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The Impossible Question

Part 2, Public Dialogues Saanen 1970

Impossible Question Part II Chapter 6 7th Public Dialogue Saanen 8th August 1970

Krishnamurti: We'll go on where we left off yesterday when we were considering the nature and the structure of consciousness. One realizes that if there is to be a radical change in the human mind, and therefore in society, we have to consider this question. We have to delve deeply into it to find out whether there is a possibility of this consciousness undergoing a metamorphosis, a complete change in itself. Because one can see that all our actions, superficial or profound, serious or flippant, are the outcome of, or born out of this consciousness. And we were saying within this consciousness there are many fragments; each fragment assuming dominance at one time or another. If one does not understand the content of consciousness - and the possibility of going beyond it any action, however significant it may be, must produce confusion without the understanding of the fragmentary nature of our consciousness. I think this must be very clear. It's like giving a great deal of attention to one fragment, like the intellect, or a belief, or the body, and so on. These fragmentations, which compose our consciousness, from which all action takes place, must inevitably bring about contradiction and misery. Is this clear at least verbally? To say to oneself, all these fragments must be put together or integrated has no meaning, because then the problem arises of who is to integrate them, and the effort of integration. So there must be a way of looking at this whole fragmentation with a mind that is not fragmented. And that is what we are going to discuss this morning.

I realize that my mind, including the brain, all the physiological nervous responses, the whole of that consciousness is fragmentary, is broken up, conditioned by the culture in which one lives. That culture has been created by past generations and the coming generation. And any action, or the emphasis on one fragment over the others, will inevitably bring about immense confusion. Giving emphasis to social activity, to a religious belief, or intellectual concept, or Utopia, must inevitably be contradictory and therefore bring about confusion. Do we see this?

So one asks the question: is there an action which is not fragmentary and which does not contradict another action which is going to take place in the next minute?,

We see that thought plays an extraordinary part in this consciousness. Thought being not only the response of the past, but of all our feeling, all our neurological responses, the future hopes, fears, pleasures, sorrows - they are all in this. So does the content of consciousness make for the structure of consciousness? Or is consciousness free from its content?

If consciousness is made up of my despair, my anxiety, fears, pleasures, the innumerable hopes, guilts and the vast experience of the past, then any action springing from that consciousness can never free this consciousness from its limitations. Don't agree with this, it isn't just schoolboy stuff! Please share it with me which means work, observe it in yourself - and then we can proceed further. I'm just talking as an introduction.

My consciousness is the result of the culture in which I have lived. That culture has encouraged, and discouraged various activities, various pursuits of pleasure, fear, hopes and beliefs that consciousness is the `me'. Any action springing from that consciousness which is conditioned, must inevitably be fragmentary and therefore contradictory, confusing. If you are born in a Communist or a Socialist or a Catholic world, the culture in which that particular mind brain - is born, is conditioned by this culture, by the standards, the values, the aspirations of that society. And any action born from this consciousness must inevitably be fragmentary. Don't ask me any questions yet just watch yourself. First listen to what the speaker has to say, don't bring in your questions or your thoughts. Then after having listened very quietly, then you can begin to put questions, then you can say, `You're wrong, you're right', and so on. But if that questioning is going on in your mind, then you are not listening. Therefore our communication comes to an end, we are not sharing together, and as the thing into which we are enquiring is a very complex, subtle problem, you first have to listen.

We are trying to find out what is consciousness. Is it made up of the many things that it contains, or is it something free of its content? If it is free of its content, then the action of that freedom is not dictated by the content. If it is not free, then the content dictates all action; that is simple. Now we're going to learn about it.

I realize, watching in myself, that I am the result of the past, the present, the hopes of the future. The whole throbbing quality of consciousness is all this, with all its fragmentations. Any action born of this content must inevitably be not only fragmentary, but through that there is no freedom whatsoever.

So can this consciousness empty itself and find out if there is a consciousness which is free, from which a totally different kind of action takes place? Am I conveying to you what I am talking about?

All the content of consciousness is like a shallow, muddy little pool, and a little frog is making an awful noise in it. That little frog says: `I'm going to find out'. And that little frog is trying to go beyond itself. But it is still a frog in the muddy pool. Can this muddy pool empty all the content of itself? My little muddy pool is the culture in which I have lived and the little `me', the frog, is battling against the culture, saying `I must get out'. But even if it gets out, it is a little frog and whatever it gets out into, is still a little muddy pool which it will create. Please see this. The mind realizes that all the activity it indulges in, or is forced into, is the movement within the consciousness with its content. Realizing this, what is the mind to do? Can it ever go beyond this limited consciousness? That is one point.

