete order.
And also we should be able to discuss, talk over together this evening, the problem of suffering, and this enormous mystery of death, because we have only one more gathering here. After tomorrow we disperse, so if we have time this evening we will talk about all these things.
Beauty is complete order. But most of us have not that sense of beauty in our life. We may be great artists, great painters, expert in various things, but in our own daily life, with all the anxieties and miseries, we live, unfortunately, a very disordered life. That's a fact. Even the great scientists, they may be very good, expert in their subject, but they have their own problems, struggles, pain, anxiety, like the rest of us. So we are asking together, is it possible to live in complete order within. Not imposed, disciplined, controlled, but to enquire into the nature of this disorder, what are the causes of it, and to dispel, move away, wash away the causes, then there is a living order like the universe. Order is not a blueprint, a following of a particular pattern of life, or following certain systems, blindly or openly, but to enquire into ourselves and discover for ourselves, not be told, not to be guided, but to unfold in ourselves the real causes of this disorder.
So, please, this is a talk between you and the speaker, an exchange. We can't exchange with words with so many people, but we can each one of us think together. Not think according to my way or your way, but the capacity to think clearly, objectively, non-personally so that we both are capable of meeting each other so that we can communicate with each other happily, easily, with some sense of affection and beauty.
So we are asking, you and the speaker, are asking what are the causes of this chaos, not only in the world outside of us, which is the result of our own inward psychological mess, confusion, disorder, which has produced disorder outwardly, what are the causes of it. Would you consider desire is one of the factors? We are going to go into this: desire, fear, pleasure and thought. We will go into it step by step, slowly, we will take time. So we have to enquire closely and rather hesitantly, is desire one of the factors. So we are asking, what is desire. For most of us desire is a potent factor, desire drives us, desire brings about a sense of happiness or disaster. Desire varies in its search, desire changes with the objects of its desire. You are following all this, I hope. So we have to think together.
Is desire one of the causes? And what is desire? Why is it that all religions, all so-called religious people have suppressed desire? All over the world the monks and the sannyasis have denied desire, though they are boiling inside the fire of desire is burning, they deny it by suppressing it, or identifying with a symbol, with a figure, and surrendering that desire to that figure, to that person, but it is still desire. I hope you are all following all this. And most of us have, when we become aware of our desires, either we suppress or indulge, or come into conflict with it - desire for this and desire not to have it. The battle that goes on with all of us when there is the drive of desire.
So we should together happily, if we can, easily enquire into the nature of desire. We are not advocating either to suppress it or to surrender to it, or to control it, that has been done all over the world by every religious person, you know, all the rest of it. So we are examining it very closely so that your own understanding of that desire, how it arises, its nature, out of that understanding, self-awareness of it, one becomes intelligent. Then that intelligence acts, not desire. So we are going to go into this carefully.
First of all are we aware, each one of us, as two people talking together, of the extraordinary power of desire - desire for power, desire for certainty, desire for god - if you like that kind of stuff - desire for enlightenment, desire to follow some system. Desire has so many aspects, it is as intricate as the weaving of a great master weaver. So one has to look at it very, very simply, and then the complexity arises. But if you start with complexity then you will not go any further. You understand? If you start simply then you can go very far.
So we are looking at it, at the root and the beginning of desire. Have you ever noticed how our senses operate? Does one become aware of our senses - not a particular sense by the totality of the senses? You understand my question? Senses, the feeling, the tasting, the hearing, to have all those senses in operation fully. And when all your senses are active, functioning, have you ever looked at a tree in that way, have you ever looked at the sea, the mountains, the hills and the valleys with all your senses? Do you understand my question? If you do then there is no centre from which you are looking at things. The whole of your sensory reactions are complete, not controlled, shaped, suppressed. Unless you understand this very clearly it is a dangerous thing to say this because for most of us our senses are partial, either we have very good taste for clothes and rotten taste for furniture. You know all this. So our senses are limited, as we now live. Nobody, no religious or other philosophers have said this: unless you allow all the senses to flower and with their flowering perceive the beauty of the world.
