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Colombo 4th Public Talk 23rd January 1957
One of our greatest difficulties is that we do not like to be disturbed, especially when we are a people steeped in tradition, in the easy ways of life, and with a culture that has merely become repetitive. Perhaps you have noticed that we put up a great deal of resistance to anything that is new. We do not want to be disturbed; and if we are disturbed, we soon adjust ourselves to a new pattern and again settle down, only to be again shaken, disturbed and troubled. So we go on through life, always being driven from a pattern into which we have settled down. The mind objects most violently and defensively to any suggestion of a change from within. It is willing to be compelled by economic, scientific, or political forces to adjust itself to a new environment, but inwardly it remains the same. One can observe this process going on if one is at all aware of things about one and within oneself.
And religion, it seems to me, is the most disturbing state of mind. It is not something from which to get comfort, solace, an easy explanation of the sorrows, travails and tribulations of life; on the contrary, religion demands a mind that is extraordinarily alert, questioning, doubting, inquiring, that does not accept at all. The truth of religion is to be discovered individually, it can never be made universal. And yet, if you observe, you will see that religions throughout the world have become universal - universal in the sense that a large number of people follow them and adhere to their ideas, beliefs, dogmas, rituals; therefore they cease to be religion at all.
Religion, surely, is the search for truth on the part of each one of us, and not merely the acceptance of what has been said by another - it does not matter who it is, whether the Buddha, the Christ, or any other. They may point out certain things; but merely to repeat what has been said by them is so immature, it is merely verbal and without much significance. To discover the truth, that reality which is beyond the measure of thought, the mind must be disturbed, shaken out of its habits, its easy acceptance of a philosophy, system of thought. As the mind is made up of all our thoughts, feelings and activities, conscious as well as unconscious, it is our only instrument of inquiry, of search, of discovery, and to allow it to settle down and function in a groove seems to me a heinous crime. It is of the utmost importance that we should be disturbed - and we are being disturbed externally. The impact of the West on the East is a shock, a disturbing element. Outwardly, superficially, we are adjusting ourselves to it, and we think we are making progress inwardly; but if you observe you will see that inwardly we are not seeking at all.
Seeking has an extraordinary significance in the life of the individual. Most of us seek with a motive. When we seek with a motive, the motive dictates the end of the search; and when a motive dictates the end, is there a search at all? It seems to me that to seek the realization of what you already know or have formulated, is not search.
There is search only when you do not know, when there is no motive, no compulsion, no escape, and only then is there a possibility of discovering that which is truth, reality, God.
But most of us are seeking with a motive, are we not? If you observe your own way of life, your own manner of thinking and feeling, you will see that most of us are discontented with ourselves and our environment, and we want to direct this discontent along easy channels till we find contentment. A mind that is pursuing satisfaction, easily finds a way of overcoming discontent, and such a mind is obviously incapable of discovering what is truth. Discontent is the only force that makes you move, inquire, search. But the moment you canalize it and try to find contentment or fulfilment through any means, obviously you go to sleep.
That is exactly what is happening in religious matters. We are no longer on a journey, individually seeking what is truth. We are merely being driven by the collective, which means going to the temple, repeating certain phrases, explanations, and thinking that is religion. Surely religion is something entirely different. It is a state of mind in which the inquirer is not urged by any motive and has no centre from which to start his inquiry. Truth is not to be found through the motive of wanting contentment, peace, something superior in order to be satisfied. I think it is very important to understand this. We have made religion, have we not?, into something which gives us satisfaction, an explanation for our troubles, a solace for our sorrows, for the things that we are, and we easily fit into a satisfying groove of thought, thinking we have solved the problem. There is no individual inquiry on our part, but merely a repetition, a theoretical and not an actual understanding of what is.
To find out what is truth we must be free of the collective, which means we must be truly individual - which we are not. I do not know if you have observed how little individual you are. Being an individual is not a matter of character or habit. After all, character is the meeting of the past with the present, is it not? Your character is the result of the past in response to the present, and that response of the past is still the collective.
To put it differently, are you an individual at all? You have a name, a form, a family, you may have a separate house and a personal bank account; but are you inwardly an individual? Or are you merely the collective acting in a certain approved, respectable manner? Observe yourself and you will see that you are not at all an individual. You are a Sinhalese, a Buddhist, a Christian, an Englishman, an Indian, or a Communist, which means that you are the collective; and surely one must be free of the collective, consciously as well as unconsciously, in order to find out what is truth.
