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Dialogue 22 - Rishi Valley - 24th January 1971 - ‘Freedom and the prison’
Krishnamurti: I wonder if we could discuss this morning what perception means. Apart from what the traditionalists and the professionals and the commentaries have said, what does perception mean? What is it to perceive? Is it a mere intellectual process or is it visual perception or is it a combination of both? Is it a psychosomatic state or is it something entirely different?
The mind takes in much more than the eye does. So when we talk about perception, what do we mean by that word? Is it an intellectual perception, a verbal conclusion, a verbal comprehension? Does the eye see in a linear or horizontal dimension?
Questioner B: You mean the eye as the sense-organ here?
SW: Is the perception of the eye, the visual, sensory perception of the eye not uniform? We come to this room, I see the design of the carpet. Very soon I am seeing and not seeing. The physical eye is also not seeing all in a uniform state. There must be some factor other than the contact of the object and the senses in the awareness of “I see”. The first awareness of inattention comes to me that way.
Krishnamurti: I have not come to that point. I am trying to understand what that word perception conveys. I am not speaking of attention and inattention. All that I know is that I see. There is visual perception. There is sensory perception. I see you sitting there. Then there is the image which sensory perception plus the intellectual capacity of thought holds. That is what we generally call perception, is it not?
A: What is the meaning of the word “perception”?
Krishnamurti: To perceive: where does inattention or attention come into this?
A: I see an object. Then there is an image of that object. Then there is the memory of that image. Then I see something else and again the whole process begins.
Krishnamurti: All the sensory impressions, the impressions that are recorded, the conscious and the unconscious, the various images, conclusions, prejudices, all that is involved in perception.
Look, there is visual perception and the various images that perception, asso- ciation, prejudices, have built up. And I see you and I have another series of images, and so thousands and thousands of images are recorded, taped and held in the brain cells. And when I meet you I turn on attention and the images emerge. This is what we call perception, is it not? This is the machinery that is in operation in the word “perception-’ is it not? This is the ordinary operational process of perception. I want to see. That is all I know. Where does the trouble begin? Now, what is wrong with it?
A: The factor of sensitivity and the varying degrees of sensitivity, are they not a vital element in perception? My perception of squalor is different from that of yours. Can you separate perception from the degrees of sensitivity? Perception is not the same to you and me.
Krishnamurti: When I have all these accumulated images, conscious or unconscious, my mind is loaded with them. Where is the place for sensitivity?
A: Perception is not a passive act of memory. There is always something new which is there with every new perception. With every new response, which I call perception, the factor of degree is inherent. I do not understand why and from where the degree comes, because ignorance is imponderable.
B: Even this seeing is like a camera; it sees its shutters, not the object.
A: I look through the idea; then there is no perception.
Krishnamurti: The mind which is crowded with impressions and information about the object, sees. The mind, the brain, the whole structure is never empty. It is full and through this burden it looks. It looks at you with its associations, with jealousy, pleasure, pain. What is wrong with that?
R: I am never face to face. I see there is sensory perception, then the images, then the like, dislike; those are facts also. They are facts which I do not realize.
Krishnamurti: They are facts, as much as the fact that you are sitting here. Then what takes place? Each time I see you through a screen. What is wrong with that? Is it not a natural process?
SW: In that state I do not see at all.
Krishnamurti: First I want to be clear about this. There are thousands of impressions, thousands of sensory perceptions, thousands of conclusions – let us cover the whole of that by the word “conclusions”. Through these conclusions I look, and by looking through these conclusions, they thicken or become faint; they never disappear. Each succeeding sensory perception thickens the same perception. This is the process which is going on all the time, all through life.
So image-making and conclusion are of the past. Perception is immediate. Sensory perception is immediate and the conclusion becomes the past. So, I am looking at you through the eyes of the past. That is what we are doing. That is a fact. What is wrong with it, Sir? Why should I not look at you that way? What started with perception is not perception at all. Do not condemn it yet. That is what we are doing all the time. I want to be sure before we go any further. Go slow.
So, all visual perception is translated in terms of conclusions. Now, what takes place? That is a fact which we all know. That is tradition, is it not? That is experience. Experience, knowledge, tradition, all that is contained in the word “past” and the word “conclusion; and that is the structure and the nature of the brain cells. The brain cells are the past: They retain the memory of the past because in that there is safety – in the biological processes as well as in the psychological accumulations. In that there is tremendous safety.
SW: How is there safety? Am I really safe?
Krishnamurti: Do not question it yet. Look at it. Otherwise you would not know your name, you would not know how to go to Bangalore, recognize your husband or wife. In that tradition, knowledge, experience, conclusions, there is nothing new, therefore there is nothing disturbing, therefore there is the feeling of complete safety. That is absolutely right.
SW: There is nothing to disturb.