Then one of the causes of desire is disorder. I am going to go into it - we are going to go into it very carefully. Up to now it is clear, is it, we are together in this. What is desire? What is the cause of it, how does it arise? It doesn't arise by itself. It arises through sensation, through contact, through seeing something, seeing a man or a woman, seeing a dress in the window, seeing a beautiful garden with the great hills, there is immediate sensation. That's clear. Then what happens? It is natural, healthy to have such sensation, such response. Then what takes place? I see a beautiful - what would you like? - a beautiful woman, a beautiful man, a beautiful house, a beautiful dress - I see it - a beautiful shirt, made most delicately. I go inside and touch the material: seeing, then contact, from that contact sensation. Right? Then - please listen to this - then what happens? Enquire with me. We are enquiring, please enquire. You have touched the shirt, you have the sensation, of its quality, its colour. Up to now there has been no desire. There has been only sensation. Right? Then what happens? Now, you are waiting for me to tell you. Please look at it carefully - don't answer me - please look at it for yourself. Because you see unless you discover this with your heart and mind it is not yours, you just repeat what somebody has said. That's what is destroying this country. You all quote other people - the Gita, the Upanishads or some other book. I was going to say, 'rotten book'. And you repeat, but you never discover, it's never yours, it's somebody else's, therefore you become secondhand human beings. Whereas if you discover it yourself it is an extraordinary freedom that comes.
So we are asking when the senses discover a nice dress, shirt, or a car, then what takes place? You have touched that shirt or dress, then thought - please listen - then thought creates the image of you in that shirt, in the car, in that dress; when thought creates that image that is the moment desire is born. You are following all this? You are following all this, sirs? I am not telling you, you are discovering it. That is, desire begins when thought creates the image. I see a beautiful violin, a Stradivarius, I want to have that, the beauty of that sound that the violin makes, I would like to possess it. I look at it, touch it, the sense of that old structure and I would like to have it. That is, the moment thought enters into the field of sensation, creates the image then desire begins. Now the question then is - please listen to it - whether there can be a hiatus, that is, the sensation and not let thought come and control the sensation. That's a problem. You understand? Not the suppressing of desire. Why has thought created the image and holds that sensation? You understand? Is it possible to look at that shirt, touch it, sensation and stop, not for thought to enter into it? Have you ever tried any of this? No, I'm afraid you haven't.
When thought enters into the field of sensation - and thought is also a sensation, which we will go into presently - when thought takes control of sensation then desire begins. And is it possible to only observe, contact, sensation, and nothing else? You understand my question? If you put that question to yourself and discover that discipline has no place in this, because the moment when you begin to discipline that's another form of desire to achieve something. You are following all this?
So one has to discover the beginning of desire. And see what happens. Don't buy the shirt immediately, or the dress, but see what happens. You can look at it, but we are so eager to get something, to possess something, the shirt, the man or a woman or some status, we are so eager. We have never time, quietness to look at all this. So desire is one of the factors of our disorder. We have been trained either to control, suppress, change desire, the object of desire. But we have never looked at the movement, the flowering of desire. So that's one of the causes of our disorder in life. Please bear in mind we are not trying to control desire, that's been tried by all the so-called saints and all the rest of it, nor indulge in desire, but to understand it, like looking at a flower, how it grows. You understand all this. Are you all asleep?
Then is fear one of the causes of disorder? Obviously. Fear: fear of failure, fear of not being able to fulfil, fear of losing, fear of not gaining. We have every kind of fear - fear of the guru. Have you ever noticed how you crawl in front of a guru? You kind of become, I don't know, inhuman, you are afraid, you want something from him, so you worship him, and in the worship there is fear. So there are multiple forms of fear. We are not taking one particular form. We are asking what is the root of fear, if we can discover the root of fear then the whole tree is dead. You understand? But if I am concerned with my particular little fear of darkness, or of my husband, or something or other, my brain is not involved in the discover of the whole root of it. This is clear, so we can go on.
So what is the root of fear? How does it arise? It's a very complex problem. And every complex problem must be approached very simply, the simpler the better. The simpler means, I don't know how to deal with the root of fear, I don't know. Then you begin to discover. But if you have already come to a conclusion, the root of fear is this, this, that, then you never discover what the root is - but if you approach fear very simply, the trunk and the root of fear, not the branches.