To free the mind from the repetitious urge of the collective requires very hard work, and only a mind thus free is capable of discovering what is truth. This actually does happen when you are vitally interested in something. You put aside all the imaginations, ideas and struggles of the past, and you push forward to inquire. But in religious matters you do not. There you are conservative, you are the collective, you think in terms of the mass, of what you have been told about nirvana, samadhi, moksha, heaven, or what you will. There is no individual endeavour to discover wholly for yourself. I think such individual endeavour is very important, especially in the present world crisis, because it is only this individual search that will release the creative and open the door to reality. As long as we are not real individuals, as long as we are merely the reaction of the past, as most of us are, life remains a series of repetitive responses without much significance. But if in our search we endeavour as individuals to find out what is truth, then a totally new energy, a totally different kind of creation comes into being.
I do not know if you have ever experimented with yourself by watching your own mind and seeing how it accumulates memory. From memory you act, from knowledge there is action. Knowledge is, after all, experience, and this experience dictates future experience. So you will find that experience does not liberate at all; on the contrary, experience strengthens the past. A mind that would liberate itself from the past must understand this whole process of accumulating knowledge through experience, which conditions the mind. The centre from which you think, the `me', the self, the ego, is a bundle of memories, and you are nothing else but that. You may think you are the Atman, the soul, but you are still cultivating memory, and that memory projects the coming experience, which further conditions the mind. So experience strengthens the `me', the self, which is in essence memory - `my house', `my qualities', `my character', `my race', `my knowledge', and the whole structure which is built around that centre. In seeking reality through experience, the mind only further conditions itself and does not liberate itself from that centre.
Now, is it possible for the mind not to accumulate knowledge around the centre; and so be capable of discovering truth from moment to moment? Because it is only the truth discovered from moment to moment that is really important, not the truth which you have already experienced and which, having become a memory, creates the urge to further experience.
There are two kinds of knowledge: there is the factual knowledge of how to build a bridge, all the scientific information that has accumulated through the centuries, and there is knowledge as psychological memory. These two forms of knowledge are not clearly defined. One operates through the other. But it is psychological memory of which the `me', the self is made up; and is it possible for the mind to be free of that memory? Is it possible for the mind not to think in terms of accumulation, in terms of gathering experience, but to move without that centre? Can we live in this world without the operation of the self, which is a bundle of psychological memories? You will find, if you really inquire into it deeply, that such a thing is possible, and then you can use factual knowledge without creating the havoc which is being created now. Then factual knowledge does not breed antagonism between man and man.
At present there is antagonism, there is hate, separation, anxiety, war, and all the rest of it, because psychologically you are using factual knowledge for self-aggrandizement, for a separative existence. One can see very well in the world that religions divide people - religions being idea, belief, dogma, ritual, not the feeling of love, of compassion. Such religions separate people, just as nationalism does. What is separating us, then, is not factual knowledge, but the knowledge upon which we depend psychologically for our emotional comfort, for our inward security.
So a mind that would find reality, God, or what name you will, must be free of this bundle of memories which is identified as the `me'. And it is really not so very difficult. This bundle is made up of ambition, greed, envy, the desire to be secure, and if one puts one's mind to the task and works hard, surely one can liberate the mind from this bundle. One can live in this world without ambition, without envy, without hate. We think it is impossible because we have never tried it. It is only the mind that is free from hate, from envy, from separative conclusions, beliefs - it is only such a mind that is capable of discovering that reality which is love, compassion.
Question: What is understanding? Is it awareness? Is it right thinking? If understanding does not come about through the functioning of the mind, then what is the function of the mind?
Krishnamurti: Sir, there are several things involved in this question. First of all, what is thinking? - not right thinking or wrong thinking. Surely, what we call thinking is the response of memory to any challenge. That is, when I ask you a question, you respond quickly if you are familiar with the answer, or hesitantly, with an interval of time, if you are not. The mind looks into the records of memory within itself, and having found the answer, replies to the question; or, not finding the answer in the records of memory, it says "I don't know".
So thinking is the response of memory, obviously; it is not a very complex thing. You think as a Buddhist, a Sinhalese, a Christian, or a Hindu, because your background is that of a particular culture, race, or religion. If you do not belong to any of these groups and you are a Communist, for example, again you respond according to that particular pattern. This process of response according to a certain background is what you call thinking. You have discovered, then, that there is no freedom in thinking, because your thinking is dictated by your background. Thinking as you know it now originates from knowledge, which is memory; it is mechanical because it is the response to challenge of a conditioned mind. There is creativeness, a perception of the new, only when there is no response of memory. In mathematics you may proceed step by step from the known to the known; but if you would go much further and discover something new, the known must for the time being be put in abeyance.
So the functioning of the mind is at present a mechanical response of memory, conscious as well as unconscious. The unconscious is a vast storehouse of accumulated tradition, of racial inheritance, and it is that background which responds to challenge. I think that is fairly obvious.
