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Dialogue 5 - New Delhi - 19th December 1970 - ‘The first step is the last step’
Questioner P: Yesterday, while you were on a walk, you said the first step is the last step. To understand that statement, I think we should investigate the problem of time and whether there is such a thing as a final state of enlightenment. The confusion arises because our minds are conditioned to think of illumination as the final state. Is understanding or illumination a final state?
Krishnamurti: You know, when we said that the first step is the last step, were we not thinking of time as a horizontal or a vertical movement? Were we not thinking of movement along a plane? We were saying yesterday, when we were walking, if we could put aside height, the vertical and the horizontal altogether, and observe this fact that wherever we are, at whatever level of conditioning, of being, the perceiving of truth, of the fact, is at that moment the last step.
I am a clerk in a little office, with all the misery involved in it; the clerk listens and perceives. The man listens and at that moment really sees. That seeing and that perception is the first and the last step. Because, at that moment he has touched truth and he sees something very clearly.
But what happens afterwards is that he wants to cultivate that state. The perception, the liberation and the very perception bringing about liberation; he wants to perpetuate, to turn it into a process. And therefore he gets caught and loses the quality of perception entirely.
So, what we are saying is that any process involves finality. It is a movement from the horizontal to the vertical; the vertical leading to a finality. And therefore we think that perception, liberation is a finality; a point which has no movement. After all, the methods, the practices, the systems imply a process towards a finality.
If there were no conceptual idea of finality, there would be no process.
P: The whole structure of thought is built on a horizontal movement and therefore any postulation of eternity has to be on the horizontal plane.
Krishnamurti: We are used to reading a book horizontally. Everything is horizontal – all our books.
P: Everything has a beginning and an ending.
Krishnamurti: And we think the first chapter must inevitably lead to the last chapter. We feel all the practices lead to a finality; to an unfoldment. It is all horizontal reading. Our minds, eyes and attitudes are conditioned to function on the horizontal and at the end, there is a finality. The book is over. You ask if truth or enlightenment is a final achievement; a final point beyond which there is nothing?
P: From which there can be no slipping back. I might for an instant perceive, and the quality of that, I understand. A little later, thought arises again. I say to myself “I am back in the old state”. I question whether that “touching” had any validity at all. I put a distance, a block between myself and that state – I say, if that were true, thought would not arise.
Krishnamurti: I see; I perceive something that is extraordinary; something that is true. I want to perpetuate that perception; give it a continuity so that perception – action continues throughout my daily life. I think that is where the mistake lies. The mind has seen something true. That is enough. That mind is a clear, innocent mind, which has not been hurt. Thought wants to carry on that perception through the daily acts. The mind has seen something very clearly. Leave it there. The next step is the final step. The leaving of it is the next final step. Because my mind is already fresh to take the next final step. In the daily movement of life, it does not carry over. The perception has not become knowledge.
P: The self as the doer in relation to thought or seeing has to cease.
Krishnamurti: Die to the thing that is true. Otherwise it becomes memory, which then becomes thought, and thought says how am I to perpetuate that state. If the mind sees clearly, and it can only see clearly when the seeing is the ending of it, then the mind can start a movement where the first step is the last step. In this there is no process involved at all. There is no element of time. Time enters when, having seen it clearly, having perceived it, there is a carrying over and the applying of it to the next incident.
P: The carrying over is the not seeing or perceiving.
Krishnamurti: So, all the traditional approaches which offer a process must have a point, a conclusion, a finality and anything that has a finality, a final point, is not a living thing at all.
It is like saying there are many roads to the station. The station is fixed.
Is truth a finality that once you have achieved it, everything is over – your anxieties, your fears and so on? Or does it work totally differently? Does it mean that once I am on the train, nothing can happen to me? Does it mean that I expect the train will carry me to my destination? All these are horizontal movements.
So a process implies a fixed point. Systems, methods, practices all offer a fixed point and promise man that when he achieves it, all his troubles are over. Is there something which is really timeless? A fixed point is in time. It is in time because you have postulated it. Because there has been thinking over of the final point, and the thinking of it is time. Can one come upon this thing which must have no time, no process, no system, no method, no way?
Can this mind which is so conditioned horizontally, can this mind, knowing that it lives horizontally, perceive that which is neither horizontal nor vertical? Can it perceive for an instant?
Can it perceive that the seeing has cleansed and end it?
In this is the first and the last step because it has seen anew.
Your question is, is such a mind ever free of trouble? I think it is a wrong question. You are still thinking in terms of finality, when you put that question. You have already come to a conclusion, and so are back again into the horizontal process.
P: The subtlety of it is that the mind has to ask fundamental questions but never the “how”.
Krishnamurti: Absolutely. I see very clearly; I perceive. Perception is light. I want to carry it over as memory, as thought, and apply it to daily living and therefore I introduce duality, conflict, contradiction.
So I say how am I to go beyond it? All systems offer a process, a fixed point and the ending of all trouble.
Perceiving is light to this mind. It is not concerned with perception any more because if it is concerned, it becomes memory. Can the mind, seeing something very clearly, end that perception? Then, here the very first step is the last step. The mind is fresh to look. To such a mind, is there an end to all troubles? It does not ask such a question. When it happens, it will see. See what takes place. When I ask the question “Will this end all trouble?” I am already thinking of the future and therefore I am caught in time.
But I am not concerned. I perceive. It is over. I see something very clearly – the clarity of perception. Perception is light. It is over. Therefore the mind is never caught in time. Because I have taken the first step, I have also taken the last step each time.
So we see that all the processes, all the systems, must be totally denied because they perpetuate time. Through time you hope to arrive at the timeless.
P: I see that the instruments used in what you are saying are the fact of seeing and listening. These are sensory movements. It is through sensory movements that conditioning also comes into being. What is it that makes one movement totally dissolve conditioning and another to strengthen it?
Krishnamurti: How do I listen to that question? First of all, I do not know. I am going to learn. If I learn in order to acquire knowledge, from which I am going to act, that action becomes mechanical. But when I learn without accumulating – which means perceiving, hearing, without acquiring – the mind is always empty. Then what is the question?
Can the mind which is empty ever be conditioned and why does it get conditioned? A mind which is really listening, can it ever be conditioned? It is always learning, it is always in movement. It is not a movement from something towards something. A movement cannot have a beginning and an ending.
It is something which is alive, never conditioned. A mind that acquires knowledge to function is conditioned by its own knowledge.
P: Is it the same instrument which is operating in both?
Krishnamurti: I do not know. I really do not know. The mind which is crowded with knowledge sees according to that knowledge, according to that conditioning.
P: Sir, seeing is like switching on light. It has no conditioning in itself.
Krishnamurti: The mind is full of images, words, symbols. Through that, it thinks, it sees.
P: Does it see?
Krishnamurti: No. I have an image of you and I look through that image. That is distortion. The image is my conditioning. It is still the same vessel with all the things in it, and it is the same vessel which has nothing in it.
The content of the vessel is the vessel. When there is no content, the vessel has no form.
P: So it can receive “what is”.
Krishnamurti: Perception is only possible when there is no image. That is very simple. You see, to go back, perception is only possible when there is no image – no symbol, no idea, word, form, which are all the image. Then perception is light. It is not that I see light. There is light. Perception is light. So perception is action. And a mind which is full of images cannot perceive. It sees through images and so is distorted.
What we have said is true. It is logically so. I have listened to this. In the factor of listening there is no “I”. In the factor of carrying it over, there is the “I”. The “I” is time’