INTRODUCTION TO KRISHNAMURTI
My only concern is to set men absolutely, unconditionally free
What is Consciousness?
So the problem is our consciousness. Our consciousness, which means the way you think, the way you live, the way you believe, the way you react, your behavior, all that is your consciousness, which is your life. That consciousness is you. The content of that consciousness makes consciousness…
This content has been put together through time; it isn’t one day’s acquirement. Our brain is the result of time, evolution. Our brain is not your brain and my brain, but the brain of mankind. This is difficult for you to see, and even recognize, because we have been so conditioned that it is my brain. And it is your brain. But if you observe, human beings right throughout the world go through enormous turmoil, poverty, anxiety, insecurity, confusion, psychologically wounded, fear, fear of being hurt, physically, fear of psychological hurts, fear of death, and the enquiry, what is there beyond…
That is the content of our consciousness. And as long as there’s that content, which is always divisive, which is always fragmented, our action must be fragmented. Right?
So the problem then is: is it possible for the content of that consciousness to be dissolved?
The Core of the teachings
The core of Krishnamurti’s teaching is contained in the statement he made in 1929 when he said, “Truth is a pathless land”. Man cannot come to it through any organization, through any creed, through any dogma, priest or ritual, not through any philosophical knowledge or psychological technique. He has to find it through the mirror of relationship, through the understanding of the contents of his own mind, through observation and not through intellectual analysis or introspective dissection.
Man has built in himself images as a fence of security—religious, political, personal. These manifest as symbols, ideas, beliefs. The burden of these images dominates man’s thinking, his relationships, and his daily life. These images are the causes of our problems for they divide man from man. His perception of life is shaped by the concepts already established in his mind. The content of his consciousness is his entire existence. The individuality is the name, the form and superficial culture he acquires from tradition and environment. The uniqueness of man does not lie in the superficial but in complete freedom from the content of his consciousness, which is common to all humanity. So he is not an individual.
Freedom is not a reaction; freedom is not choice. It is man’s pretence that because he has choice he is free. Freedom is pure observation without direction, without fear of punishment and reward. Freedom is without motive; freedom is not at the end of the evolution of man but lies in the first step of his existence. In observation one begins to discover the lack of freedom. Freedom is found in the choiceless awareness of our daily existence and activity.
Thought is time. Thought is born of experience and knowledge, which are inseparable from time and the past. Time is the psychological enemy of man. Our action is based on knowledge and therefore time, so man is always a slave to the past. Thought is ever limited and so we live in constant conflict and struggle. There is no psychological evolution. When man becomes aware of the movement of his own thoughts, he will see the division between the thinker and thought, the observer and the observed, the experiencer and the experience. He will discover that this division is an illusion. Then only is there pure observation which is insight without any shadow of the past or of time. This timeless insight brings about a deep, radical mutation in the mind.
Total negation is the essence of the positive. When there is negation of all those things that thought has brought about psychologically, only then is there love, which is compassion and intelligence.
Written by J. Krishnamurti
at the request of his biographer
The Outward Show
Why is it that we crave to be recognized, to be made much of, to be encouraged? Why is it that we are such snobs? Why is it that we cling to our exclusiveness of name, position, acquisition? Is anonymity degrading, and to be unknown despicable? Why do we pursue the famous, the popular? Why is it that we are not content to be ourselves? Are we frightened and ashamed of what we are, that name, position and acquisition become so all-important? It is curious how strong is the desire to be recognized, to be applauded. In the excitement of a battle, one does incredible things for which one is honoured; one becomes a hero for killing a fellow man. Through privilege, cleverness, or capacity and efficiency, one arrives somewhere near the top – though the top is never the top, for there is always more and more in the intoxication of success. The country or the business is yourself; on you depend the issues, you are the power. Organized religion offers position, prestige and honour; there too you are somebody, apart and important. Or again you become the disciple of a teacher, of a guru or Master, or you co-operate with them in their work. You are still important, you represent them, you share their responsibility, you have and others receive. Though in their name, you are still the means. You may put on a loincloth or the monk’s robe, but it is you who are making the gesture, it is you who are renouncing.
