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Time and death

Time and death

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Public Talk 9 London, England - 21 May 1961

This morning, I would like, if I may, to talk about time and death. And as it is rather a complex subject I think it would be worthwhile to understand what is the meaning of learning. Life is a vast complex, with all its turmoil, suffering, anxieties, love, jealousies and accumulations; and we learn through travail. This learning is a process of accumulation. For us, all learning is an additive process; and when there is addition, a gathering-in, is there any learning at all? Is accumulation learning? Or is there learning only when the mind is totally innocent? I think we should enquire into this a little, because to understand time and death, one has to learn, one has to experience; and experiencing is never an accumulative process.

In the same way, love is never accumulation. It is something always new. It is not a thing that is born out of remembrance. It is totally unrelated to the picture on the mantelpiece. So perhaps if we could, hesitantly but rather intelligently, understand what it means to learn, then we can probe into the question of time and death, and perhaps also discover what it means to love.

For me, learning implies a state of mind which is never gathering, never accumulating. If one learns with a mind that has already gathered, then such learning is merely the acquisition of more knowledge, is it not? The accumulation of knowledge is not learning. The electronic machines are doing that, they are acquiring more and more knowledge; and they are incapable of learning. The acquisition of knowledge is a mechanical process, and learning can never be a mechanical thing. A mind must always be fresh, young, innocent to learn. And a mind which is learning is always, surely, in a state of humility - not the humility cultivated by the monk, the saint, or the erudite person. A mind that is learning has its own dignity, because it is in a state of humility.

I am using the word `learn' in quite a different sense, not as a process of acquiring knowledge. Living with a thing, and acquiring knowledge about it are two different states. To learn about something you must live with it; and if you already have knowledge about it you cannot live with it, because then you are only living with your own knowledge. To find out for ourselves about the extraordinarily complex problem of time and death, one must learn, and therefore live with it; and this is completely impeded if we approach it with the accumulation of what we already know, with knowledge. I will go into it a little, and perhaps we shall be able to communicate with each other.

We were talking the other day about desire. We went into it fairly sufficiently, but I think we missed something: that desire is intimately connected with will. Will implies, surely, not only desire, but also choice. Where there is choice, there is will, and therefore the problem of time arises.

Please, if I may suggest it, listen to the whole thing right to the end. Do not stick at parts of it with which you agree or disagree, but look at the totality of it, the whole content of it. It is a matter of perception, of seeing something directly; and when you see something very directly then you neither agree or disagree: it is so.

So, as I was saying, through conflict, outward and inward, we develop will. And will is a form of resistance, obviously, whether it is the will to achieve, or the will to be, the urge to deny or the determination to sustain something. Will is the many threads of desire, and with that we live. And when we enquire into time, we require an insight which is quite different from the will to understand. I do not know if this is clear, but I will go along with it and perhaps you will see it. This is an informal talk, not a prepared talk; it is more or less an enquiring into oneself; and to go into it publicly is one thing and to go into it all by oneself is quite another. What we are trying to do is to communicate it to each other - this journey into time. The enquiry implies time also, and the putting of words together implies time, and all communication is based on time. And perhaps there is a comprehension of what is time, and what is timelessness, not through words, not through verbal or intellectual communication, but perhaps by sidestepping the whole process. But unfortunately we must first enquire verbally, intellectually, into time. And this enquiry is the sense of learning about it - which is not remembering what you have read, or merely hearing the words I am saying, but the perception of it, seeing it directly for yourself. And I think that may have immense value.

Time is both chronological and psychological, outward and inward. And conflict arises when time is introduced into our lives as `I will be', `I not be', `I must arrive', `I must fulfil'. And if the mind could eliminate all that process, then we might find that the mind is no longer measurable, has no frontier, and yet can live in this world totally, completely, with all its senses.

