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Dialogue 17 - Madras - 11th January 1971 - ‘Object, knowledge and perception’
Dialogue 17 - Madras - 11th January 1971 - ‘Object, knowledge and perception’
Questioner A: I think we should go into the question of perception of beauty. You said the other day that the tradition had ignored the field of beauty. We need to explore into this.
Krishnamurti: So what is the question? What is beauty? You mean perception and then beauty? Surely it is not perception and beauty, but perception. What would be the traditional approach to this?
R: One source of tradition maintains that beauty is the sense of happiness which comes when there is the ending of desire or thirst for experience.
Krishnamurti: Is this a theory or a reality?
R: The writer expressed what he felt; after all, he wrote a long time ago and only fragments of his writings remain.
A: Kalidasa says that the experience of beauty is new every moment.
R: Both in India and Greece there was this feeling that ultimate perceptions are perceptions of beauty, truth and goodness.
Krishnamurti: Are we discussing beauty or perception? We will discuss perception. What is the traditional approach to perception?
R: They talk about it at length and there are many contradictory viewpoints.
A: Perception is ‘pratyaksham’, perception is seeing the self-nature of things, the essential quality of things.
Krishnamurti: Seeing the essence of something is perception, is that it? I am talking not of what you see but the act of seeing. Do they talk about the act of seeing and not what is seen?
R: They talk of what is valid knowledge and what is not valid knowledge.
Krishnamurti: Seeing is one thing and seeing something is another. Which is it they are talking about? Seeing per se or seeing something, which is it?
A: I think seeing. They are concerned with the constant danger of seeing wrongly.
Krishnamurti: No. We are not talking of seeing rightly or wrongly, but what is perception; not what you see – the chair, the rope, the snake,
A: Is there a difference between seeing and knowing?
Krishnamurti: Seeing, knowing and seeing the object; seeing through knowledge the object, the image, the symbol; and seeing – these are entirely different.
What do they say about seeing?
R: They do not discuss it this way.
Krishnamurti: Like hunger is in itself: it is not related to food. You have food because you are hungry, but the nature of hunger is hunger. What is seeing, perceiving to you? Not seeing the object, but the quality of the mind that perceives? Seeing the object with the eyes is one thing, seeing with knowledge is another. I am talking about seeing in itself. Is there a seeing without knowledge, without the object? I see that cupboard. Seeing that is with word and knowledge, the word being associated with the cupboard. Is there a seeing without the image, without the object? Seeing the object through knowledge, through image, symbol, the word, the intellect; and seeing without knowledge and image, a seeing without object.
A: What is seeing without object? One can see without knowledge. As you say, there is a cupboard without the image but still we know it is a cupboard, which means it is an object.
Krishnamurti: There is the little bush, and whether I see it or not, it will grow into a tree. It is independent of my seeing. I can call it mango and, therefore, associate it with the species mango, and the mango will grow even if I do not see it.
R: The existence of it has nothing to do with seeing......
A: The object exists without our seeing, but such a perception may exist without the object.
Krishnamurti: That tree continues to exist.
A: In the Buddhist meditation they have referred to sky when they ta1k about perception without object. The sky is an object and yet not an object.
Krishnamurti: The dictionary meaning of the word “perception” is to become aware of, to apprehend. That is, you see the cupboard, you have a preconception of it; that is not perception. Is there seeing without preconception? Only the mind that has no conclusion, such a mind can see. The other cannot. If I have previous knowledge of that cupboard, the mind identifies it as cupboard. To look at that cupboard without the previous accumulation of prejudices or hurts, is to look. If I have previous hurts, memories, pain, pleasure, displeasure, I have not looked.
Is there a looking without object, without the knowledge of the object? Of course, there is. Can you look at that tree, without the knowledge of the bush, the image, the symbol, and all the rest of it? Just look.
Someone came to see me. He was a movie director. He had taken LSD, and they had tape recorded it. He was sitting back in a chair and waited for the effect. Nothing happened. He waited and moved his position a little. Immediately the space between him and the object disappeared. The observer before had space between himself and the thing he observed, which happened to be a flower. The moment space disappeared, it was not the flower, it was something extraordinary. That was an effect of the drug. But here it is different.
The space between the observer and observed is not; the observer is the holder of the knowledge and it is knowledge that recognizes the cupboard. It is the observer who sees the cupboard.
First see what happens. The observer with his knowledge recognizes the cupboard. Recognition implies previous knowledge. So the observer is knowledge as the past. Now we are asking, is there perception without the observer, that is knowledge, which is the past? Perception for itself, not for or about something.
R: If the knowledge of the past is not there, the observer is not there. If the observer is not there, knowledge of the past is not there.
Krishnamurti: Therefore, it is possib1e to see without the observer. I am saying “possible”. The possibility becomes a theory, therefore we should not deal with theories but see that the observer is the residue of the past. So the observer cannot possibly see. He can see only through the screen of the past. There fore, his seeing is partial. If there is to be perception, the observer must not be there. Is that possible?
R: What happens to an artist? He perceives obviously with a perception which is not the ordinary perception which we have.
Krishnamurti: Now wait a minute. Is perception intellectual?
R: No, the intellect is the past.
Krishnamurti: Therefore, it is not the seeing of an artist or the non-artist, but the seeing without the past. That is really the problem. The artist may see for a moment without the past but he translates it.
R.: It is a momentary perception.
Krishnamurti: Is there an act of perception, without the observer? Act means immediate action, not a continuous action? And the word itself, “act”, means doing, not having done or will do.
