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Without self-knowledge there cannot be complete action

Without self-knowledge there cannot be complete action

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Public Talk 10 Ojai, California, USA - 14 August 1949

For the last five weeks we have been discussing the importance of self-knowledge; for without knowing oneself, not partially, but fully, integrally, it is not possible to think rightly, and therefore act rightly. Without self-knowledge there cannot be complete, integrated action. There can only be partial action if there is no self-knowledge; and as partial action invariably leads to conflict and to misery, it is important for those who would really understand the problems of life completely, to understand the problem of relationship - not only with one or two, but with the whole, which is society. To understand this problem of relationship, we must understand ourselves; and to understand ourselves is action, it is not a withdrawal from action. There is action only when we understand relationship - relationship not only with people and ideas, but with things, with nature. So, action is relationship with regard to things, to property, to nature, to people, and to ideas. Without the comprehension of all this process, which we call life, life must be contradictory, painful and a constant conflict. So, to understand this process of life, which is ourselves, we have to understand the whole significance of our own thoughts and feelings; and that is why we have been discussing the importance of self-knowledge. Perhaps some of us have read a few books on psychology, have some smattering of psychoanalytical phrases; but I am afraid mere superficial knowledge is not sufficient. Verbal expression of an understanding which comes through mere knowledge, mere study, is not sufficient. What is important is to understand ourselves in relationship; and that relationship is not static, it is constantly in motion. Therefore, to follow that relationship there must be no fixation on an idea. Most of us are slaves to ideas. We are ideas. We are a bundle of ideas. Our actions are shaped by ideas, and our whole outlook is conditioned by ideas. Therefore, ideas shape our relationship. That shaping of relationship by an idea prevents the understanding of relationship. To us, idea is very important, extraordinarily significant. You have your ideas, and I have my ideas, and we are in constant conflict over ideas; whether political, religious, or otherwise, each is in opposition to others. Ideas invariably create opposition, because ideas are the outcome of sensation; and as long as our relationship is conditioned by sensation, by idea, there is no understanding of that relationship. Hence ideas prevent action. Ideas do not further action - they limit action, which we see in everyday life.

So, is it possible for action to be without idea? Can we act without ideation first? Because, we see how ideas divide people ideas which are beliefs, prejudices, sensations, political and religious opinions. These are dividing people and tearing the world to pieces at the present time. The cultivation of the intellect has become the predominant factor, and our intellect guides, shapes our action. So, is it possible to act without idea? We do act without idea when the problem is really intense, very profound, demanding all our attention. We may try to conform the act to an idea; but if we go into the problem, if we really try to understand the problem itself, we will begin to discard the idea, the prejudice, the particular point of view, and approach the problem afresh. This is what we do when we have a problem, surely. We try to solve the problem according to a particular idea, or depending on a particular result, and so on. When the problem cannot be solved that way, then we push aside all ideas; then we give up our ideas, and therefore approach the problem afresh with a quiet mind. We do this unconsciously. Surely, this is what happens, isn't it? When you have a problem, you worry over it. You want a particular result from that problem, or you translate that problem according to certain ideas. You go through all that process, and yet the problem is not solved. So, the mind, becoming weary, stops thinking about the problem. Then it is quiet, it is relaxed, it is not worried over the problem. And presently, as often happens, the solution of the problem is immediately perceived, there is a hint with regard to that problem.

So, action, surely, does not lie in conforming to a particular idea. Then it is merely a continuation of thought, it is not action. And, can we not live without conforming action to an idea? Because, ideas continue; and if we conform action to an idea, then we give continuity to action, and therefore, there is an identification with action as the me and the mine. Therefore, the strengthening, through ideation, of the me, which is the source of all conflict and misery.

Surely, immortality is not an idea. It is something beyond ideation, beyond thought, beyond the bundle of memories, which are all the me. And there is the experiencing of that state only when ideation stops, when the thinking process stops. The experiencing of that which we call the immortal, the timeless state, is not the product of thought; because thought is merely the continuance of memory, the response to memory; and the experiencing of that extraordinary state can only come into being with the understanding of the self - not through trying to reach it, because that is merely trying to experience something which is self-projected, therefore unreal. For this reason it is important to understand the whole, total process of our consciousness, which we call the me and the mine, which can be understood only in relationship, not in isolation.