Krishnamurti: Anything new is disturbing and as the brain cells need order they find order in the past.
A: But to come back to your question, what is wrong with that?
Krishnamurti: There is nothing wrong in that. I am enquiring into the nature of sensory, visual perception, into the operations of the brain, the mechanism of thought, and how the mind operates; there is safety in sensory perception, image, conclusion, the past. All that is tradition. In tradition there is safety: In the past there is complete security.
SW: Security implies struggle.
Krishnamurti: Security implies the sense of not wanting to be disturbed. I do not know if you have noticed it: the brain needs order. It may establish order in disorder which is neurosis. It needs order and therefore it will find order in disorder and become neurotic. See this?
The brain demands order because in order there is security.
SW: That is perfectly clear.
Krishnamurti: In tradition there is order. In continuity there is order. The brain seeking order creates security, a harbour where it feels safe. And K comes along with revolutionary ideas and tells you, this is not order, and so there is conflict between you and him. You reduce the new in terms of the old and there find safety, security. Why does the mind do this? The Russian revolution and the French revolution upset the whole established structure but soon the brain created order out of disorder, and there was an end to revolution.
A: We have discovered something – that the moment I see something new which creates a disturbance, perception is the instrument by which I convert the new into the old.
Krishnamurti: That is the biological process of the brain. It is a biological necessity for the brain, because in that it finds the most efficient way of working.
A: Will you examine the inbuilt incapacity of the brain to see and distort the new?
Krishnamurti: Wait, Sir. Unless I see that the brain cells themselves under- stand the danger of the past, the danger of seeking security in the past, the brain cells will not see anything new. If they see something new they will translate it in terms of the old. Therefore, the brain cells themselves have to see the immense danger of what they consider security in the past.
A: Which means a total change.
Krishnamurti: I do not know a thing. I only see sensory perception, images, conclusions, safety in conclusions. It may be a new conclusion, a disorderly conclusion, but there is safety there; however neurotic it is, in that neuroticism there is safety:
See the beauty of it. This is the truth and that is why it is beautiful. How is the brain which is insistently demanding security, how is that brain to see that in the past there is no security, but always in the new?
The brain cells are seeking security, both in disorder and in order. If you offer a system, a methodological order, the brain accepts it. That is the whole biological process. That is the whole traditional process – security in the past, never in the future, never in the present, but the absolute security in the past. Absolute.
And that is knowledge: biological knowledge, technological knowledge and the knowledge which has been gathered through experience. In knowledge there is security and knowledge is the past. So what is the next question?
SW: There is a modified continuity in this process. This creates a feeling of progress.
Krishnamurti: The moment you have knowledge it can be continued, modified, but it is still within the field of knowledge; the whole thing is there. What is wrong with this?
SW: All that you say is fact. However, there is another factor. This is not the whole thing: There is something radically wanting in this.
Krishnamurti: What is wanting in this? Go step by step. This is the structure. What is the something which is not quite right? Find out. I will show it to you.
SW: There is no permanency.
Krishnamurti: What are you saying? Knowledge is the most permanent thing. I see knowledge is necessary, and knowledge is the past and thought is the response of the past and so the mind is always living in the past. So the mind is always a prisoner. (Pause)
What does a prisoner talk about? Freedom? Why did you not see it? Being in prison he talks about freedom, moksha, nirvana. He knows his prison is not freedom, but he wants freedom, because in freedom there is joy, there is beauty, there is something happening. His present life is a repetitive, mechanical continuity. So, he has to invent an ideal, he has to invent a moksha, a heaven. There is safety also in the future. Right? So he invents god, he pursues god, truth, enlightenment, but as he invents, he is always anchored to the past. This anchorage is necessary – biologically it is necessary. Can the brain see that knowledge is essential and can the brain see the danger of knowledge which brings about division? Does knowledge bring division? Can it, Sir? Is knowledge the factor that divides?
SW: Yes, of course.
Krishnamurti: Do not agree. “See.” Can the brain cells seek security in knowledge, and know that in knowledge there is danger of division?
A: Knowing that knowledge is necessary here....
Krishnamurti: And also knowledge is danger because it divides.
SW: To see both at the same time is difficult.
Krishnamurti: “See” it at the same time. Otherwise you will not “see” it.
A: Knowledge divides what?
Krishnamurti: Knowledge in itself is divisive. The known and the unknown. Yesterday, today and tomorrow. Yesterday, which is the past, the today is modified from yesterday and tomorrow is also modified. In that there is division. Knowledge is the “I know you; in that is the image, the conclusion. But you, in the meantime, have changed. My image of you divides us: Knowledge is security; and can the brain cells seeking security in knowledge know that knowledge at one level is necessary and at another level is divisive and therefore dangerous? The factor of dividing is the building of the image. So can the brain cells see that knowledge is necessary to be physically secure? And can the brain cells see that knowledge based on image derived from conclusion is divisive? Then what next?