The second point is: this little pool with the little frog may expand and widen. The space it creates is still within the borders of a certain dimension. That little frog - or better, that little monkey - can acquire a great deal of knowledge, information and experience. This knowledge and experience may give it a certain space to expand; but that space has always the little monkey at its centre.

So the space in consciousness is always limited by the centre. If you have a centre, the circumference of consciousness, or the frontier of consciousness, is always limited, however it may expand. The little monkey may meditate, may follow many systems, but that monkey will always remain; and therefore the space it will create for itself will always be limited and shallow. That is the second question-

The third is: what is space without a centre? We are going to find this out.

Questioner: Can this consciousness with its limitations go beyond itself?

Krishnamurti: Can the monkey with all its intentions and aspirations, with all its vitality, free itself from its conditioning and go beyond the frontiers of consciousness which it has created?

To put it differently, can the `me', which is the monkey, by doing all kinds of things meditating, suppressing, conforming, or not conforming being everlastingly active, can its movement take it beyond itself. That is, does the content of consciousness allow the `me' - and therefore the attempt on the part of the monkey - to free itself from the limitation of the pool? So my question is: can the monkey be completely quiet to see the extent of its own frontiers? And is it at all possible to go beyond them?

Questioner: At the centre there is always the monkey, so there is not empty space, no space for freedom.

Krishnamurti: Sir, do you notice for yourself that you are always acting from a centre? The centre may be a motive, the centre may be fear, may be ambition - you are always acting from a centre, aren't you? `I love you', `I hate you', `I want to be powerful' - all action as we know it, is from a centre. Whether that centre identifies with the community or with a philosophy, it is still the centre; the thing identified with becomes the centre. Are you aware of this action always going on, or are there moments when the centre is not active? It happens - suddenly you are looking, living, feeling without a centre. And that is a totally different dimension. Then thought begins to say, `What a marvellous thing that was, I'd like to continue with it?' Then that becomes the centre. The remembrance of something which happened a few seconds ago becomes the centre through thought. Are we aware of the space that centre creates round itself? - the isolation, resistance, escapes. As long as there is a centre, there is the space which the centre has created and we want to expand this space, because we feel the expansion of space is necessary to live extensively. But in that expansive consciousness there is always the centre, therefore the space is always limited, however expanded. Observe it in yourself, don't listen to me, watch it in yourself, you will discover these things very simply. And the battle in relationship is between two centres: each centre wanting to expand, assert, dominate - the monkeys at work!

So I want to learn about this. The mind says, `I see that very clearly; the mind is learning. How does that centre come into being? Is it the result of the society, the culture, or is it a divine centre - forgive me for using that word `divine' - which has always been covered up by society, by the culture? The Hindus and others call it the Atman, the Great Thing inside which is always being smothered. Therefore you have to free the mind from being smothered, so that the real thing, the real monkey can come out.

Obviously the centre is created by the culture one lives in, by one's own conditioned memories and experiences, by the fragmentation of oneself. So it is not only the society which creates the centre, but also the centre is propelling itself. Can this centre go beyond the frontiers which it has created? By silencing itself, by controlling itself, by meditating, by following someone, can that centre explode and go beyond? Obviously it can't. The more it conforms to the pattern, the stronger it gets, though it imagines that it is becoming free. Enlightenment, surely, is that state, that quality of mind in which the monkey never operates. How is the monkey to end these activities? Not through imitation, not through conformity, not through saying, `Somebody has attained enlightenment, I'll go and learn from him' - all those are monkey tricks.

Does the monkey see the tricks it plays upon itself by saying, `I'm ready to help, to alter society, I am concerned with social values and righteous behaviour and social justice'. You answer this, Sir! Don't you think it is a trick that it plays upon itself? It is so clear, there is no question about it. If you're not sure, Sir, please let's discuss, let's talk it over.

Questioner: You talk sometimes as if helping society, doing social service, was something done for somebody else. But I have the feeling that I'm not different from society, so working in social service is working for myself; it's the same thing, I don't make a distinction.

Krishnamurti: But if you don't make the distinction - I'm not being personal, Sir - I'm asking, does the centre remain?

Questioner: It should not.

Krishnamurti: Not `should not'. Then we enter into quite a different field `should, should not, must, must not' - then it becomes theoretical. The actual fact is, though I recognise that `me' and society are one, is the centre, the `me', the monkey, still operating?