That is why it is imperative for those who would really understand truth, or reality, or God, or what you will, to fully grasp the significance of relationship; because that is the only action. If relationship is based on idea, then action is not. If I try to circumscribe my relationship, conform or limit it to an idea, which most of us do, then it is not action, there is no understanding in relationship. But if we see that that is a false process leading to illusion, to limitation, to conflict, to separateness - ideas always separate - , then we will begin to understand relationship directly, and not impose upon relationship a prejudice, a condition. Then we will see that love is not a thought process. You cannot think about love. But most of us do, and so it is merely sensation. And, if we limit relationship to an idea based on sensation, then we discard love, then we fill our hearts with the things of the mind. Though we may feel the sensation and call it love, it is not love. Surely, love is something beyond the thought process, but it can be discovered only through understanding the thought process in relationship; not through denying the thought process, but through being aware of the whole significance of the ways of our mind and of our action in relationship. If we can proceed more deeply, then we will see that action is not related to idea. Then action is from moment to moment; and in that experience, which is right meditation, there is immortality.

Question: What place has criticism in relationship? What is the difference between destructive and constructive criticism?

Krishnamurti: First of all why do we criticize? Is it in order to understand? Or is it merely a nagging process? If I criticize you, do I understand you? Does understanding come through judgment? If I want to comprehend, if I want to understand, not superficially but deeply, the whole significance of my relationship to you, do I begin to criticize you? Or, am I aware of this relationship between you and me, silently observing it - not projecting my opinions, criticisms, judgments, identifications, or condemnations, but silently observing what is happening? And, if I do not criticize, what happens? One is apt to go to sleep, is one not? Which does not mean that we do not go to sleep if we are nagging. Perhaps that becomes a habit; and we put ourselves to sleep through habit. Is there a deeper, wider understanding of relationship, through criticism? It doesn't matter whether criticism is constructive or destructive - that is irrelevant, surely. Therefore, the question is: What is the necessary state of mind and heart that will understand relationship? What is the process of understanding? How do we understand something? How do you understand your child, if you are interested in your child? You observe, don't you? You watch him at play, you study him in his different moods; you don't project your opinion onto him. You don't say he should be this or that. You are alertly watchful, aren't you?, actively aware. Then, perhaps, you begin to understand the child. But if you are constantly criticizing, constantly injecting your own particular personality, your idiosyncrasies, your opinions, deciding the way he should or should not be, and all the rest of it, obviously you create a barrier in that relationship. But, unfortunately, most of us criticize in order to shape, in order to interfere; and it gives us a certain amount of pleasure, a certain gratification, to shape something - your relationship with your husband, child, or whoever it be. You feel a sense of power in it, you are the boss; and in that there is a tremendous gratification. Surely, through all that process there is no understanding of relationship. There is mere imposition, the desire to mould another to the particular pattern of your idiosyncrasy, your desire, your wish. All these prevent, do they not?, the understanding of relationship.

Then, there is self-criticism. To be critical of oneself, to criticize, condemn, or justify oneself - does that bring understanding of oneself? When I begin to criticize myself, do I not limit the process of understanding, of exploring? Does introspection, a form of self-criticism, unfold the self? What makes the unfoldment of the self possible? To be constantly analytical, fearful, critical - surely, that does not help to unfold. What brings about the unfoldment of the self so that you begin to understand it, is the constant awareness of it without any condemnation, without any identification. There must be a certain spontaneity; you cannot be constantly analyzing it, disciplining it, shaping it. This spontaneity is essential to understanding. If I merely limit, control, condemn, then I put a stop to the movement of thought and feeling, do I not? It is in the movement of thought and feeling that I discover - not in mere control. And, when one discovers, then it is important to find out how to act about it. Now, if I act according to an idea, according to a standard, according to an ideal, then I force the self into a particular pattern. In that there is no understanding, there is no transcending. But if I can watch the self without any condemnation, without any identification, then it is possible to go beyond it. That is why this whole process of approximating oneself to an ideal is so utterly wrong. Ideals are homemade gods; and to conform to a self-projected image, is surely not a release.

So, there can be understanding only when the mind is silently aware, observing - which is arduous, because we take delight in being active, in being restless, critical, in condemning, justifying. That is our whole structure of being; and through the screen of ideas, prejudices, points of view, experiences, memories, we try to understand. Is it possible to be free of all these screens, and so understand directly? Surely, we do that when the problem is very intense; we do not go through all these methods - we approach it directly. So, the understanding of relationship comes only when this process of self-criticism is understood, and the mind is quiet. If you are listening to me and are trying to follow, with not too great an effort, what I wish to convey, then there is a possibility of our understanding each other. But if you are all the time criticizing throwing up your opinions, what you have learned from books, what somebody else has told you, and so on and so on, then you and I are not related, because this screen is between us. But if we are both trying to find out the issues of the problem, which lie in the problem itself, if both of us are eager to go to the bottom of it, find the truth of it, discover what it is then we are related. Then your mind is both alert and passive, watching to see what is true in this. So, your mind must be extraordinarily swift, not anchored to any idea or ideal, to any judgment, to any opinion that you have consolidated through your particular experiences. Understanding comes, surely, when there is the swift pliability of a mind which is passively aware. Then it is capable of reception, then it is sensitive. A mind is not sensitive when it is crowded with ideas, prejudices, opinions, either for or against.