So we are asking what is the cause, or the causation of fear. Would you say time is a factor of fear - Time. That is, I am living, I might die tomorrow, which is time. Time to go from here to your house, that requires time. So there are only two kinds of time, time by the sunrise and sunset, time by the watch, time by the distance you have to cover, time, that is, physical time. Right? Is that clear? That is, time by the watch, by the sunrise and sunset, darkness and dawn. That's physical time. There is the other time which is psychological, inward: I am this but I will be that. I am violent, but I am practising non-violence, which is nonsense. I am brutal but give me time I will get over it. So there is psychological time. You understand this? I hope I will meet my friend tomorrow, hope implies time. You understand all this? Are we thinking together? There is time by the watch, time, psychological becoming, climbing the ladder of becoming. That is, creating an ideal, and then try to reach that ideal. You understand this? Of course. All that implies psychological time. Right? Is this clear? I am this, but tomorrow I will be different. I haven't reached the position of power, but give me time I will get it.
So one of the factors of fear is time: I am living but I might die in a week's time. Right, is this clear? So what is time? Am I making this complex? Are you following all this? So we must ask, what is time, not by the watch, but time that we have - I hope, I will, which is measurement. You are following all this? You understand? Hope implies measurement. Now time is a movement, isn't it. Are you following all this? Does it interest you, all this? Because we will come to a point presently when you begin to understand that there can be an end to fear, completely, inwardly. Begin always inwardly, but not outwardly. That there is a possibility of being totally free from fear. And to find that out one must begin to enquire.
So we say desire is one of the factors of disorder, fear is one of the factors, fear is time, isn't it. Are you quite sure you understand this because otherwise we can't go further. Time is a movement from one point to another point, both physically and psychologically. Right? I need time to learn a language, it may take me a month, or two moths, or three months, to go from here to London takes time, to drive a car I need time. So - please watch this in yourself - we need time there so we use that time to become something inwardly. You understand? We have moved over from the physical fact of learning a language and I also say to myself, as I need time there I need time also to evolve, to become, to be less violent. Right? You understand this question? I need time to learn a language, and also I think I need time to get over violence, to bring about peace in the world. So that is a movement in measurement. Right? I wonder if you understand all this.
So what is movement, which is thought. Right? You are following all this? Thought is a movement, and thought has created time, not to learn a language, but to become something. Right? That is, I want to change 'what is', and to change that I need time, as I need time to learn a language. You have understood this? Gosh, are you all asleep?
So time - desire, time, thought, are the factors which bring about fear. I have done this something wrong two years ago, and it has caused pain, and I hope I will - hope - I will not do the same thing again. You understand this? Clear? So desire, time, thought. Now what is thought? The whole world is moving in the realm of thought, all the technological world with all its extraordinary complexity is brought about by thought. Right? They have built the most extraordinary complicated machines, like the computer, like the jet, and so on, it's all put together by thought. Right? All the great cathedrals are put together by thought, all the temples, and all the things that are in the temples, in the cathedrals are put together by thought. The rituals are invented by thought. Right? The guru is invented by thought. Right? You are a Sikh and I am not, but when you say, 'I am a Sikh' it is thought conditioning itself as a Sikh and operating there. So thought has become the most important factor in our life. In our relationship thought dominates. I don't know if you have noticed all this. Thought has created the problems of war. Right? And thought then says, I must have peace also - which is contradiction. You understand? So we must understand why thought has become so extraordinarily important in the world. And that's the only instrument we have, at least we think we have. Right? Are we together so far? Yes sir?
Q: I understand.
K: Good luck to you!
So what is thought? What is the origin and the beginning of thought? And why man so depends on thought, all the great intellectuals, great scientists, great philosophers, all the books that have been written are all the results, whether it is the Bible, the Koran, or your Upanishads and so on, even Marx, are based on thought. And thought - what is thought, by which we live? Now we will explain it, but you are discovering it, I am not telling you, so don't wait to be told, for god's sake, don't wait, then you become worthless human beings.
So is there thought without knowledge? You understand my question? What is knowledge? There are really several kinds of knowledge but we will take two. Knowledge you have by going to a school, college, university, or becoming an apprentice, and gradually accumulating skill. If I want to be a carpenter I must learn the grain of the wood, what kind of wood and so on, the instrument I use, I must learn, acquire a great deal of knowledge. Are you following all this? If I want to be a scientist I must have tremendous knowledge. Right? Knowledge is born of experience. Right? One scientist makes an experience, that is, discovers something, another scientist adds to it, or detracts from it, so there is a gradual accumulation of knowledge. Right? Now is knowledge complete? Or is knowledge always limited? You understand my question? Please answer yourself. Can the human thought, which is born of knowledge, can that knowledge be total, complete about everything? Of course not. Right? Knowledge can never be complete about anything. So knowledge is always limited. The master weavers of this country, they produce the most marvellous things but they are learning, adding, learning. So knowledge is always limited. The Gita, the Upanishads, the Bible, they are all the knowledge of history that people have written and so on. That's irrelevant. So knowledge, whether it is given by a saint, by a politician, by a philosopher, is limited. So don't worship knowledge.
