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The Impossible Question

Part 1, Public Talks Saanen 1970

Impossible Question Part I Chapter 2 2nd Public Talk Saanen 19th July 1970 'Freedom'

There are many things we have to talk over, but first, it seems to me, we have to consider very deeply what freedom is. Without understanding freedom, not only outwardly, but specially inwardly, deeply and seriously - not merely intellectually, but actually feeling it - whatever we talk about will have very little meaning.

The other day we were considering the nature of the mind. It is the serious mind that really lives and enjoys life - not the mind that is merely seeking entertainment, some particular gratification or fulfilment. Freedom implies the total abnegation and denial of all inward psychological authority. The younger generation thinks freedom is to spit in the face of the policeman, to do whatever it wants. But the denial of outward authority does not mean complete freedom from all inward, psychological authority. When we understand inward authority, the mind and heart are wholly and completely free; then we will be able to understand the action of freedom outwardly.

Freedom of action outwardly, depends entirely on a mind that is free from inward authority. This requires a great deal of patient enquiry and deliberation. It is a matter of primary importance; if it is understood, then we will approach other things which are involved in life and daily living with quite a different quality of mind.

According to the dictionary the meaning of the word `authority' is: `one who starts an original idea', `the author of something entirely new'. He sets up a pattern, a system based on his ideation; others follow it, finding some gratification in it. Or he starts a religious mode of life which others follow blindly, or intellectually. So patterns, or ways of life, of conduct are set up, politically or psychologically, outwardly and inwardly. The mind, which is generally very lazy and indolent, finds it easy to follow what somebody else has said. The follower accepts `authority' as a means to achieve what is promised by the particular system of philosophy or ideation; he clings to it, depends on it and thereby confirms the `authority'. A follower then, is a secondhand human being; and most people are completely secondhand. They may think they have some original ideas with regard to painting, writing and so on, but essentially, because they are conditioned to follow, to imitate, to conform, they have become secondhand, absurd human beings. That is one aspect of the destructive nature of authority.

As a human being, do you follow somebody psychologically? We are not talking of outward obedience, the following of the law - but inwardly, psychologically, do you follow? If you do, then you are essentially secondhand; you may do good works, you may lead a very good life, but it all has very little meaning.

There is also the authority of tradition. Tradition means: `to carry over from the past to the present' - the religious tradition, the family tradition, or the racial tradition. And there is the tradition of memory. One can see that to follow tradition at certain levels has value; at other levels it has no value at all. Good manners, politeness, consideration born out of the alertness of the mind that is watching, can gradually become tradition; the pattern having been set, the mind repeats it. One opens the door for someone, is punctual for meals, and so on. But it has become tradition and is no longer born out of alertness, sharpness and clearness.

The mind which has cultivated memory, functions from tradition like a computer - repeating things over and over again. It can never receive anything new, it can never listen to anything in a totally different way. Our brains are like tape recorders: certain memories have been cultivated through centuries and we keep on repeating them. Through the noise of that repetition one is unable to listen to something new. So one asks: `What am I to do?' `How am I to get rid of the old machinery, the old tape?'. The new can be heard only when the old tape becomes completely silent without any effort, when one is serious to listen, to find out, and can give one's attention.

So there is the authority of another on whom we are dependent, the authority of tradition, and the authority of past experience as memory, as knowledge. There is also the authority of the immediate experience, which is recognized from one's past accumulated knowledge; and being recognized, it is no longer something new. How can a mind, a brain, which is so conditioned by authority, imitation, conformity and adjustment, listen to anything completely new? How can one see the beauty of the day, when the mind and the heart and brain are so clouded by the past as authority. If one can actually perceive the fact that the mind is burdened by the past and conditioned by various forms of authority, that it is not free and therefore incapable of seeing completely, then the past is set aside without effort.

Freedom implies the complete cessation of all inward authority. From that quality of mind comes an outward freedom - something which is entirely different from the reaction of opposing or resisting. What we are saying is really quite simple and it is because of its very simplicity that you will miss it. The mind, the brain, is conditioned through authority through imitation and conformity - that is a fact. The mind that is actually free, has no inward authority whatsoever; it knows what it means to love and to meditate.

In understanding freedom one understands also what discipline is This may seem rather contradictory because we generally think freedom means freedom from all discipline. What is the quality of mind that is highly disciplined? Freedom cannot exist without discipline; which does not mean that you must first be disciplined and then you will have freedom. Freedom and disci- pline go together, they are not two separate things. So what does `discipline' mean? According to the dictionary, the meaning of the word `discipline' is `to learn' - not a mind that forces itself into a certain pattern of action according to an ideology or a belief. A mind that is capable of learning is entirely different from a mind which is capable only of conforming. A mind that is learning, that is observing, seeing actually `what is', is not interpreting `what is, according to its own desires, its own conditioning, its own particular pleasures.