So, to understand relationship, there must be a passive awareness - which does not destroy relationship. On the contrary, it makes relationship much more vital, much more significant. Then there is in that relationship a possibility of real affection; there is a warmth, a sense of nearness, which is not mere sentiment or sensation. And if we can so approach or be in that relationship to everything, then our problems will be easily solved - the problems of property, the problems of possession. Because, we are that which we possess. The man who possesses money, is the money. The man who identifies himself with property, is the property, or the house, or the furniture. Similarly with ideas, or with people; and when there is possessiveness, there is no relationship. But most of us possess because we have nothing else, if we do not possess. We are empty shells if we do not possess, if we do not fill our life with furniture, with music, with knowledge, with this or that. And that shell makes a lot of noise, and that noise we call living; and with that we are satisfied. And when there is a disruption, a breaking away of that, then there is sorrow; because then you suddenly discover yourself as you are - an empty shell, without much meaning. So, to be aware of the whole content of relationship, is action; and from that action there is a possibility of true relationship, a possibility of discovering its great depth, its great significance, and of knowing what love is.

Question: When you speak of timelessness, it seems you must mean something besides a sequence of events. Time, to me, is necessary for action, and I cannot imagine existence without a sequence of events. Do you perhaps mean that, by knowing what part of you is eternal, time no longer becomes a means to an end, or a means to progress?

Krishnamurti: First of all, we cannot discuss what the timeless is. A mind that is the product of time cannot think of something which is timeless. Because, after all, my mind, your mind, is a result of the past; it is founded upon the past, its thought is the outcome of the past, which is time. And with that instrument, we try to think of something which is not of time; and that is not possible, surely. We can speculate upon it, we can write books about it, we can imagine it, do all kinds of tricks with it; but it will not be the real. So, do not let us speculate about it. Let us not even talk about it. To speculate what the timeless state is, is utterly useless, it has no meaning. But we can do something else, which is to find out how to make the mind free from its own past, from its own self-projection; we can find out what gives it continuity, a sequence of events as a means of progress, as a means of understanding, or what you will. We can see that a thing which continues, must decay. That which has continuance, cannot renew itself. Only that which comes to an end, can renew. A mind that is merely caught in a habit, or in a particular opinion, or held in the net of ideals, beliefs, dogmas - for such a mind there can be no renewal, surely. It cannot look at life anew. It is only when those things are put aside, and it is free, that the mind can look at life anew. There is a renewal, a creative urge, only when the past has come to an end, which means, when there is no longer identification giving continuity as the me and the mine - my property, my home, my wife, my child, my ideal, my gods, my political opinions. It is this constant identification that gives continuity to the sequence of events as the me becoming wider, bigger, nobler, more worthy, cleverer, and so on and so on.

Is life, existence, a matter of the sequence of events? What do we mean by sequence of events? Do I know that I am alive because I remember yesterday? Do I know that I am alive because I know the way to my house? Or do I know that I am alive because I am going to be somebody? How do I know that I am alive? It is only in the present, surely, that I know I am conscious. Is consciousness merely the result of the sequence of events? With most of us, it is. I know I am alive, I am conscious, because of my past, of my identification with something. Is it possible to know that one is conscious, without this process of identification? And, why does one identify? Why do I identify myself as my property, my name, my ambition, my progress? Why? And what would happen if we did not identify? Would it deny all existence? Perhaps, if we did not identify, there might be a wider field for action, a greater depth to feeling and to thought. We identify because it gives us the feeling of being alive as an entity, as a separate entity. So, the feeling that one is separate has become important because through separateness we enjoy the more; and if we deny separateness, we are afraid that we shall not be capable of enjoying, having pleasures. Surely, that is the basis of the desire for continuity, is it not? But there is also a collective process at work. Since separateness involves a great deal of destruction and so on, there is in opposition to that, collectivism, discarding the individual separateness. But the individual becomes the collective through another form of identification, and so retains his separateness - as we can see.