My question is: I see that as long as there is any movement on the part of the monkey, that movement must lead to some kind of fragmentation, illusion and chaos. To put it much more simply: that centre is the self, it is the selfishness that is always operating; whether I am godly, whether I am concerned with society and say, `I am society' is that centre operating? If it is, then it is meaningless.

The next question is: how is that centre to fade away? Through determination, through will, through practice, through various forms of neurotic compulsion, dedication, identification? All such movement is still part of the monkey, therefore, consciousness is within the reach of the monkey and the space within that consciousness is still within arm's length of the monkey. Therefore there is no freedom.

So the mind says, `I see this very clearly' `seeing' in the sense of a perception, like seeing the microphone, without any condemnation, just seeing it. Then what takes place? To see, to listen to anything, there must be complete attention, mustn't there? If I want to understand what you are saying, I must give all my attention to it. In that attention is the monkey operative? Please find out.

I want to listen to you. You are saying something important, or unimportant, and to find out what you are saying, I must give my attention, which means my mind, my heart, my body, my nerves, everything must be in harmony to attend. The mind is not separate from the body, the heart is not separate from the mind and so on; it must be a complete harmonious whole that is attentive. That is attention. Does the mind attend with such complete attention to the activity of the monkey? - not condemning it, not saying `This is right or wrong', just watching the tricks of the monkey. In this watching there is no analysis. This is really important Sirs, put your teeth into it! The moment it analyses one of the fragments, the monkey is in operation. So does the mind watch in this way, with such complete attention to all the movements of the monkey? What takes place when there is such complete attention? Are you doing it?

Do you know what it means to attend? When you are listening completely to that rain there is no resistance against it, there is no impatience. Now when you are so listening, is there a centre with the monkey operating? Find out, Sir, don't wait for me to tell you - find out! Are you listening to the speaker with complete attention? Which means, not interpreting what he is saying, not agreeing or disagreeing, not comparing or translating what he is saying to suit your own particular mind; when any such activity takes place there is no attention. To attend completely means the mind is completely still to listen. Are you doing that? Are you listening to the speaker now with that attention? If you are, is there a centre there?

Questioner: We are passive.

Krishnamurti: I don't care whether you are passive or active. I said, Sir, are you listening? Listening means being attentive. And in that attention is the monkey working? Don't say yes or no - find out, learn about it. And what is the quality of that attention in which there is no centre, in which the monkey isn't playing tricks?

Questioner: Is it thoughtless?

Krishnamurti: I don't know, Sir, don't put it into words like `thoughtless', `empty'. Find out, learn, which means sustained attention - not a fleeting attention - to find out the quality of the mind that is so completely attentive.

Questioner: The moment you say the mind is not there, it is there.

Krishnamurti: No, Sir - when you say it is not there to communicate through words, then the memory is there. But I am asking: when you are so completely attentive, is there a centre? Sir, surely this is simple!

When you are watching something that is really amusing and makes you laugh, is there a centre? If there is something that interests you, and if you are not taking sides and are just watching, in that watching is there a centre, which is the monkey? If there is no centre, then the question is, can this attention flow, move - not just one moment and then become inattentive - but flow naturally, easily, without effort? Effort implies the monkey coming into being. Do you follow all this?

The monkey has to come in if there is some functional work to be done. But does that operation on the part of the monkey spring from attention, or is that monkey separate from attention? Going to the office and working in the office, is that a movement of attention, or is it the movement of the monkey which has taken over, the monkey who says, `I must be better than the others, I must make more money, I must work harder, I must compete, I must become the manager' - whatever it is. Go into it, Sir. Which is it in your life? A movement of attention, and therefore much more efficient, much more alive; or is the monkey taking over? Answer it Sir, for yourself. If the monkey takes over and makes some kind of mischief - and monkeys do make mischief - can that mischief be wiped away and not leave a mark? Go on, Sirs, you don't see the beauty of all this!

Yesterday somebody said something to me which was not true. Did the monkey come into operation and want to say, `You're a liar'? Or was it the movement of that attention in which the monkey is not operating? - then that statement which is not true doesn't leave a mark. When the monkey responds, then it leaves a mark. So I am asking: can this attention flow? Not, `how can I have continuous attention', because then it is the monkey who is asking. But when there is a movement of attention all the time, the mind just moves with it.

You must answer this; it is really an extraordinarily important question. We only know the movement of the monkey and only occasionally do we have this attention in which the monkey doesn't appear at all. Then the monkey says, `I want that attention; then it goes to Japan to meditate, or to India to sit at someone's feet, and so on.