In one way or another, subtly or grossly, the self is nourished and sustained. Apart from its antisocial and harmful activities, why has the self to maintain itself? Though we are in turmoil and sorrow, with passing pleasures, why does the self cling to outer and inner gratifications, to pursuits that inevitably bring pain and misery? The thirst for positive activity as opposed to negation makes us strive to be; our striving makes us feel that we are alive, that there is a purpose to our life, that we shall progressively throw off the causes of conflict and sorrow. We feel that if our activity stopped, we would be nothing, we would be lost, life would have no meaning at all; so we keep going in conflict, in confusion, in antagonism. But we are also aware that there is something more, that there is an otherness which is above and beyond all this misery. Thus we are in constant battle within ourselves.
The greater the outward show, the greater the inward poverty.
Commentaries on Living, Series I
What is Krishnamurti saying?
If all of Krishnamurti’s talks and discussions were published they would require 400 average-sized books [some 70 volumes have been published]. This does not make his oeuvre easy to summarize, since it can be said to embody his view that human consciousness, when working well, is constantly unfolding, in a process of endless learning, never arriving at an end result, at any set of final conclusions. But to say what he thought of faith is a useful way into his account of consciousness. He sees both faith and belief as holding something to be true which is unsupported by fact, as lulling the mind into a false sense of security. We cling to such states from fear and from failure to understand and deal with what he called what is, to facts such as conflict and violence, whether personal or international. And once we have differing faiths and beliefs they themselves are an inevitable source of conflict.
Conflict and violence Krishnamurti sees as issues of basic concern to any serious human being. But in his view history shows there has been a repeated failure of education, science, politics and organized religion to end them. What is needed in our time therefore is to own up to that failure, to make a clean sweep of all these past, defective endeavors, and to adopt an entirely new approach. It is quite hard to imagine taking a more radical position than this. Put aside everything you have ever learned from others, ever read, and start your own inquiry into what life is about, what really matters. Stand on your own feet. Stop being a second-hand human being.
He proposes that this means looking at what is actually happening in life and in our consciousness—‘what is, not what should be’—without condemning or justifying, without resisting or wanting to change it, holding it instead ‘like a precious jewel.’ In so doing, he says, we are looking at human consciousness not just our own. This non-judgmental watching, free from all past-based thought and projection, is for him ‘pure observation’. If accompanied by a passion to find out, there will then be fresh understanding, he says, a ‘going beyond’ one’s previous state of consciousness.
A constant source of human confusion in Krishnamurti’s view is our rooted tendency to make images of ourselves, others, and of life and death that are put together by thought based on memory, on past experience or hearsay. Instead of looking afresh at what is new in the now, being open to the unknown and unpredictable, we ‘translate the present into the past.’ He sees such images are inevitably conflictual because they are time-bound and therefore partial and inadequate. Yet we frequently act as though we are programmed by them.
Krishnamurti maintains that we fail to make the most of our mind and of our life while subject to latent or manifest anger and fear. Also, our sense of self is usually experienced as inherently apart from another’s, whereas all human beings share far more psychologically than separates them. Not to see that is a huge error of perception, because our sense of shared humanity is lost. This feeling of psychological apartness breeds a fear of isolation that leads, among other things, to a spurious sense of safety in numbers, which is then, unfortunately and divisively, carried to excess in nationalism, political ideology, and religious faith. These provide a false cohesion held together by fear that there are those ‘outside’ who threaten us and are in some way not as fully human as we are.
