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Think on These Things

Part 1

This Matter of Culture Chapter 21

ARE YOU INTERESTED in trying to find out what is learning? You go to school to learn, don't you? And what is learning? Have you ever thought about it? How do you learn, why do you learn, and what is it that you are learning? What is the meaning, the deeper significance of learning? You have to learn to read and write, to study various subjects, and also to acquire a technique, to prepare yourself for a profession by which to earn a livelihood. We mean all of that when we talk about learning - and then most of us stop there. As soon as we pass certain examinations and have a job, a profession, we seem to forget all about learning.

But is there an end to learning? We say that learning from books and learning from experience are two different things; and are they? From books we learn what other people have written about sciences, for example. Then we make our own experiments and continue to learn through those experiments. And we also learn through experience - at least that is what we say. But after all to fathom the extraordinary depths of life, to find out what God or truth is, there must be freedom; and, through experience, is there freedom to find out,to learn?

Have you thought about what experience is? It is the feeling in response to a challenge, is it not? To respond to a challenge is experience. And do you learn through experience? When you respond to a challenge, to a stimulus, your response is based on your conditioning, on the education you have received, on your cultural, religious, social and economic background. You respond to a challenge conditioned by your background as a Hindu, a Christian, a communist, or whatever you are. If you do not break away from your background, your response to any challenge only strengthens or modifies that background. Hence you are really never free to explore, to discover, to understand what is truth, what is God,

So, experience does not free the mind, and learning through experience is only a process of forming new patterns based on one's old conditioning. I think it is very important to understand this, because as we grow older we get more and more entrenched in our experience, hoping thereby to learn; but what we learn is dictated by the background, which means that through the experience by which we learn there is never freedom but only the modification of conditioning.

Now, what is learning? You begin by learning how to read and write, how to sit quietly, how to obey or not to obey; you learn the history of this or that country, you learn languages which are necessary for communication; you learn how to earn a livelihood, how to enrich the fields, and so on. But is there a state of learning in which the mind is free of the background, a state in which there is no search? Do you understand the question?

What we call learning is a continuous process of adjusting, resisting, subjugating; we learn either to avoid or to gain something. Now, is there a state in which the mind is not the instrument of learning but of being? Do you see the difference? As long as we are acquiring, getting, avoiding, the mind must learn, and in such learning there is always a great deal of tension, resistance. To learn you must concentrate, must you not? And what is concentration?

Have you ever noticed what happens when you concentrate on something? When you are required to study a book which you don`t want to study, or even if you do want to study, you have to resist and put aside other things. You resist the inclination to look out of the window, or to talk to somebody, in order to concentrate. So in concentration there is always effort, is there not? In concentration there is a motive, an incentive, an effort to learn in order to acquire something; and our life is a series of such efforts, a state of tension in which we are trying to learn. But if there is no tension at all, no acquiring, no laying up of knowledge, is not the mind then capable of learning much more deeply and swiftly? Then it becomes an instrument of inquiry to find out what is truth, what is beauty, what is God - which means, really, that it does not submit to any authority, whether it be the authority of knowledge or society, of religion, culture or conditioning.

You see, it is only when the mind is free from the burden of knowledge that it can find out what is true; and in the process of finding out, there is no accumulation, is there? The moment you begin to accumulate what you have experienced or learnt, it becomes an anchorage which holds your mind and prevents it from going further. In the process of inquiry the mind sheds from day to day what it has learnt so that it is always fresh, uncontaminated by yesterday's experience. Truth is living, it is not static, and the mind that would discover truth must also be living, not burdened with knowledge or experience. Then only is there that state in which truth can come into being.

All this may be difficult in the verbal sense, but the meaning is not difficult if you apply your mind to it. To inquire into the deeper things of life, the mind must be free; but the moment you learn and make that learning the basis of further inquiry, your mind is not free and you are no longer inquiring.