Discipline does not mean suppression and control, nor is it adjustment to a pattern or an ideology; it means a mind that sees `what is' and learns from `what is'. Such a mind has to be extraordinarily alert, aware. In the ordinary sense, `to discipline oneself' implies that there is an entity that is disciplining itself according to something. There is a dualistic process: I say to myself, `I must get up early in the morning and not be lazy" or `I must not be angry'. That involves a dualistic process. There is the one who with his will tries to control what he should do, as opposed to what he actually does. In that state there is conflict.

The discipline laid down by parents, by society, by religious organizations means conformity. And there is revolt against conformity - the parent wanting one to do certain things, and the revolt against that, and so on. It is a life based on obedience and conformity; and there is the opposite of it, denying conformity and to do what one likes. So we are going to find out what the quality of the mind is that does not conform, does not imitate, follow and obey, yet has a quality in itself which is highly disciplined - `disciplined' in the sense of constantly learning.

Discipline is learning, not conforming. Conformity implies comparing myself with another, measuring myself as to what I am, or think I should be, against the hero, the saint, and so on. Where there is conformity there must be comparison - please see this. Find out whether you can live without comparison, which means, not to conform. We are conditioned from childhood to compare - `You must by like your brother, or your great-aunt; `You must by like the saint', or `Follow Mao'. We compare in our education, in schools there is the giving of marks and the passing of examinations. We do not know what it means to live without comparison and without competition, therefore non-aggressively, non-competitively, non-violently. Comparing yourself with another is a form of aggression and a form of violence. Violence is not only killing or hitting somebody, it is in this comparative spirit, `I must be like somebody else', or `I must perfect myself'. Self-improvement is the very antithesis of freedom and learning. Find out for yourself how to live a life without comparing, and you will see what an extraordinary thing happens. If you really &come aware, choicelessly, you will see what it means to live without comparison, never using the words `I will be'.

We are slaves to the verb `to be', which implies: `I will be somebody sometime in the future'. Comparison and conformity go together; they breed nothing but suppression, conflict and endless pain. So it is important to find a way of daily living in which there is no comparison. Do it, and you will see what an extraordinary thing it is; it frees you from so many burdens. The awareness of that brings about a quality of mind that is highly sensitive and therefore disciplined, constantly learning - not what it wants to learn, or what is pleasurable, gratifying to learn, but learning. So you become aware of inward conditioning resulting from authority, conformity to a pattern, to tradition, to propaganda, to what other people have said, and of your own accumulated experience and that of the race and the family. All of that has become the authority. Where there is authority, the mind can never be free to discover whatever there is to be discovered - something timeless, entirely new.

A mind that is sensitive is not limited by any set pattern; it is constantly moving, flowing like a river, and in that constant movement there is no suppression, no conformity, no desire to fulfil. It is very important to understand clearly, seriously and deeply, the nature of a mind that is free and therefore truly religious. A mind that is free sees that dependency on something - on people, on friends, on husband or wife, on ideation, authority and so on - breeds fear; there is the source of fear. If I depend on you for my comfort, as an escape from my own loneliness and ugliness, from shallowness and pettiness, then that dependence breeds fear. Dependence on any form of subjective imagination, fantasy, or knowledge, breeds fear and destroys freedom.

When you see what it all implies - how there is no freedom when there is dependence inwardly and therefore fear, and how it is only a confused and unclear mind that depends - you say: `How am I to be free from dependency?' Which is again another cause of conflict. Whereas, if you observe that a mind that depends must be confused, if you know the truth, that a mind that depends inwardly on any authority only creates confusion - if you see that, without asking how to be free of confusion - then you will cease to depend. Then your mind becomes extraordinarily sensitive and therefore capable of learning and it disciplines itself without any form of compulsion or conformity.

Is all this somewhat clear - not verbally but actually? I can imagine, or think that I see very clearly, but that clarity is very short-lived. The real quality of clear perception comes only when there is no dependency, and therefore not that confusion which arises when there is fear. Can you honestly, seriously, bring your. self to find out whether you are free from authority? It needs tremendous enquiry into yourself, great awareness. From that clarity comes a totally different kind of action, an action that is not fragmentary, that is not divided politically or religiously - it is a total action.