So, perception is an action, not in terms of knowledge; not the action of the actor with his knowledge. So the professionals are not concerned with action, are they? They are concerned with knowledge and action. Is that right?
R: I do not know. There are some texts in which they have said that the perception of beauty is that moment when time, name, form and space do not exist.
Krishnamurti: We are not talking of beauty. Perception implies action. I know what action is when the observer acts. The observer, having learnt a particular language or technology, having acquired knowledge, acts.
A: Does perception mean direct contact between organ and object, between the sense-organ and object?
R: Traditionalists talk about mediate and immediate perception. Mediate perception is through the instrument, through a medium, whereas immediate perception does not require the sense-organ with which to see. Perhaps immediate perception is nearer to what you are talking about.
Krishnamurti: You see the perception of knowledge and action, is action from the past. That is one thing. Perception, action is another.
A: Perception itself is action, so there is no time.
Krishnamurti: The time interval comes to an end between action and knowledge, knowledge as the observer. That knowledge and action is time-binding and the other is not. So this is clear.
Then what is beauty in relation to perception?
R: It is the ending of the desire for experience. This is what the traditionalists.
Krishnamurti: The seeing of goodness, beauty, love, truth, put all that aside.
Now what is beauty? What is necessary for the perceiving of beauty?
R: It is not mere perception, because perception can be of everything, even of that which is not beautiful.
Krishnamurti: Do not bring in the ugly. Perception is acting, perceiving is acting – leave that. We are talking of beauty. You have said what the professionals have said. Now, what is beauty? Let us forget what others have said. I want to find out what is beauty. We say that building is beautiful, that poem is beautiful, that woman is beautiful. The feeling of a certain quality is beauty – the expression becoming the means of recognition of beauty. I see a building, and say how marvellous. So through the object we recognize beauty.
There are various expressions of beauty. Through the object we say that is beautiful. Through the object, we recognize what beauty is. Now put that aside. Beauty is not expression. Beauty is not the object. What is beauty then? Is it in the beholder? The beholder is the observer. The observer with his past knowledge recognizes something to be beautiful, because his culture has told him it is beautiful, his culture has conditioned him.
A: The woman who gives pleasure is beautiful, and when she does not give pleasure, she is no longer beautiful.
Krishnamurti: I discard expression, I discard the object created and I discard the perceiver seeing beauty in the object. I discard all these. Then what is the quality of the mind that has discarded them? I have discarded everything that man has said about beauty because I see it is not in anything that has been said. What has happened to the mind which has discarded thought, thought which has created the object? What is the quality of the mind which has discarded all the structures put together by man who has said this is beautiful, this is not beautiful:
Obviously the mind is very sensitive, because it was carrying a burden before and now it is lighter. Therefore, it is sensitive, alert, awake.
R: You said you have discarded the object and the thought which has created the object.
A: Thought is knowledge.
Krishnamurti: Thought is knowledge, which has accumulated through knowledge, through culture which says beauty is this. Thought is the response of memory which has created the object. I have discarded all that, the idea of beauty as truth, goodness, love. Perception of that is action and the action is the putting away, not “I am putting away”, but the putting away. So the mind is now free. Freedom implies not freedom from something, but freedom. It is highly sensitive. Then what takes place? The mind is free, highly sensitive, is no longer burdened by the past; which means in that mind there is no observer at all; which means there is no “me” observing, because the “me” observing is a very, very limited affair. The “me”, the past, is the observer, the “me” is the past. See what we have done. There is object, knowledge and perception; through knowledge we recognize the object; and we are asking the question, is there perception without knowledge, without the observer? So we discard the two: object and knowledge. In perceiving there is the action of discarding.
Again we ask what is beauty? Beauty is generally associated with object; the object created by thought, feeling, thinking. And we discard that.
Then I ask myself what is the quality of the mind that has discarded. It is really free. Freedom implies a mind that is highly sensitive. In the action of discarding, it has brought about its own sensitivity, which means there is no centre in that activity. Therefore, it is a sensitivity without time, without a centre as the observer, which means a state of mind that is intensely passionate.
R: When the object and the knowledge of the object are gone, there is no focus.
Krishnamurti: Do not use the word focus. The mind discarding what “it is not”, is free. The act of perceiving what “it is not” has released the mind and the mind is free. It is not free from it, it is not free from the object, but it is free.
A: The act of perceiving and discarding of that knowledge are instantaneous and simultaneous.
Krishnamurti: That is freedom. The act of perceiving has brought about freedom, not from something. When the mind is sensitive, there is no centre, there is no “me” in it, there is the total abandonment of the self as the observer. Then the mind is full of energy because it is no longer caught in the division of sorrow, pain and pleasure. It is intensely passionate and it is such a mind that sees what is beautiful.
I see something: which is, suffering is a partial activity of energy. It is a fragmentary energy.
Energy is pleasure, energy is pain; to go to the office, to learn is energy. Human beings have divided this energy into fragments. Everything is a part, is a fragment of the various other fragments of energy. When there is no activity of the fragment, there is complete focussing of all energy.
I hate somebody and I love somebody. Both are energy – fragmentary energy acting in opposite directions – which breed conflict. Suffering is a form of energy; a fragment which we call suffering. So all our ways of 1iving are fragmented. Each is fighting the other. If there is a harmonious whole, that energy is passion. So that energy is this, is the mind that is free, sensitive, in which the “me” as the past is completely dissolved and, therefore, such a mind is full of energy and passion, and therefore that is beauty.