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Dialogue 10 - New Delhi - 28th December 1970 - ‘Dying and living’

Questioner P: There must be a way of learning how to die. To know how to die is of tremendous importance to each one of us.

Krishnamurti: How do the traditionalists and the professionals – and by the professionals I mean the gurus, the Sankaracharyas, the Adi Sankaracharyas, the yogis – how do they answer this question?

P: Tradition divides life into various stages. There is Brahmacharya, a stage of celibacy, when as a student, the boy learns from a guru. The second stage is that of Grihastha, where man gets married, has children, seeks accumulation of wealth and so on. He also supports the sannyasi and the children and thereby supports society. In the third stage, the Vanaprastha, man walks out of the pursuit of worldly things and faces the stage of preparation for the final one which is Sannyasa, in which there is a giving up of name-home identity – a symbolic donning of the saffron robe.

There is also a belief that at the moment of death, all man’s past comes into focus. If his karma as actions within this life have been good, then that which is the last thought which remains with him at the time of death, continues. That is carried over into the next life. They also speak of the essential need for the mind to be quiet at the time of death, for the quenching of karma, for the mind to be fully awake at the moment of death.

Krishnamurti: Will a traditional man go through all this or is it just a lot of words?

P: Generally, Sir, the orthodox Hindu has the Gita chanted at the time of death so that his mind cuts itself away from the immediacy of family, fear, wealth, etc. This does not answer my question. How is the individual to learn how to die?

Krishnamurti: Take a leaf in the spring – how delicate it is and yet it has extraordinary strength to stand the wind; in summer it matures and in autumn it turns yellow and then it dies. It is one of the most beautiful things to see. The whole thing is a movement of beauty, of the vulnerable. The leaf that is very very tender, becomes rich, takes shape, meets summer and then when autumn comes it turns gold. There is never any sense of ugliness, never a withering away in mid summer. It is a perpetual movement from beauty to beauty.

There is fullness in the spring leaf as well as in the dying leaf. I do not know if you see that.

Why cannot man live and die that way? What is the thing that is destroying him from the beginning till the end? Look at a boy of ten or twelve or thirteen – how full of laughter he is. By forty he becomes tough and hard, his whole manner and face change. He is caught in a pattern.

How does one learn to live and die, not just learn to die. How does one learn to live a life in which death is a part; in which the ending, the dying, is an innate part of living?

P: How is dying an innate part of life? Dying is something in the future, in time.

Krishnamurti: That is just it. We put death beyond the walls, beyond the movement of life. It is something to avoid, to evade, not to think about.

The question is what is living and what is dying. The two must be together, not separate. Why have we separated the two?

P: Because death is a totally different experience from life. One does not know death.

Krishnamurti: Is it? My question is why have we separated the two; why is there this vast gulf between the two? What is the reason why human beings divide the two?

P: Because in death, that which is manifest becomes non-manifest. Because both in birth and in death there is an essential mystery; an appearance and a disappearance.

Krishnamurti: Is that why we separate the two – the appearance of the child and the disappearance of the old man? Is that the reason why man has separated life from death? The organism biologically comes to an end – birth, adolescence and death – the young appearing and the old disappearing. Is that the reason? You are saying the reason for division is because there is a beginning and an ending; there is birth, childhood, maturity and death. Is that the basic reason for the fear of death? There is obviously a beginning and an ending. I was born, I will die tomorrow – there is a beginning and an ending. Why do I not accept that?

P: In death is involved the cessation of the “me” – of all that I have experienced. The final cessation of the “me” takes place.

Krishnamurti: Is that the reason for the inward division? That does not seem to be the entire reason why man has divided life from death.

P: Is it because of fear?

Krishnamurti: Is it fear that makes me divide the living and the dying? Do I know what living is and what dying is?

P: Yes.

Krishnami1rti: Do I know the joy, the pleasure, that is life and do I regard dying as the ending of that? Is that the reason why we divide a movement called living and the movement called death? The movement which we call living, is it living? Or is it merely a series of sorrows, pleasures, despairs? Is that what we call living?

P: Why do you give it special meaning?

Krishnamurti: Is there any other form of living? This is the lot of every human being. Man is afraid that this with which he had identified himself will come to an end. So he wants a continuity of this thing called life, never of ending. He wants a continuity of his sorrows, of his pleasures, miseries, confusions, conflicts. He wants the same thing to go on, that there never be an ending. And the ending of all that, he calls death. So now what is the mind doing in this? The mind is confused; it is in conflict, in despair. It is caught in pleasure, in sorrow. The mind calls that living and the mind does not want it to come to an end because it does not know what would happen if it ended. Therefore it is frightened of death.

I am asking myself, is this living? Living must have quite a different meaning than this.

P: Why? Why should it have a different meaning?