Now, is there right thinking and wrong thinking? Or is there only freedom from what we call thinking - from which follows right action? Do you understand, sirs? Being brought up in India, Europe, or America, I think in terms of my particular conditioning, according to the way I have been educated. My background tells me what to think, and it also tells me what is right thinking and what is wrong thinking. If I were brought up as a Communist, then for me right thinking would be that which is anti-religious and anti-clerical; according my Communistic background; any other manner of thinking would be a deviation, and therefore to be liquidated. And is a mind that responds according to its background, which it calls thinking, capable of right action? Or is there right action only when the mind is free from the conditioning whose response it calls thinking? Do you understand, sirs? I hope I am making myself clear.
Most of us do not even ask what is right thinking. We want to know what is right thought, because right thinking might be very disturbing, it might demand inquiry, and we do not want to inquire. We want to be told what is right thought, and we are told what is right thought by organized religions, by social morality, by philosophies, and by our own experience. We proceed along that line until we are no longer satisfied with the pattern of right thought, and then we ask "What is right thinking?" - which means that the mind is a little more active, a little more willing to inquire, to be disturbed. Thinking is fluid, whereas right thought implies a static state; and most of us function in static states.
Now, if we really want to inquire into what is right thinking, we must first find out, not what is right thinking, but what is thinking; and we have seen that what we call thinking is a process of response from the background, from that centre of accumulated memory which is identified as the `me' And I say, is there right thinking in that field at all? Or is there right thinking, right response, right action only when the mind is free from the background?
The questioner wants to know what is understanding. Surely, understanding is this whole process of uncovering the ways of the mind, which is what we have been doing just now. Understanding implies, does it not?, a state of mind that is really inquiring; and you cannot inquire if you start with a conclusion, an assumption, a wish.
Then what is the function of the mind? The mind now functions fragmentarily, in departments, in parts; it does not function as a totality because it is now the instrument of desire, and desire can never be total, whole. Desire is always fragmentary, contradictory. You can easily find out the truth of all this if you observe these things in yourself.
As we know it now, the mind is an instrument of sensation, of gratification of desire, and desire is always fragmentary, there can never be total desire. Such a mind, with all its self-contradictory desires, can never be integrated. You cannot put hate and love together; you cannot integrate envy and goodness; you cannot harmonize the opposites. That is what most of us are trying to do, but it is an impossibility. So what is the true function of the mind? Is it not to free itself from the contradictions of desire and be the instrument of an action which is not the mere response of memory?
I am afraid all this sounds rather difficult, but if you really observe yourself, you will find that it is not. I am only describing what actually takes place if you do not suppress, sublimate, or find a substitute for desire, but really understand it. You can understand desire only when there is no condemnation, no comparison. If I want to understand you, for example, I must not condemn, I must not justify, I must not compare you with somebody else; I must simply observe you. Similarly, if it would understand desire, the mind must watch itself without condemnation, without any sense of comparison, which only creates the conflict of duality.
So we see what understanding is. We see that there can be no right thinking, which is, right action, as long as the mind is conditioned. There is right action only when the mind is free from conditioning. It is not a matter of right thinking, and then right action. Thinking and action are separate only as long as desire functions as memory, as the pursuit of success; but when there is freedom from that bundle of memories which is identified as the `me', then there is action which is outside the social pattern. But that is much more complicated, and we shall leave it for the moment.
We see then, that the function of the mind is to understand and `it cannot understand if it condemns if it thinks segmentally, in parts. The mind will think in fragments, in compartments, as long as there is desire, whether it be the desire for God or for a car, because desire in itself is contradictory, and any one desire is always in opposition to other desires.
So there can be understanding only when the mind, through self-knowledge, discovers the ways of its own operation. And to discover the ways of the mind's operation there must be awareness, you must watch it as you would watch a child whom you love. You do not condemn or judge the child, you do not compare him with somebody else; you watch in order to understand him. Similarly, you must be aware of the operation of your own mind, see its subtleties, its recesses, its extraordinary depth. Then you will find, if you pursue it further, that the mind becomes astonishingly quiet, very still; and a still mind is capable of receiving that which is truth.
Question: According to the theory of karma, in which many of us believe, our actions and circumstances in this life are largely governed by what we did in our past lives. Do you deny that we are governed by our karma? What about our duties and responsibilities?
Krishnamurti: Sir, again, this is a very complex question and it needs thinking out to the very end.
It is not a matter of what you believe. You believe that you are the result of the past, that previous lives have conditioned your present circumstances; and there are others who do not believe in all that. They have been brought up to believe that we live only one life and are conditioned only by our present environment. So let us for the moment put aside what you believe or do not believe, and let us find out what we mean by karma, which is much more important; because if you really understand what karma is, then you will find it is not a thing which dictates your present action. We shall go into it and you will see.