As long as there is continuity through identification, there can be no renewal. Only with the cessation of identification is there a possibility of renewal. And most of us are frightened of coming to an end. Most of us are frightened of death. Innumerable books have been written about what is after death. We are more interested in death than in living. Because, with death, there seems to be an end, an end to identification. That which continues, surely, has no rebirth, no renewal. Only in dying is there renewal; and therefore it is important to die every minute - not wait to die of old age and disease. That means dying to all one's accumulations and identifications, one's gathered experiences; and that is real simplicity, not the accumulated continuance of identification.

So, when this process of identification - which revives memory and gives continuance to memory in the present - when that ceases, then there is a possibility of rebirth, renewal, creativeness; and in that renewal there is no continuity. That which renews cannot continue. It is from moment to moment.

The questioner asks also: "Do you perhaps mean that, by knowing what part of you is eternal, time no longer becomes a means to an end?" Is there a part of you that is eternal? That which you can think about is still the product of thought, and therefore not the eternal. Because, thought is the result of the past, of time. And if you posit a something eternal in you, you have already thought about it. I am not cleverly arguing this matter. You can see very well that the eternal is not what you can think about. You cannot progress to the eternal, you cannot evolve to it; if you do, it is merely a projection of thought, and therefore still within the net of time. That way leads to illusion, misery, to all the ugliness of deception - which we like; because the mind can function only within the known, from safety to safety, from security to security. The eternal is not. if it is within the bondage of time; and the moment the mind thinks about it, it is in the bondage of time, and therefore it is not real.

So, when you perceive this whole process of identification, when you see how thought gives continuity to things in order to be secure, how the thinker separates himself from the thought and thereby makes himself secure - when you see all this process of time and understand it, not merely verbally but deeply feel it, inwardly experience it, then you will find that you no longer think of the timeless. Then the mind is quiet, not only superficially, but profoundly; then it becomes tranquil - is tranquil. Then there is a direct experience of that which is measureless. But merely to speculate upon what is the timeless, is a waste of time. You might just as well play poker. All speculation is brushed aside the moment you have a direct experience. And that is what we are discussing - how to have this direct experience, without the intervention of the mind. But when once there is this direct experiencing, the mind clings to the sensations of it, and then wants a repetition of that experience; which means, really, that the mind is interested in sensation, not in experiencing. Therefore, mind can never experience, it can only know sensations. The experiencing comes only when the mind is not the experiencer. So, the timeless cannot be known, or imagined, or experienced through the mind. And as that is the only instrument which we have cultivated, at the expense of everything else, we are lost when we look at the process of the mind. We must be lost. We must come to an end which is not despair, not fear. Know the process of the mind, see what it is; and when you see what it is, it comes to an end, without any enforcement. Only then is there a possibility of that renewal which is eternal.

Question: Is there a gulf, an interval of any duration, between my perceiving something, and being or realizing it? Does not this interval imply an ideal at one end, and its realization at the other, through practice and technique? It is this `how' or the method that we want from you.

Krishnamurti: Is there an interval between perception and action? Most of us would say yes. We say there is an interval: I see, and later on I will act. I understand intellectually, but how am I to put it into practice? I see what you mean, but I don't know how to carry it out. This gap, this gulf, this interval, is it necessary? Or, are we only deceiving ourselves? When I say, `I see', I really don't see. If I do see, then there is no problem. If I see something, action follows. If I see a poisonous snake, I don't say, `I see, and how am I to act?' I act. But we don't see; and we don't see, because we don't want to see; because it is too imminent, too dangerous, too vital. To see would upset our whole process of thinking, living. Therefore, we say, `I see, and please tell me how to act'. Therefore you are interested in the method, the `how' to do it, the practice. So we say, `I see the idea, I comprehend, but how am I to act?' Then we try to bridge, to connect the action with the idea, and we get lost. Then we search for methods. You go to various teachers, psychologists, gurus, or what you will, and you join societies that will help you to bridge the action with the idea. That is a very convenient way of living, a happy escape, a very respectable way of avoiding action. And, in that process, we are all caught. I realize I must be virtuous, I must not be angry, mean but please tell me how to do it. And this process of `how to do it' becomes a religious investment, an exploitation, and all the rest of it follows - vast properties, you know, the whole game of it. In other words, we don't see, and we don't want to see. But we don't say that honestly. The moment we admit that, we have to act. Then we know we are deceiving ourselves, and it is very unpleasant. So we say, `Please, I am gradually learning, I am still weak, I am not strong enough, it is a matter of progress, evolution, growth; eventually I will get there'. So, we should never say that we see, or perceive, or understand; because mere verbalization has no significance. There is no gap between seeing and acting. The moment you see, you act. You do that when you are driving a car. If you did not, there would be danger. But we have invented so many ways of avoiding. We have become so clever, so cunning as not to change radically. But there is no gap between perception and action. When you see a poisonous snake, how quickly you respond; the action is instantaneous. When there is a gap, it indicates sluggishness of the mind, laziness, avoidance. And that avoidance, that laziness, becomes very respectable, because all of us are doing it. So, you look for a method to bridge the idea with the action, and so you live in illusion. And perhaps you may like it. But for a man who actually perceives, there is no problem; there is action. We do not perceive because of our innumerable prejudices, our disinclination, our laziness, our hopes that something will alter it.