SW: There are two types of image-making. In technological knowledge also there is a recording, and that is also a form of image-making.
A: I think we were using the word “image-making” where there is some emotional content. In the other it is not so. As an escape out of this, the projection of freedom comes.
Krishnamurti: It knows in this there is no freedom and therefore it has to invent a freedom outside the prison.
When you see the whole structure of knowledge, then it is all understood.
A: There is a question which I want to ask: Is it that the mind has a capacity to verbalize something which it does not experience, but would like to experience?
Krishnamurti: We have not yet finished, Sir. Psychological, technological, biological knowledge is included in the word “knowledge”. I see, the mind sees, knowledge is divisive and unifying.
In this is the bondage of time. But, the brain cells also know that in this there is no freedom, and they want freedom. In freedom may be the super-security. And that is why man has from immemorial times talked of freedom. But as freedom is not within the prison, man has always thought of freedom outside. And we are saying freedom is here, not outside, right?
SW: Desire for freedom, is it a biological characteristic? The desire for super-security is it also not biological?
Krishnamurti: So, is there freedom in all the things which thought has built including the thought of freedom? Look at it. In this it cannot find freedom. So it says because thought has constructed this freedom within the prison, therefore freedom must be outside.
SW: In other words is there freedom in knowledge?
Krishnamurti: Is there freedom in the past? Knowledge is the past. Knowledge is the accumulation of a million years of experience. Does experience give freedom? Obviously not. So is there such a thing as freedom?
SW: I do not know. I see freedom is not outside. It is a projection. And yet there is no freedom inside.
Krishnamurti: I do not know. I have always thought of freedom outside. All the religious books, practices, have thought of it over there. There may be absolute freedom here.
I have got it: I know, the brain knows, thought is aware that it has created this prison. All that thought knows is that demanding security, it has created the prison. And it must have security, otherwise it cannot function. So thought enquires where is freedom? It seeks it somewhere where it is perceivable, where it is not projected, not formulated, not invented, where it is not the projection of the past which is still knowledge. Freedom must be somewhere.
A: Is it an act of perception?
Krishnamurti: This is an act of perception. Visually I perceive you. Visual perception has created all this. It is this knowledge that has created all this. Knowledge and non-knowledge are still projections of thought.
R: What is non-knowledge?
A: We say all knowledge, the past is the present and we are thinking of the unknown as freedom.
Krishnamurti: Therefore the unknown is the known. It is very simple now. This is the structure of the brain cells with their memories which are responsible for thought. This is the structure of thought. Thought says knowledge is necessary. Thought says, because you have questioned it, there is no freedom either. So what is freedom? Is there such a thing at all?
A: We only see that whatever thought produces is not freedom.
Krishnamurti: So, what does it say? Is there security in thought? Thought has created all this. Is there security in the very thinking itself?
SW: It is thinking which has done all this.
Krishnamurti: Therefore, is there security? I have assumed security. I have said I must have knowledge, but is that security? I see wars, divisions, the yours and the mine, the we and the they, my family, your family – is there security in all this?
See what I have found? In knowledge there is security, but not in this which is the result of knowledge. So thought says to itself, is there security in the very structure of thinking itself? Right?
Is there security in the past? Is there security in tradition? Is there security in knowledge? The brain cells have sought security in that, but is there security?
The brain cells have to see for themselves that there is no security there. So what happens? (Pause.) I see there is no security there. It is a tremendous discovery for me. So thought says, what next? I must kill myself, I must destroy myself, because I am the greatest danger.
And now, who is the “I” who is going to destroy itself? So, thought again says, “I must not divide”.
SW: Slay the slayer.
Krishnamurti: The prison and the prisoner, the slayer and the slain.
So, is there an ending of “myself” without division? Division means contradiction. Is there an ending of myself without effort? And in that is the quality of sensitivity. To come through all this and to come to the point requires tremendous subtlety, which is sensitivity. So can thought end by itself?
All this has needed great attention, great awareness; the moving step by step, never missing a thing, that has its own discipline, its own order. The brain now is completely orderly, because it has followed step by step, seeing its own logical attitudes, searching into things that have no security, seeing that it has sought security in division. Now it sees that in division there is no security, therefore, every step is a step in order and that order is its own security.
So, order is perception of things as they are. Perception of what you are, not my conclusion of what you are.
I say perception is seeing things as they are and I cannot see things as they are if I have a conclusion. In conclusion, therefore, there is disorder. Thought has sought security in conclusion which has spread disorder. Therefore it rejects conclusion immediately, because, it wants security. Therefore, thought functions only in knowledge where it is necessary but nowhere else because everywhere else the function of thought is to create conclusions, images. There fore, thought comes to an end.