Questioner: From what you have said, it seems that an action which at one point can be thought to be a reaction to some outward authority, can be a total action at another point, by another individual. Krishnamurti: Intellectually, verbally, we can compete with each other, explain each other away, but that does not mean a thing; what to you may be a complete action may appear to me as incomplete action - that is not the point. The point is whether your mind, as that of a human being, acts completely. A human being of the world - you understand? - is not an individual. `Individual' means indivisible. An individual is one who is undivided in himself, who is non-fragmentary, who is whole, sane, healthy; also `whole' means holy. When you say `I am an individual', you are nothing of the kind. Live a life of no authority, of no comparison, and you will find out what an extraordinary thing it is; you have tremendous energy when you are not competing, not comparing and not suppressing; you are really alive, sane, whole and therefore sacred.

Questioner: What you are saying is not very clear to me. What can I do?

Krishnamurti: Either what is said is not very clear in itself or you may not understand English properly, or you are not sustaining attention all the time. It is very difficult to sustain attention for an hour and ten minutes; there are moments when you are not giving complete attention and then you say, `I have not quite understood what you are talking about'. Find out whether you are sustaining attention, listening, watching, or if you go wandering off, vagabonding. Which is it?

Questioner: Do you think it is possible to learn all the time?

Krishnamurti: When you ask that question of yourself, you have already made it difficult. By putting a question of that kind you are preventing yourself from learning - you see the point? I am not concerned with whether I am going to learn all the time, I'll find out. What I am concerned with is: am I learning? If I am learning, I am not concerned as to whether it is `all the time' - I don't make a problem of it. The question becomes irrelevant if I am learning. Questioner: You can learn from anything.

Krishnamurti: That is, if you are aware that you are learning. This is very complex: may I go into it a little?

`Can I learn all the time'? Which factor is important here? `Learning', or `all the time'? - obviously it is `learning'. When I am learning I am not concerned with `the rest of the time', the time interval and so on. I am only concerned with what I am learning. Naturally the mind wanders off, it Gets tired, it becomes inattentive. Being inattentive, it does all kinds of stupid things. So it is not a question of how to make the inattentive mind attentive. What is important is for the inattentive mind to become aware that it is inattentive. I am aware, watching everything, the movement of the trees, the flow of the water, and I am watching myself - not correcting, not saying this should be or this should not be - just watching. When the mind that is watching gets tired and becomes inattentive, suddenly it becomes aware of this, and tries to force itself to become attentive; so there is a conflict between inattention and attention. I say: do not do that, but become aware that you are inattentive - that is all.

Questioner: Could you describe how you are aware that you are inattentive?

Krishnamurti: I am learning about myself - not according to some psychologist or specialist - I am watching and I see something in myself; but I do not condemn it, I do not judge it, I do not push it aside - I just watch it. I see that I am proud - let us take that as an example. I do not say, `I must put it aside, how ugly to be proud' - but I just watch it. As I am watching I am learning. Watching means learning what pride involves, how it has come into being. I cannot watch it for more than five or six minutes - if one can, that is a great deal - the next moment I become inattentive. Having been attentive and knowing what inattention is, I struggle to make inattention attentive. Do not do that, but watch inattention, become aware that you are inattentive - that is all. Stop there. Do not say, `I must spend all my time being attentive', but just watch when you are inattentive. To go any further into this would be really quite complex. There is a quality of mind that is awake and watChing all the time, watching though there is nothing to learn. That means a mind that is extraordinarily quiet, extraordinarily silent. What has a silent, clear mind to learn?

Questioner: Could not communicating with words, with ideas, become a habit, a tradition?

Krishnamurti: They become a habit, a tradition, only when they become important as words. There must be verbal communication, which is to share whatever we are looking at together - like fear; that means you and the speaker are both at the same level, at the same time, with the same intensity, observing, co-operating, sharing. That brings about a non-verbal communion which is not habit.

Questioner: How is it possible for a total, whole, sane individual, who is not fragmented but indivisible, to love another? How can a whole human being love a fragmented human being? Further, how can a whole individual love another whole individual?

Krishnamurti: You cannot be whole if you do not know what love is. If you are whole - in the sense we are talking about - then there is no question of loving another. Have you ever watched a flower by the roadside. It exists, it lives in the sun, in the wind, in the beauty of light and colour, it does not say to you: `Come and smell me, enjoy me, look at me' - it lives and its very action of living is love.

19th July 1970

The Impossible Question

Part 1, Public Talks Saanen 1970

Impossible Question Part I Chapter 2 2nd Public Talk Saanen 19th July 1970 'Freedom'

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