For most of us, chronological time as today, tomorrow and yesterday is essential. Time is involved in learning a technique, to earn a livelihood. It is there, and you cannot avoid it; it is a reality. It took time for you to come here; it takes time to learn a language; there is time as growing from youth to old age. It takes time, involving distance and space, to go from here to the moon. These are all facts, and it would be absurd and insane to deny it.

Now, is there any other time at all, as a fact? Or has the mind invented psychological time as a means of achievement, as a means of becoming something? I am envious, acquisitive, brutal; but, given time, I will gradually be free from envy, be non-violent. Is that a reality, is it a fact, as the distance from London to Paris is a fact? Is there any other fact as definite and real as space and distance? In other words, is there psychological time at all? Though we have invented it, though we live with it, though it is a fact to us,is there such a thing? We accept chronological time and we also accept psychological time; and these two, we say, are facts. The one, the chronological time, is a fact; but I am questioning whether the other is a fact. Is time necessary in order to see something clearly, immediately? To see acquisitiveness, envy, all the things, the suffering involved in envy, to see the truth of it, is time necessary? Or does the mind invent psychological time in order to enjoy the fruits of envy and avoid the pain of it? So, time may be the refuge of an indolent mind. It is the lazy mind that says: `I cannot see the thing immediately, give me time, let me look at it for a longer period; later I will do something about it', or `I know I am violent; and gradually, when it no longer pleases me, when it is no longer profitable to me, when I am no longer enjoying it, I will give it up'. Therefore the ideal is born: the idea of `what should be' is placed at a distance, away from the fact of `what is'. So there is a gap between `the fact' and `what should be'. And I am asking: is the ideal, the `what should be', a fact? Or is it a convenient invention of the mind to enable it to carry on with the pleasures and pains, the indolence of postponement?

Now to see something immediately - the absurdity of envy, of competition, of social morality - , to see the falseness of it immediately, does that require time? To transform the mind, for the mind to free itself of its own conditioning, does it require time? You see, as it is generally understood, a revolution implies carrying out an economic, social, political or other pattern as a reaction to what has been before. For me, a reaction is not a revolution. A revolution is instantaneous, and is unrelated to a reaction.

The mind is, after all, the result of many thousands of yesterdays; and being itself the result of time it always thinks in terms of yesterday, today and tomorrow. And to find out if there is a timelessness, to really find out, to learn about it, there must be a complete revolution in the mind itself. Am I conveying anything, or not at all?

Look: you are an Englishman, an Italian, a Frenchman, a Hindu, or whatever it is; and with it goes all the nationalism - the conditioning, the separative, divisive attitudes towards life. And this conditioning has been put together through time, through education, through propaganda; for two thousand years the church has brainwashed you to be a Christian. And this conditioning of religion, of nationalism, of separativeness must obviously be broken down completely, because those things are all frontiers, limitations of the mind. And the breaking down of it all, is that a matter of time?

Let us look at it differently. Where does time exist? Not only time by the watch but the inward time, where does it exist? Please, this is not a rhetorical question, an argumentative question, or a question put just to stimulate your mind - that is all too silly. I am asking this because space, time and distance must exist in a state where there is no time at all. That state must exist first, and everything else comes into that. Without timelessness, there is no space and distance. Please do not accept or deny it: we must feel our way into it. I have not yet communicated to you the feeling of it, so you cannot say it is so, or it is not so, or that what I say has no meaning to you.

You see, you exist in space. Without space, you would not be. Without the space between two words, the words have no meaning. Without the space between two notes, there would be no music. The space is the thing unknown, in which the known exists. Without the unknown, the known is not. I do not know if I am conveying it to you. Please, this is not just sentimental stuff to be grinned over or agreed with. I am going to go on into something else. If whatever one says becomes dead, there is no life.

Most of us want a life which has continuity, which is time and space. So, for us death is a horror, to be avoided, and life is something to be prolonged through medicine, through doctors and so on. Or, faced with the inevitability of death we say, `I will believe in something: that I will continue and that you will continue - always in space'.

