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The Urgency of Change

Questioner: You have talked a great deal about conditioning and have said that one must be free of this bondage, otherwise one remains imprisoned always. A statement of this kind seems so outrageous and unacceptable! Most of us are very deeply conditioned and we hear this statement and throw up our hands and run away from such extravagant expression, but I have taken you seriously - for, after all, you have more or less given your life to this kind of thing, not as a hobby but with deep seriousness - and therefore I should like to discuss it with you to see how far the human being can uncondition himself. Is it really possible, and if so, what does it mean? Is it possible for me, having lived in a world of habits, traditions and the acceptance of orthodox notions in so many matters - is it possible for me really to throw off this deep-rooted conditioning? What exactly do you mean by conditioning, and what do you mean by freedom from conditioning?

Krishnamurti: Let us take the first question first. We are conditioned - physically, nervously, mentally - by the climate we live in and the food we eat, by the culture in which we live, by the whole of our social, religious and economic environment, by our experience, by education and by family pressures and influences. All these are the factors which condition us. Our conscious and unconscious responses to all the challenges of our environment - intellectual, emotional, outward and inward - all these are the action of conditioning. Language is conditioning; all thought is the action, the response of conditioning.

Knowing that we are conditioned we invent a divine agency which we piously hope will get us out of this mechanical state. We either postulate its existence outside or inside ourselves - as the atman, the soul, the Kingdom of Heaven which is within, and who knows what else! To these beliefs we cling desperately, not seeing that they themselves are part of the conditioning factor which they are supposed to destroy or redeem. So not being able to uncondition ourselves in this world, and not even seeing that conditioning is the problem, we think that freedom is in Heaven, in Moksha, in Nirvana. In the Christian myth of original sin and in the whole eastern doctrine of Samsara, one sees that the factor of conditioning has been felt, though rather obscurely. If it had been clearly seen, naturally these doctrines and myths would not have arisen. Nowadays the psychologists also try to get to grips with this problem, and in doing so condition us still further. Thus the religious specialists have conditioned us, the social order has conditioned us, the family which is part of it has conditioned us. All this is the past which makes up the open as well as the hidden layers of the mind. En passant it is interesting to note that the so-called individual doesn't exist at all, for his mind draws on the common reservoir of conditioning which he shares with everybody else, so the division between the community and the individual is false: there is only conditioning. This conditioning is action in all relationships - to things, people and ideas.

Questioner: Then what am I to do to free myself from it all?

To live in this mechanical state is not living at all, and yet all action, all will, all judgements are conditioned - so there is apparently nothing I can do about conditioning which isn't conditioned! I am tied hand and foot.

Krishnamurti: The very factor of conditioning in the past, in the present and in the future, is the "me" which thinks in terms of time, the "me" which exerts itself; and now it exerts itself in the demand to be free; so the root of all conditioning is the thought which is the "me". The "me" is the very essence of the past, the "me" is time, the "me" is sorrow - the "me" endeavours to free itself from itself, the "me" makes efforts, struggles to achieve, to deny, to become. This struggle to become is time in which there is confusion and the greed for the more and the better. The "me" seeks security and not finding it transfers the search to heaven; the very "me" that identifies itself with something greater in which it hopes to lose itself - whether that be the nation, the ideal or some god - is the factor of conditioning.

Questioner: You have taken everything away from me. What am I without this "me"?

Krishnamurti: If there is no "me" you are unconditioned, which means you are nothing.

Questioner: Can the "me" end without the effort of the "me"?

Krishnamurti: The effort to become something is the response, the action, of conditioning.

Questioner: How can the action of the "me" stop?

Krishnamurti: It can stop only if you see this whole thing, the whole business of it. If you see it in action, which is in relationship, the seeing is the ending of the "me". Not only is this seeing an action which is not conditioned but also it acts upon conditioning.

Questioner: Do you mean to say that the brain - which is the result of vast evolution with its infinite conditioning - can free itself?

Krishnamurti: The brain is the result of time; it is conditioned to protect itself physically, but when it tries to protect itself psychologically then the "me" begins, and all our misery starts. It is this effort to protect itself psychologically that is the affirmation of the "me". The brain can learn, can acquire knowledge technologically, but when it acquires knowledge psychologically then that knowledge asserts itself in relationship as the "me" with its experiences, its will and its violence. This is what brings division, conflict and sorrow to relationship.

Questioner: Can this brain be still and only operate when it has to work technologically - only operate when knowledge is demanded in action, as for example in learning a language, driving a car or building a house?

Krishnamurti: The danger in this is the dividing of the brain into the psychological and the technological. This again becomes a contradiction, a conditioning, a theory. The real question is whether the brain, the whole of it, can be still, quiet, and respond efficiently only when it has to in technology or in living. So we are not concerned with the psychological or the technological; we ask only, can this whole mind be completely still and function only when it has to? We say it can and this is the understanding of what meditation is.