Seeing the problems in our personal life and in the world with a mind free from the dictates of the past, from faith, belief, stereotyping, and fantasy, is to see that what goes wrong in the world outside reflects what goes wrong in one’s own mind. When there is insight into that, Krishnamurti says, there is a wholly different way of living, in which an awakened awareness of what causes human suffering also brings with it greater sensitivity to the beauty and immensity of life.
He cautions his audience, ‘You don’t have to believe all this—I am not an authority. But take a little time to look at this. Test it out.’
Who are you?
Is that an important question? Or would you say, ‘Who am I’ – not who you are, who am I? And if I tell you who I am, what does it matter. It would be out of curiosity, wouldn’t it? It is like reading a menu at the window, you have to go into the restaurant and eat food. But merely standing outside and reading the menu won’t satisfy your hunger. So, to tell you who I am is really quite meaningless.
First of all, I am nobody. That’s all. It is as simple as that. I am nobody. But what is important is: who you are, what are you? When they ask who you are, in that question is implied you are somebody very great therefore I am going to imitate you: the way you walk, the way you talk, the way you brush your teeth, or whatever it is. I am going to imitate you, which is part of our pattern, you understand? There is the hero, or the man who is enlightened, or the guru, and you say, ‘I am going to copy everything you do’ – which becomes so absurdly silly – childish to imitate somebody. And are we not the result of a lot of imitations? The religions have said – they don’t use the word ‘imitate’ – but give yourself over, surrender yourself, follow me, I am this, I am that, worship. All this is what you are. In school you imitate. Acquiring knowledge is a form of imitation and of course there is the fashion – short dress, long dress, long hair, short hair, beard, no beard – imitate, imitate, imitate. And also we imitate inwardly, so we all know that.
But to find out who you are, who you are, not who the speaker is, is far more important, and to find out who you are you have to enquire. You are the story of mankind. If you really see that it gives you tremendous vitality, energy, beauty, love, because it is no longer a small entity struggling in the corner of the earth. You are part of this whole humanity. It has a tremendous responsibility, vitality, beauty, love. But most of us won’t see this, as most of us are concerned with ourselves, with our particular little problem, particular little sorrow and so on. And to step out of that narrow circle seems almost impossible because we are so conditioned, so programmed, like the computers, that we cannot learn something new. The computer can but we can’t. See the tragedy of it. The machine that we have created, the computer, can learn much faster, infinitely more than I can, than the brain can, and the brain which has invented that, that has become ultra intelligent machine. Whereas our brain is sluggish, slow, dull because we have conformed, we have obeyed, we have followed, there is the guru, there is the priest, there is the ritual – you follow?
And when you do revolt, as the revolutionaries and the terrorists do, it is still very superficial – changing the pattern of politics, of so-called society. Society is merely the relationship between people, and we are talking of a revolution, not physical but the psychological revolution in which there is no, at the depth, conformity. You may put on trousers because you are in this country and in India it is different clothes, that is not conformity, that is nothing, childish. But inwardly, not a feeling of conformity. Conformity exists when there is comparison. For a mind to be totally free from comparison, that is to observe the whole history which is embedded in you.
Saanen 1981, Q&A #3
The right kind of education is concerned with individual freedom, which alone can bring true cooperation with the whole, with the many; but this freedom is not achieved through the pursuit of one’s own aggrandizement and success. Freedom comes with self-knowledge, when the mind goes above and beyond the hindrances it has created for itself through craving its own security.
It is the function of education to help each individual to discover all these psychological hindrances, and not merely impose upon him new patterns of conduct, new modes of thought. Such impositions will never awaken intelligence, creative understanding, but will only further condition the individual. Surely, this is what is happening throughout the world, and that is why our problems continue and multiply.
It is only when we begin to understand the deep significance of human life that there can be true education; but to understand, the mind must intelligently free itself from the desire for reward which breeds fear and conformity. If we regard our children as personal property, if to us they are the continuance of our petty selves and the fulfilment of our ambitions, then we shall build an environment, a social structure in which there is no love, but only the pursuit of self-centred advantages.