So, if one can put it this way, in the womb of the unknown, time and space exist. But without feeling one's way into the unknown, the mind becomes a slave to time and space. It took us time to get here: but does it take time to perceive anything, to see some which is not a matter of time? To see something as false, does it take time? To see the falseness of nationalism, the poisonouness of it, does it take time? Please wait a minute, do not agree. I do not mean the intellectual, verbal seeing, but the actual seeing, the actual feeling of it so that you never again touch it - surely, that does not take time? Time is relied upon only when the mind is ineffective, indolent.

And death: why is there such fear of death? Not only for the aged but for everyone there is this fear. Why? And being afraid, we have invented all the lovely comforting theories: reincarnation, karma, resurrection, and all the rest of it. It is fear that has to be understood, but do not let us go back into fear. We are trying to understand what it means to die.

Most of us want physical continuity - the remembrance of the things we have been, the hopes, the satisfactions, the fulfilments - , most of us live with the memories, the associations, the pictures on the mantelpiece, the photographs. And all that may be cut off when the physical body ceases; and that is a very disturbing thing. I have lived so long, for fifty or sixty years; I have struggled to cultivate certain virtues, to acquire knowledge; and what is the value of life if I am to be cut off from it all, to cease on the moment? So, time-space comes in. You follow? Time, as space and distance. So for us, death is a matter of time. But that which has continuity, which knows no ending, can never renew itself, can never be young, fresh, innocent. It is only something that dies that has the possibility of a creation, a newness, a freshness. So, is it possible to die while living, to know the vitality, the energy of death, with all the senses fully awake? What does death mean? Not the death of old age, disease and accident, but the death of a mind that is fully active, that has tasted, experienced, and has acquired knowledge; which means, really, the death of yesterday. Do you understand?

I do not know if you have ever tried it, for the fun of it - to die to everything that you have known. Then you will say, `If I die to all my remembrances, to my experience, my knowledge, my photographs, my symbols, my attachments and my ambitions, what is left?' Nothing. But to learn about death the mind must be in a state of nothingness, surely. Let us take one thing. Have you ever tried to die, not only to suffering, but to pleasure? We want to die to suffering, to unpleasant memories, but to die also to pleasure, to joys, to things that give you an enormous sense of vitality, have you tried it? If you have, you will see that you can die to yesterday. To die to everything, so that when you go to the office, to your work, your mind is new - surely, that is love, is it not?, not the remembered things.

So, the mind has been put together through time; the mind is time. Every thought shapes the mind in time. And not to be shaped by time, thought must completely come to an end. Not an enforced ending, not a mechanical ending, not a cutting off, but the ending which is the seeing of the truth that it must end.

So, if one is to learn about death one must live with death. If you would learn about a child, you must live with the child and not be frightened by the child. But most of us die a thousand deaths before real death. To live with death is to die to yesterday so that the yesterday leaves no imprint on the today. You try it. When the perception of what is true about this is there, then living has quite a different meaning; then there is no division between living and death. But we are frightened of living and frightened of dying; and we understand neither living nor death. To live with something we must love it; and to love is the dying to yesterday - then you can live. Living is not the continuity of memory, or going back into the past and saying, `What a marvellous time I had when I was a boy'.

We do not know death and we do not know life. We know the turmoils, the anxieties, the guilt, the fears, the appalling contradictions and conflicts; but we do not know what living is. And we only know death as something to be dreaded, feared; we put it away and do not talk about it, and we escape into some form of belief, like flying saucers, or reincarnation, or something else.

So, there is a dying and therefore a living when time, space and distance are understood in terms of the unknown. You see, our minds work always in terms of the known, and we move from the known to the known; and we do not know anything else; and when death cuts off this continuity of the known with the known, we are frightened: and there is no comfort. What we want is comfort, not the understanding of, the living with, something we do not know.