So if it is limited, as it is, then knowledge always lives with ignorance. You follow all this? So thought is born out of knowledge. Right? That is, I experience a motor accident, and it is recorded in the brain as painful, or whatever it is, and that memory, that experience is stored in the brain as memory, and next time I drive I am jolly careful. Right? That is, experience, knowledge, from that experience, stored in the brain as memory, and from that memory, thought. If there is no memory at all, what happens? You follow, you are in a state of amnesia. You understand? So thought is always limited. Right? There is no supreme thought, noble thought, or ignoble thought, it is limited, and because it is limited whatever it does must produce conflict in human relationship. You understand this? Are you working as hard as the speaker is doing, or are you just listening casually?
If you understand the very complexity of thought, the delicacy of thought, the extraordinary capacity of thought - capacity of thought in one direction. Look what thought has done technologically. Have you ever looked at any marvellous machinery, a dynamo, a piston engine, the jet? Technologically we are progressing with lightening speed because partly we want to kill each other. So thought has created wars, thought has created the instruments of war, thought has also created all the extraordinary good things of life - sanitation, health, surgery, communication and so on. Thought is responsible for all this, but also thought has created problems. Right?
So we are asking if thought is the only instrument we have, and that instrument is becoming blunt and creating problems, and the problems it has created are being solved by thought. You understand? Therefore it creates more problems. You understand all this? So we are asking - I don't know if you will understand this - we are asking if there is another kind of instrument which is not thought? You understand my question? Thought is limited, and thought is not your thought or my thought, it is thought, it is not individual thinking, it is thinking, whether you are rich, a great scholar, or poor village person who doesn't know how to read a book, how to read or write, but he still thinks.
So now we see that disorder in our life, at whatever level we live, you may have the greatest power on earth as a politician, as a guru, they live in disorder inwardly, and therefore whatever they touch they bring disorder. You see that all over the country politically. And the many factors of disorder are desire - we went into it carefully - time, and thought. And if you exercise thought to create order you are still creating disorder. Is this clear? I wonder if you understand all this? Our whole life is based on discipline, like soldiers which are disciplined day after day, month after month, we discipline ourselves to do this and not to do that. The word 'discipline', the root of it, is to learn, not from somebody, to learn from oneself, one's own reactions, one's own observation, one's own activities and behaviour. But discipline never brings about intelligence. What brings about intelligence is observation and being free from fear - being free from. Now understanding the nature of desire, for example, if you understand it, see its nature and its structure, its vitality and find out for yourself the sensation and when thought enters into it, when you become aware of that, you are beginning to have intelligence, which is not your intelligence or my intelligence, it is intelligence.
So is it possible after listening to this talk, both of us, is it possible to be free of fear, which is a tremendous burden on humanity? Now you have listened to it, are you free from it? If you are honest you are not, why? Go on, enquire, why. Because you have not really investigated, gone into it step by step, and said, let's find out, put your passion, your guts, your vitality into it, not accept it. You haven't done that, you have just listened casually, you haven't said, look, I am afraid of my husband, my wife, whatever it is you are afraid of. Look at it, bring it out and look at it. But we are afraid to look at it, and so we live with it, like some horrible disease, we live with fear. And that's causing disorder. If you see that you are already operating from intelligence.
It is now nearly seven o'clock, shall we have time to enquire further into what is suffering, what is love, what is compassion, and also we ought to enquire into what is death.
Q: How can we achieve thoughtlessness?
K: How to achieve thoughtlessness - you have achieved it! You have perfectly achieved it, you have become machines, you never think properly, you have never gone into it. And you want to find out how to be still further asleep, how to be really thoughtless which is a wrong question. If you understand the nature of thought, the intricacies, the subtleties, the beauty of thought, from that understanding, the unfolding of a flower, nothing matters then. You don't say, how am I to gain this or that, it is unfolding, like a flower and you see the beauty of it. Do you see the beauty of a flower, of the mountain, of a full moon on a leaf, the light, silver, on a piece of rock?