We are asking: is this movement of attention totally unrelated to consciousness as we know it? Obviously it is. Can this attention, as a movement, flow as all movements must flow? And when the monkey becomes active, can the monkey itself become aware that it is active and so not interfere with the flow of attention?

Somebody insulted me yesterday and the monkey was awake to reply; and because it has become aware of itself and all the implications of the monkey tricks, it subsides and lets the attention flow. Not, `how to maintain the flow' - this is really important - the moment you say `I must maintain it', that is the activity of the monkey. So the monkey knows when it is active and the sensitivity of its awareness immediately makes it quiet.

Questioner: In this movement of attention there is no self interest, therefore there is no resistance, no waste of energy.

Krishnamurti: Sir, attention means the height of energy, doesn't it? In attention all the energy is there, not fragmented. The moment it is fragmented and action takes place, then the monkey is at work. And when the monkey, which is also learning, has become sensitive, has become aware, it realizes the waste of energy and therefore, naturally, becomes quiet. It i s not `the monkey' and `attention' it is not a division between the monkey and attention. If there is a division the attention then becomes the `higher self' you know all the tricks the monkeys have invented - but attention is a total movement, It is a total action, not opposed to attention. Unfortunately the monkey also has its own life and wakes up.

Now, when there is no centre, when there is the complete apogee of attention, will you tell me what there is? What has happened to the mind that is so highly attentive, with not a breath of energy wasted. What takes place? Come on Sirs - I am talking all the time!

Questioner: There is total silence. There is no self-identification...

Krishnamurti: No monkey tricks! What has happened? Not only to the intellect, to the brain, but to the body. I have talked but you don't learn! If the speaker doesn't come any more, if he dies, what is going to happen? How are you going to learn? Will you learn from some yogi? No, Sir, therefore learn now! What has happened to a mind that has become highly attentive, in which all the energy is there what has happened to the quality of the intellect?

Questioner: It sees.

Krishnamurti: No, you don't know! Please don't guess.

Questioner: It is totally quiet.

Krishnamurti: Look, Sir the brain which has been operating, working, which has invented the monkey - doesn't that brain become extraordinarily sensitive? If you don't know, please don't guess. And there is your body when you have got such tremendous energy, unspoiled, unwasted, what has happened to the whole organism, to the whole structure of the human being? That is what I am asking.

Questioner: It wakes up and it becomes alive, it learns...

Krishnamurti: No. Sir, it has to become alive to learn, otherwise you can't learn. If you're asleep and say, `I believe in my prejudice, I like my prejudice, my conditioning is marvellous, - -then you're asleep, you are not awake. But the moment you question, begin to learn, you are beginning to be alive. That is not my question. What has happened to the body, to the brain?

Questioner: There is complete interaction, there is no division, but total awareness.

Krishnamurti: Sir, if you are not wasting energy fiddling, what has happened to the machinery of the brain, which is purely a mechanical thing?

Questioner: It is alive.

Krishnamurti: Please, sir - do watch yourself. Pay attention to something so completely, with your heart, with your body, with your mind, with everything in you, with every particle, every cell and see what takes place.

Questioner: At that time you don't exist.

Krishnamurti: Yes, Sir. But what has happened to the brain, not to you? I agree the centre doesn't exist, but the body is there, the brain is there what has happened to the brain? Questioner: It rests, it regenerates.

Krishnamurti: What is the function of the brain?

Questioner: Order.

Krishnamurti: Don't repeat after me, for God's sake!

What is the brain? it has evolved in time, it is the storehouse of memory, it is matter, it is highly active, recognising, protecting, resisting, thinking, not thinking, frightened, seeking security and yet being uncertain, it is that brain with all its memories - not just yesterday's memories, but centuries of memories, the racial memories, the family memory, the tradition - that whole content is there. Now what has happened to that brain when there is this extraordinary attention?

Questioner: It is new...

Krishnamurti: I don t want to be rude, but is your brain new? Or is it just a word you are saying? Please, what has happened to this brain that has become so mechanical; don't say it has become non-mechanical. The brain is purely mechanical, responding according to its conditioning, background, fears, pleasure and so on. What has happened to this mechanical brain when there is no wastage of energy at all?

Questioner: It is getting creative...

Krishnamurti: We'll leave it till tomorrow.

8th August 1970.

The Impossible Question

Part 2, Public Dialogues Saanen 1970

Impossible Question Part II Chapter 6 7th Public Dialogue Saanen 8th August 1970

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