So, to think in terms of idea separate from action is obviously ignorant. To say, `I will be something' - the Buddha, the Master, what you will - is obviously a wrong process. What is important is to understand what you are now; and that cannot be understood if you are postponing, if you have an interval between the ideal and yourself. And as most of us indulge in that particular form of excitement, obviously you will pay scant attention to all this. Ideas can never free action. On the contrary, ideas limit action; and there is action only when I understand as I go along, from moment to moment, not tethered to particular beliefs, or to a particular ideal which I am going to realize. That is to die from moment to moment, in which there is renewal. And that renewal will answer the next problem. That renewal gives a new light, a new significance to everything. And there can be renewal only when there is freedom from the gap, from the gulf, from the interval, between idea and action.

Question: You often speak of living, experiencing, and yet being as nothing. What is this state of consciously being as nothing? Has this anything to do with humility, being open to the grace of God?

Krishnamurti: To be consciously anything, is not to be free. If I am conscious that I am non-greedy, beyond anger, surely I am not free from greed, anger. Humility is something of which you cannot be conscious. To cultivate humility, is to cultivate self-expansion negatively. Therefore, any virtue that is deliberately cultivated, practised, lived, is obviously not virtue. It is a form of resistance; it is a form of self-expansion, which has its own gratification. But it is no longer virtue. Virtue is merely a freedom in which you discover the real. Without virtue, there can be no freedom. Virtue is not an end in itself. Now, it is not possible, by deliberate, conscious effort, to be as nothing, because then, it is another achievement. Innocence is not the result of careful cultivation. To be as nothing, is essential. As a cup is useful only when it is empty, so only when one is as nothing, is it possible to receive the grace of God, or truth, or what you will. Is it possible to be nothing in the sense of arriving at it? Can you achieve it? As you have built a house, or gathered money, can you get this also? To sit down and meditate about nothingness, consciously throwing out everything making yourself receptive, surely, is a form of resistance, isn't it? That is a deliberate action of the will, and will is desire; and when you desire to be nothing, you are something already. Please, see the importance of this: When you desire positive things, you know what it implies struggle, pain; and so you reject them, and you say to yourself, `Now I will be nothing'. The desire is still the same, it is the same process in another direction. The will to be nothing, is as the will to be something. So, the problem is not to be nothing, or to be something, but to understand the whole process of desire: craving to be, or not to be. In that process the entity that desires is different from desire. You don't say, `Desire is me', but, `I am desirous of something'. Therefore, there is a separation between the experiencer, the thinker, and the experience, the thought. Don't, please, make this metaphysical and difficult.

You can look at it very simply - simply in the sense that one can feel one's way into it.

So, as long as there is the desire to be nothing, you are something. And that desire to be something divides you as the experiencer and the experience; and in that condition, there is no possibility of experiencing. Because, in the state of experiencing, there is neither the experiencer nor the experience. When you are experiencing something, you aren't thinking that you are experiencing. When you are really happy, you don't say, `I am happy'. The moment you say it, it is gone. So, our problem is not how to be nothing, which is really quite childish, or how to learn a new jargon and try to become that jargon, but how to understand the whole process of desire, craving. And it is so subtle, so complex, that you must approach it very simply - not with all the conflicts of condemnation, justification, what it should be, what it should not be, how it must be destroyed, how it must be sublimated - all of which you have learned from books, from religious organizations. If we can discard all that, and merely silently observe the process of desire, which is oneself - which is not, you experience desire, but experiencing desire - , then we will see that there is a freedom from this burning, constant urge to be or not to be, to become, to gain, to be the Master, to have virtue, and all the idiocy of desire and its pursuits. Then there can be a direct experiencing, that is, experiencing without the observer. Then only is there a possibility of being completely open, of being as nothing; and then there is the reception of the real.

August 14, 1949