Krishnamurti: Living is fulfilment, frustration, and all that is going on. My mind is used to that and has never questioned whether that is living. My mind has never said to itself why do I call this living? Is it a habit?

P: I really do not understand your question.

Krishnamurti: After all I must ask the question.

P: Why should I ask?

Krishnamurti: My life, from the time I am born till I die is one eternal struggle.

P: Living is acting, seeing, being: the whole of that is there.

Krishnamurti: I see beauty, the sky, a lovely child. I also see conflict with my child, with my neighbours; life is a movement in conflict and pleasure.

P: Why should I question that? The mind questions only when there is sorrow, when there is a lot of pain.

Krishnamurti: Why not ask when you have pleasure? When there is no pleasure there is pain.

P: Sir, life is not a series of crises. Crises of pain are few. They are rare occasions.

Krishnamurti: But I see this is happening in life. I see it happening and therefore question this division of living and dying.

P: You do but others do not. We see there is a division; it is a fact to us.

Krishnamurti: At what level, at what depth, with what significance are you making this statement? Of course it is a fact. I am born and I will die. Then there is nothing more to be said.

P: It is not enough. The very fact we have asked how to learn to die........

Krishnamurti: I say learn also how to live.

P: And I have listened. I have not asked that question to myself.

Krishnamurti: Learn how to live. Then what happens? If I learn how to live, I also learn how to die. I want to learn how to live. I want to learn about sorrow, pleasure, pain, beauty. I learn. Because I am learning about life I am learning about death. Learning is an act of purification, not the acquiring of knowledge. Learning is purgation. I cannot learn if my mind is full. The mind must purgate itself to learn. Therefore the mind when it wants to learn has to empty itself of everything that it has known, then it can learn.

So there is the living which we all know. There has to be first of all a learning about this daily living. Now, is the mind capable of learning, not accumulating? Without understanding what is implied in the first act of learning, can it learn? What is implied? When I do not know, then my mind, not knowing, is capable of learning. Can the mind not know so that it can learn about living – living in which there is sorrow, agony, confusion, struggle? Can it come to it in a state of not knowing and so learn? Such a mind capable of learning about life is also capable of learning about death.

What is important is not the learning about something, but the act of learning. The mind can only learn when it does not know. We approach life with knowledge of life – with knowledge of cause, effect, karma. We come to life with the sense of the “I know”, with conclusions and formulas and with these we fill the mind. But I do not know about death. So I want to learn about death. But I cannot learn about death. It is only when I know learning that I will understand death. Death is the emptying of the mind, of the knowledge which I have accumulated.

P: There can be learning of living in the learning about death. Deep down in human consciousness there is this nameless fear of ceasing to be.

Krishnamurti: The nameless fear of not being. The being is the knowing that I am this, that I am happy, that I had a marvellous time. In the same way I want to know death. I do not want to learn, I want to know. I want to know what it means to die.

P: So that I am free of fear.

Krishnamurti: If I do not know how to drive a car, I am frightened. The moment I know, it is over. Therefore my knowing about death is in terms of the past. Knowledge is the past, so I say I must know what it means to die so that I can live. Do you see the game you are playing upon yourself, the game which the mind is playing upon itself?

The act of learning is something different from the act of knowing. You see, knowing is never in the active present. Learning is always in the active present. The learning about death – I really do not know what it means. There is no theory, no speculation that will satisfy me. I am going to find out, I am going to learn in which there is no theory, no conclusion, no hope, no speculation, but only the act of learning; therefore there is no fear of death.

To find out what it means to die, learn.

In the same way I really want to know what living is. So I must come to living with a fresh mind, without the burden of knowledge. The moment the mind acknowledges it knows absolutely nothing, it is free to learn. But there is noth- ing to learn. There is absolutely nothing to learn except the technological learning how to go to the moon. Freedom of learning about what – the thing that I have called living, the thing that I have called death. I do not know what it means. Therefore there is living and dying all the time. There is no death when the mind is completely free of the known – the known being the beliefs, the experiences, the conclusions, knowledge, the saying I have suffered and so on.

Intellectually we have carved life out beautifully according to our conditioning. To achieve God “I must be celibate”, “I must help the poor,” “I must take a vow of poverty.”

Death says you cannot touch me. But I want to touch death; I want to shape it into my pattern.

Death says you cannot touch me, you cannot play tricks upon me. The mind is used to tricks – the carving something out of experience.

Death says you cannot experience me.

Death is an original experience in the sense that it is a state I really do not know. I can invent formulas about death – the last thought is that which manifests itself – but they are other people’s thoughts. I really do not know. So I am starkly frightened. Therefore can I learn of living and therefore of dying?

So deny knowing – see what takes place. In that there is real beauty, real love, the real thing takes place.