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Questioner: You have often talked about learning. I don’t quite know what you mean by it. We are taught to learn at school and at the University, and life also teaches us many things – to adjust ourselves to environment and to our neighbours, to our wife or husband, to our children. We seem to learn from almost everything, but I am sure that when you speak about learning this isn’t quite what you mean because you also seem to deny experience as a teacher. But when you deny experience aren’t you denying all learning? After all, through experience, both in technology and in human everyday living, we learn everything we know. So could we go into this question?
Krishnamurti: Learning through experience is one thing – it is the accumulation of conditioning – and learning all the time, not only about objective things but also about oneself, is something quite different. There is the accumulation which brings about conditioning – this we know – and there is the learning which we speak about. This learning is observation – to observe without accumulation, to observe in freedom. This observation is not directed from the past. Let us keep those two things clear.
What do we learn from experience? We learn things like languages, agriculture, manners, going to the moon, medicine, mathematics. But have we learnt about war through making war? We have learnt to make war more deadly, more efficient, but we haven’t learnt not to make war. Our experience in warfare endangers the survival of the human race. Is this learning? You may build a better house, but has experience taught you how to live more nobly inside it? We have learnt through experience that fire burns and that has become our conditioning but we have also learnt through our conditioning that nationalism is good. Yet experience should also teach us that nationalism is deadly. All the evidence is there. The religious experience, as based on our conditioning, has separated man from man. Experience has taught us to have better food, clothes and shelter, but it has not taught us that social injustice prevents the right relationship between man and man. So experience conditions and strengthens our prejudices, our peculiar tendencies and our particular dogmas and beliefs. We do not learn what stupid nonsense all this is; we do not learn to live in the right relationship with other men. This right relationship is love. Experience teaches me to strengthen the family as a unit opposed to society and to other families. This brings about strife and division, which makes it ever more important to strengthen the family protectively, and so the vicious circle continues. We accumulate, and call this “learning through experience”, but more and more this learning brings about fragmentation, narrowness and specialization. 4 Questioner: Are you making out a case against technological learning and experience, against science and all accumulated knowledge? If we turn our backs on that we shall go back to savagery.
Krishnamurti: No, I am not making out such a case at all. I think we are misunderstanding each other. We said that there are two kinds of learning: accumulation through experience, and acting from that accumulation, which is the past, and which is absolutely necessary wherever the action of knowledge is necessary. We are not against this; that would be too absurd!
Questioner: Gandhi tried to keep the machine out of life and started all that business which they call “Home industries” or “Cottage industries” in India. Yet he used modern mechanized transport. This shows the inconsistency and hypocrisy of his position.
Krishnamurti: Let’s leave other people out of this. We are saying that there are two kinds of learning – one, acting through the accumulation of knowledge and experience, and the other, learning without accumulation, but learning all the time in the very act of living. The former is absolutely necessary in all technical matters, but relationship, behaviour, are not technical matters, they are living things and you have to learn about them all the time. If you act from what you have learnt about behaviour, then it becomes mechanical and therefore relationship becomes routine.
Then there is another very important point: in all the learning which is accumulation and experience, profit is the criterion that determines the efficiency of the learning. And when the motive of profit operates in human relationships then it destroys those relationships because it brings about isolation and division. When the learning of experience and accumulation enters the domain of human behaviour, the psychological domain, then it must inevitably destroy. Enlightened self-interest on the one hand is advancement, but on the other hand it is the very seat of mischief, misery and confusion. Relationship cannot flower where there is self-interest of any kind, and that is why relationship cannot flower where it is guided by experience or memory.
Questioner: I see this, but isn’t religious experience something different? I am talking about the experience gathered and passed on in religious matters – the experiences of the saints and gurus, the experience of the philosophers. Isn’t this kind of experience beneficial to us in our ignorance?
Krishnamurti: Not at all! The saint must be recognised by society and always conforms to society’s notions of sainthood – otherwise he wouldn’t be called a saint. Equally the guru must be recognised as such by his followers who are conditioned by tradition. So both the guru and the disciple are part of the cultural and religious conditioning of the particular society in which they live. When they assert that they have come into contact with reality, that they know, then you may be quite sure that what they know is not reality. What they know is their own projection from the past. So the man who says he knows, does not know. in all these so-called religious experiences a cognitive process of recognition is inherent. You can only recognise something you have known before, therefore it is of the past, therefore it is time-binding and not timeless. So-called religious experience does not bring benefit but merely conditions you according to your particular tradition, inclination, tendency and desire, and therefore encourages every form of illusion and isolation.
Questioner: Do you mean to say that you cannot experience reality?
Krishnamurti: To experience implies that there must be an experiencer and the experiencer is the essence of all conditioning. What he experiences is the already-known.
Questioner: What do you mean when you talk about the experiencer? If there is no experiencer do you mean you disappear?
Krishnamurti: Of course. The “you” is the past and as long as the “you” remains or the “me” remains, that which is immense cannot be. The “me” with his shallow little mind, experience and knowledge, with his heart burdened with jealousies and anxieties – how can such an entity understand that which has no beginning and no ending, that which is ecstasy? So the beginning of wisdom is to understand yourself. Begin understanding yourself.
Questioner: Is the experiencer different from that which he experiences, is the challenge different from the reaction to the challenge?
Krishnamurti: The experiencer is the experienced, otherwise he could not recognise the experience and would not call it an experience; the experience is already in him before he recognises it. So the past is always operating and recognising itself; the new becomes swallowed up by the old. Similarly it is the reaction which determines the challenge; the challenge is the reaction, the two are not separate; without a reaction there would be no challenge. So the experience of an experiencer, or the reaction to a challenge which comes from the experiencer, are old, for they are determined by the experiencer. If you come to think of it, the word “experience” means to go through something and finish with it and not store it up, but when we talk about experience we actually mean the opposite. Every time you speak of experience you speak of something stored from which action takes place, you speak of something which you have enjoyed and demand to have again, or have disliked and fear to have repeated.
So really to live is to learn without the cumulative process.