So one has also to enquire, what is beauty - not in a painting or something, beauty in our life. There are too many things to talk about. We haven't touched sorrow and the ending of that burden, putting away sorrow altogether, then only you have compassion. If you suffer, if you have pain of anxiety, ambition and so on, you don't know what love is. But you want to be ambitious, you want to have power, position, better house, better cars, better, better, better. Have you ever understood that a man who is ambitious has no love in his heart. How can he? And we are all very ambitious, to achieve nirvana, or to become the bank manager. Both the same thing. You understand? To reach nirvana, or moksha, heaven, is the same as becoming manager of a bank, because both are ambitious. So to live a life of intelligence which means no ambition, but yet be tremendously active. You people don't know anything about all this.
So, sir, we have to talk over together the ending of sorrow, what are the implications of death, and what is religion. Without religion you cannot create a new structure, a new society, but what we have as religion is utter nonsense, meaningless nonsense in our life. We repeat some shloka, or whatever you do, that's not religion; reading the Gita everyday until you die is not religion, or quoting some book is not religion, or following a guru is not religion, or doing some rituals day after day, day after day. So we have to enquire into the depth of that word because a new culture, a new civilization can be born only out of a really true religion, not all this paraphernalia that goes on in the name of religion. So I don't know when we are going to do it.
K: You see how angry we get.
Q: What is the real meaning of life?
K: No, sir, please listen, sir, just listen. How angry you get, how defensive you get, you don't even look at your repetitions, or whatever you repeat, you don't say, why am I doing this, what is the reason, what lies behind all this. You follow tradition and therefore you think that is religion. You know in India somebody calculated three hundred thousand gods. It is perhaps better than having one god, you can choose anything you like. But god - the worship of god, or saying, 'I believe in god', is not religion. Religion is something entirely different. To have a religious life means to have compassion, love, the ending of sorrow, to find right relationship with each other, but you are not interested in all that. Really you are not deeply, profoundly, passionately interested in order to find out. What most people want is not to be disturbed with their own particular pattern, way of life. And you get angry, or violent, when you say, look, just look at what you are doing. Have you ever noticed the totalitarian states, what they are doing: anybody who dissents, disagrees, is sent to somewhere or other. You do exactly the same thing. So please consider, give your energy, your capacity to find out if there is a different way of living on this earth.
So perhaps when we meet tomorrow...
Q: One question.
Q: I have one too.
K: He is the first!
Q: My question is I don't think it is possible for a human being to live without desire, fear...
K: Sir, I have understood. Have it your own way, sir. You have said it is not possible, I never said live without desire, I never said it. I have said understand desire, look into the nature of desire, explore, probe into this urge of desire. And you translate it as, 'to live without desire'. I never said that.
You were going to say something, sir?
Q: Why should tradition be discouraged? Why should not the religious books, the Gita be read, they should be read and then meditated upon.
K: Why do you take for granted that they are all true? Why is a book, printed, a book is always printed lines, why do you take it all as though something terribly serious? Ask yourself, sir, why. Why is a book, the Koran, your own particular book, or the Bible, and so on, that gentleman's saint's books, why do you take it all to dreadfully serious? Has it affected your life?
Q: It has affected the life of many of us.
K: Oh yes, sir, look at the catastrophe that is going on in this country. This is so hopeless. And you have poverty, incredible poverty in this country, anarchy, disorder, your own lives are in disorder and you talk about some book. Those books haven't in the least affected your lives. You don't love anybody, do you? You do? If you loved somebody this country wouldn't be in chaos as it is, and in the world there would be no wars if we loved people. So your books, your rituals, have no meaning whatsoever because you have lost the most precious thing in life, you have never probably had it, to love without jealousy, without possession, possessing. Love is not attachment. If we all loved, all of us under this tent, if you all loved it would be a different India tomorrow.
Q: But last time you said...
K: Oh, please, sir, just listen. You people don't even listen, you are all so intellectual. No, sorry, I withdraw that word. You are all so verbal, you just use words. But to find out why your life is empty, shallow, why you have no love, why there is no compassion, why you are a Hindu and a Sikh and a Muslim, you never ask these questions. Sir, meditation is to ask these questions. Meditation is to find out the reality of these questions, the truth that lies behind these questions. Right, sirs.
The Flame of Attention
New Delhi 3rd Public Talk 6th November, 1982
Texts and talks of Jiddu Krishnamurti. Krishnamurti quotes. Books about
J Krishnamurti. Philosophy.