Questioner: Why do we so easily forget what we find difficult to learn?

Krishnamurti: Are you learning merely because circumstances force you to learn? After all, if you are studying physics and mathematics but you really want to become a lawyer, you soon forget the physics and mathematics. Do you really learn if you have an incentive to learn? If you want to pass certain examinations merely in order to find a job and get married, you may make an effort to concentrate, to learn; but once you pass the examinations you soon forget what you have learned, do you not? When learning is only a means to get somewhere, the moment you have got where you want to go, you forget the means - and surely that is not learning at all. So there may be the state of learning only when there is no motive no incentive when you do the thing for the love of itself.

Questioner: What is the significance of the word `progress`?

Krishnamurti: Like most people, you have ideals, have you not? And the ideal is not real, not factual; it is what should be, it is something in the future. Now, what I say is this; forget the ideal, and be aware of what you are. Do not pursue what should be, but understand what is. The understanding of what you actually are is far more important than the pursuit of what you should be. Why? Because in understanding what you are there begins a spontaneous process of transformation, whereas in becoming what you think you should be there is no change at all, but only a continuation of the same old thing in a different form. If the mind, seeing that it is stupid, tries to change its stupidity into intelligence, which is what should be, that is silly, it has no meaning, no reality; it is only the pursuit of a self-projection, a postponement of the understanding of what is. As long as the mind tries to change its stupidity into something else, it remains stupid. But if the mind says, "I realize that I am stupid and I want to understand what stupidity is, therefore I shall go into it, I shall observe how it comes into being", then that very process of inquiry brings about a fundamental transformation.

"What is the significance of the word `progress'?" Is there such a thing as progress? You see the bullock cart moving at two miles an hour, and that extraordinary thing called the jet plane travelling at 6oo or more miles per hour. That is progress, is it not? There is technological progress: better means of communication, better health and so on. But is there any other form of progress? Is there psychological progress in the sense of spiritual advancement through time? Is the idea of progress in spirituality really spiritual, or merely an invention of the mind?

You know, it is very important to ask fundamental questions; but unfortunately we find very easy answers to funda- mental questions. We think the easy answer is a solution, but it is not. We must ask a fundamental question and let that question operate, let it work in us to find out what is the truth of it.

Progress implies time, does it not? After all, it has taken us centuries to come from the bullock cart to the jet plane. Now, we think that we can find reality or God in the same way, through time. We are here, and we think of God as being over there, or somewhere far away, and to cover that distance, that intervening space, we say we need time. But God or reality is not fixed, and neither are we fixed; there is no fixed point from which to start and no fixed point towards which to move. For reasons of psychological security we cling to the idea that there is a fixed point in each of us, and that reality is also fixed; but this is an illusion, it is not true. The moment we want time in which to evolve or progress inwardly, spiritually, what we are doing is no longer spiritual, because truth is not of time. A mind which is caught up in time demands time to find reality. But reality is beyond time, it has no fixed point. The mind must be free of all its accumulations, conscious as well as unconscious, and only then is it capable of finding out what is truth, what is God.

Questioner: Why do birds fly away when I come near?

Krishnamurti: How nice it would be if the birds did not fly away when you came near! If you could touch them, be friendly with them, how lovely it would be! But you see, we human beings are cruel people. We kill the birds, torture them, we catch them in nets and put them in cages. Think of a lovely parrot in a cage! Every evening it calls to its mate and sees the other birds flying across the open sky. When we do all these things to the birds, do you think they will not be frightened when we come near them? But if you sit quietly in an isolated spot and are very still, really gentle, you will soon find that the birds come to you; they hover quite close and you can observe their alert movements, their delicate claws, the extraordinary strength and beauty of their feathers. But to do that you must have immense patience, which means you must have a great deal of love, and also there must be no fear. Animals seem to sense fear in us, and they in turn get frightened and run away. That is why it is very important to understand oneself.