Now, what do we mean by karma? The word itself, as you know, means to act, to do. You never act without a cause, or without a motive, or without I being compelled by circumstances. You act either under the influence of the past, of a thousand yesterdays, or because you are pushed in a particular direction by the pressure of immediate circumstances. That is, there is a cause and an effect. Please follow this a little bit. For example, you have come here to listen to me. The cause is that you want to listen; and the effect of listening you will find out, if you are really interested. But the point is, there is a cause and there is an effect.
Now, is the cause ever fixed, and the effect already determined? Do you understand, sirs? In the case of an acorn, a seed, there is a fixed cause and a fixed effect. An acorn can never become a palm tree, it will always produce an oak. We think in the same way about karma, do we not? Having done something yesterday, which is the cause, I think the effect of that action is predetermined, fixed. But is it? Is the cause fixed? And is the effect fixed? Does not the effect of a cause become in its turn the cause of still another effect. Do you understand? I do not want to take more examples, because examples do not really clarify the issue, but tend to confuse it. So we must think this out clearly without using examples.
We know that action has a cause I am ambitious, therefore I do something. There is a cause and there is an effect. Now, does not the effect become the cause of a future action? Surely there is never a fixed cause, nor a fixed effect. Each effect, undergoing innumerable influences and being transformed by them, becomes the cause of still another effect. So there is never a fixed cause and a fixed effect, but a chain of cause-effect-cause.
Sirs, this is so obvious. You did something yesterday which had its origin in a previous cause, and which will lead to certain consequences tomorrow; but in the meantime the consequences, being subject to innumerable pressures, influences, have undergone a change. You think that a given cause will produce a fixed effect; but the effect is never exactly the same, because something has happened between the two.
So there is a continuous chain of cause becoming effect, and effect becoming cause. If you think in terms of "I was that in the past, I am this today, and I shall be such-and-such in the next life", it is too immature, utterly silly, because that way of thinking is not fluid, it has no living, vital quality. That is decay, deterioration, death. But if you think about the matter deeply, it is really marvellous, because then you will see that this chain of cause-effect becoming another cause can be broken at any time, and that the mind can be free of karma. Through understanding the whole process of the mind which is conditioned by the past, you will see for yourself that the effect of the past in the present or in the future is never fixed, never absolute, final. To think that it is final is degradation, ignorance, darkness. Whereas, if you see the significance of cause-effect becoming again the cause, then because that whole process is for you a living, moving thing, you can break it at any time; therefore you can be free of the past. You no longer need be a Christian, a Buddhist, a Hindu, with all the conditioning that goes with it; you can immediately transform yourself.
Sirs, don't you know that with one stroke you can cut away envy? Haven't you ever tried to break antagonism on the spot? I know it is very comforting to sit back and say "Well, it is karma that has made me antagonistic to you". It gives a great sense of satisfaction to say that, the pleasure of continuing hate. But if you perceive the whole significance of karma, then you will see that the chain of cause-becoming-effect-becoming-cause can be snapped. Therefore the mind can be astonishingly and vitally free from the past in the immediate.
But that requires hard work; it requires a great deal of attention, a great deal of inquiry, penetration, self-knowledge. And most of us are indolent, we are so easily satisfied by a belief in karma. Good God! What does it matter whether you believe or not believe? It is what you are now that matters, not what you did in the past and the effects of that in the present. And what are you now? You should know that better than I do. What you are now is obviously the result of the past, the result of innumerble influences, compulsions, the result of food, climate, contact with the West, and so on. Under the pressure of all that, the mind becomes lazy, indolent, easily satisfied by words. Such a mind may talk about truth, God, it may believe in nirvana, and all the rest of it; but that belief has no value at all, any more than has the Communist, the of Catholic, or any other belief.
The mind can be transformed only hen it understands the whole process when it understands the whole process of itself, and the motives, the causations of that process. In that understanding there are immense possibilities for the mind, because it opens the door to an astonishing creativity, which is not the writing of a few poems, or the putting of some colours on a canvas, but that state which is reality, God, truth. And for that you need have no ideals. On the contrary, ideals prevent immediate understanding. We are fed on illusions, on things that have no value, and we easily succumb to authority, to religious as` well as political tyranny; and how can such a mind discover that which is eternal, that which is beyond the projections of itself? I say it is possible to break this continuity of karma, but only when you understand the operations of karma, which is not static, predetermined, but a living, moving thing; and in breaking itself away from the past, the mind will know what truth or God is.
January 23, 1957.