So, the known is yesterday. That is all we know. We do not know what tomorrow is. We project the past, through the present, into the future; and thereby hope and despair are born. But really to comprehend the thing called death, which must be something extraordinary, something unknowable, unthinkable, unimaginable, one must learn about it, one must live with it, one must come to it without knowledge and without fear. And I say it is possible, that one can die to the many yesterdays. After all, the many yesterdays are pleasure and pain. And when you die to yesterday, the mind is empty; and it is frightened of that emptiness and so it begins again, going from one known to another. But if one can die to pleasure and pain - not a particular pleasure or a particular pain - then the mind is without time and space. And such a mind then has time and space without the conflict of time and space. I do not know if you follow. I am afraid language is very limited. Perhaps we can discuss it.

Question: I have always thought that where there is space there must be time, and you seem to make it rather different. Is not the space between two words, time?

Krishnamurti: Sir, we know both psychological time and time by the watch. And how is the mind which is bound to these two times in which are involved space and distance - to find out if there is a time without space and distance? You follow? I want to find out if there is a timelessness, in which no measurement exists as time and space. Is it possible, first of all, to find out such a thing? It may not be. If it is not possible then the mind is a slave to time and space, always; then it is finished. Then it is merely a matter of adjustment, trying to have a little less suffering and so on. Understanding all that, can the mind, without authority, find out for itself if there is a timelessness? And how is it to find out? It can find out only by abandoning psychological time - as when it sees something immediately. Which means, does it not?, that the mind frees itself from the centre round which it moves, that there is a dying to the centre which has accumulated pleasure and pushed away pain. And I think that has direct relationship to our daily living.

Question: Is not chronological time the same as psychological time?

Krishnamurti: In a certain sense they are both the same.

Is there not the urge for the mind to be in a state of something permanently? For us permanency is very important, is it not? But there is no such thing as permanency because there is war, there is death, my wife runs away with somebody and so on. The urge to have permanency is the desire to be secure. But the mind objects to insecurity; so it invents hopes and the idea of God who is permanent. A god who is made permanent in time and space, cannot be God. So, if the mind could see, immediately, the truth, the fact that there is nothing permanent, then I think time, death and love will have a totally different significance.

Question: After the stopping of the heart, is there thought as the person?

Krishnamurti: Oh, how eager we are to find out about this! How we sit up and take notice!

Let us go into it. Is there personal thinking and collective thinking? Or, is all thinking collective, only we personalize it? You are all British: it is collective thinking. You are all Christians: it is collective thinking. There is individual thinking only when you break away from the collective, when you are no longer confined, limited, conditioned. So, surely we are only individuals in the sense that one organism is separate from another organism, in the sense that there is a space and a distance between us. Is not all our thinking collective? - which is rather a horrible idea, but is it not so?

Question: If you were told you were going to die tomorrow, would that have any effect on you personally?

Krishnamurti: None whatever, I would carry on. But the question is: is there individual thinking apart from the collective? What I am trying to say is this. I am brought up as a Hindu, a Christian, a Buddhist, or whatever it is, believing in all the things that society believes in and being a part of it all. Is there thought separate from that? Any thought separate from that can only be a reaction, is that not so? I can break away from the framework of the collective and say I am separate, but actually that is only a reaction within the framework, is it not? I am talking of the total rejection of the framework. Is it possible? If it is possible, then there is an individual thinking which is not merely a reaction to the collective.

After all, death is the breaking away from the collective. Death is a breaking away from the framework in which there is collective thinking and the reaction to the collective which you call individual thinking, but which is still part of the collective. Dying to all that may be, and must be, something entirely different, something which cannot be measured in terms of the collective or in terms of the individual, something unknowable, unknown. And I say that if the unknown does not exist, and if the known does not exist within the unknown, then we are merely slaves to the known, and there is no way out. The unknowable is only possible when one dies to the known.

May 21, 1961