You try sitting very still under a tree, but not just for two or three minutes, because the birds won't get used to you in so short a time. Go and sit quietly under the same tree every day, and you will soon begin to be aware that everything around you is living. You will see the blades of grass sparkling in the sunshine, the ceaseless activity of the little birds, the extraordinary sheen of a snake, or a kite flying high in the skies enjoying the breeze without a movement of its wings. But to see all this and to feel the joy of it you must have real quietness inside you.

Questioner: What is the difference between you and me?

Krishnamurti: Is there any fundamental difference between us? You may have a fair skin and I may be quite dark; you may be very clever and know a lot more than I; or I may live in a village while you travel all over the world, and so on. Obviously there are differences in form, in speech, in knowledge, in manners in tradition and culture; but whether we are Brahmins or non-Brahmins, whether we are Americans, Russians, Japanese, Chinese, or what you will, is there not a great similarity between us all? We are all afraid, we all want security, we all want to be loved, we all want to eat and to be happy. But you see, the superficial differences destroy our awareness of the fundamental similarity between us as human beings. To understand and to be free of that similarity brings about great love, great thoughtfulness. Unfortunately, most of us are caught up in, and therefore divided by, the superficial differences of race, of culture, of belief. Beliefs are a curse, they divide people and create antagonism. It is only by going beyond all beliefs, beyond all differences and similarities, that the mind can be free to find out what is true. Questioner: Why does the teacher get cross with me when I smoke?

Krishnamurti: Probably he has told you many times not to smoke because it is not very good for little boys; but you keep on smoking because you like the taste, so he gets cross with you. Now, what do you think? Do you think one should get used to smoking, or acquire any other habit, while one is so very young? If at your age your body gets accustomed to smoking, it means you are already a slave to something; and is that not a terrible thing? Smoking may be all right for older people, but even that is extremely doubtful. Unfortunately, they have their excuses for being slaves to various habits. But you who are very young, immature, adolescent, you who are still growing - why should you get used to anything, or fall into any habit, which only makes you insensitive? The moment the mind gets used to something it begins to function in the groove of habit, therefore it becomes dull, it is no longer vulnerable; it loses that sensibility which is necessary to find out what is God, what is beauty, what is love.

Questioner: Why do men hunt tigers?

Krishnamurti: Because they want to kill for the excitement of killing. We all do lots of thoughtless things - like tearing the wings from a fly to see what will happen. We gossip and say harsh things about others; we kill to eat; we kill for so-called peace; we kill for our country or for our ideas. So there is a great streak of cruelty in us, is there not? But if one can understand and put that aside, then it is great fun just to watch the tiger go by - as several of us did one evening near Bombay. A friend took us into the forest in his car to look for a tiger which somebody had seen nearby. We were returning and had just rounded a curve, when suddenly there was the tiger in the middle of the road. Yellow and black, sleek and lean, with a long tail, he was a lovely thing to watch, full of grace and power. We switched off the headlights and he came growling towards us, passing so close that he almost touched the car. It was a marvellous sight. If one can watch a thing like that without a gun it is much more fun, and there is great beauty in it.

Questioner: Why are we burdened with sorrow?

Krishnamurti: We accept sorrow as an inevitable part of life and we build philosophies around it; we justify sorrow, and we say that sorrow is necessary in order to find God. I say, on the contrary, there is sorrow because man is cruel to man. Also we don't understand a great many things in life which therefore bring sorrow - things like death, like not having a job, like seeing the poor in their misery. We don't understand all this, so we are tortured; and the more sensitive one is, the more one suffers. Instead of understanding these things, we justify sorrow; instead of revolting against this whole rotten system and breaking through it, we merely adjust ourselves to it. To be free of sorrow one must be free of the desire to do harm - and also of the desire to do `good', the so-called good that is equally the result of our conditioning.

Think on These Things

Part 1

This Matter of Culture Chapter 21

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