* * *

Questioner: If I may I should like to continue where we left off yesterday. You may remember that I asked two questions: I asked what is conditioning and what is freedom from conditioning, and you said let us take the first question first. We hadn't time to go into the second question, so I should like to ask today, what is the state of the mind that is free from all its conditioning? After talking with you yesterday it became very clear to me how deeply and strongly I am conditioned, and I saw - at least I think I saw - an opening, a crack in this structure of conditioning. I talked the matter over with a friend and in taking certain factual instances of conditioning I saw very clearly how deeply and venomously one's actions are affected by it. As you said at the end, meditation is the emptying of the mind of all conditioning so that there is no distortion or illusion. How s one to be free of all distortion, all illusion? What is illusion?

Krishnamurti: It is so easy to deceive oneself, so easy to convince oneself of anything at all. The feeling that one must be something is the beginning of deception, and, of course, this idealistic attitude leads to various forms of hypocrisy. What makes illusion? Well, one of the factors is this constant comparison between what is and what should be, or what might be, this measurement between the good and the bad - thought trying to improve itself, the memory of pleasure, trying to get more pleasure, and so on. It is this desire for more, this dissatisfaction, which makes one accept or have faith in something, and this must inevitably lead to every form of deception and illusion. It is desire and fear, hope and despair, that project the goal, the conclusion to be experienced. Therefore this experience has no reality. All so-called religious experiences follow this pattern. The very desire for enlightenment must also breed the acceptance of authority, and this is the opposite of enlightenment. Desire, dissatisfaction, fear, pleasure, wanting more, wanting to change, all of which is measurement - this is the way of illusion.

Questioner: Do you really have no illusion at all about anything?

Krishnamurti: I am not all the time measuring myself or others. This freedom from measurement comes about when you are really living with what is - neither wishing to change it nor judging it in terms of good and bad. Living with something is not the acceptance of it: it is there whether you accept it or not. Living with something is not identifying yourself with it either.

Questioner: Can we go back to the question of what this freedom is that one really wants? This desire for freedom expresses itself in everybody, sometimes in the stupidest ways, but I think one can say that in the human heart there is always this deep longing for freedom which is never realized; there is this incessant struggle to be free. I know I am not free; I am caught in so many wants. How am I to be free, and what does it mean to be really honestly free?

Krishnamurti: Perhaps this may help us to understand it: total negation is that freedom. To negate everything we consider to be positive, to negate the total social morality, to negate all inward acceptance of authority, to negate everything one has said or concluded about reality, to negate all tradition, all teaching, all knowledge except technological knowledge, to negate all experience, to negate all the drives which stem from remembered or forgotten pleasures, to negate all fulfilment, to negate all commitments to act in a particular way, to negate all ideas, all principles, all theories. Such negation is the most positive action, therefore it is freedom.

Questioner: If I chisel away at this, bit by bit, I shall go on for ever and that itself will be my bondage. Can it all wither away in a flash, can I negate the whole human deception, all the values and aspiration and standards, immediately? Is it really possible? Doesn't it require enormous capacity, which I lack, enormous understanding, to see all this in a flash and leave it exposed to the light, to that intelligence you have talked about? I wonder, sir, if you know what this entails. To ask me, an ordinary man with an ordinary education, to plunge into something which seems like an incredible nothingness.... Can I do it? I don't even know what it means to jump into it! It's like asking me to become all of a sudden the most beautiful, innocent, lovely human being. You see I am really frightened now, not the way I was frightened before, I am faced now with something which I know is true, and yet my utter incapacity to do it binds me. I see the beauty of this thing, to be really completely nothing, but....

Krishnamurti: You know, it is only when there is emptiness in oneself, not the emptiness of a shallow mind but the emptiness that comes with the total negation of everything one has been and should be and will be - it is only in this emptiness that there is creation; it is only in this emptiness that something new can take place. Fear is the thought of the unknown, so you are really frightened of leaving the known, the attachments, the satisfactions, the pleasurable memories, the continuity and security which give comfort. Thought is comparing this with what it thinks is emptiness. This imagination of emptiness is fear, so fear is thought. To come back to your question - can the mind negate everything it has known, the total content of its own conscious and unconscious self, which is the very essence of yourself? Can you negate yourself completely? If not, there is no freedom. Freedom is not freedom from something - that is only a reaction; freedom comes in total denial.

Questioner: But what is the good of having such freedom? You are asking me to die, aren't you?

Krishnamurti: Of course! I wonder how you are using the word "good" when you say what is the good of this freedom? Good in terms of what? The known? Freedom is the absolute good and its action is the beauty of everyday life. In this freedom alone there is living, and without it how can there be love? Everything exists and has its being in this freedom. It is everywhere and nowhere. It has no frontiers. Can you die now to everything you know and not wait for tomorrow to die? This freedom is eternity and ecstasy and love.