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Chapter 2 - The Beginning and Ending of Ignorance - Discussion in Bombay on 17 January 1973

Chapter 2 - The Beginning and Ending of Ignorance - Discussion in Bombay on 17 January 1973

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Pupul Jayakar (PJ): Krishnaji, can we discuss the question of consciousness and its relationship to the brain cells? We feel that in your talks you consider the two as synonymous. Are they of the same nature, or is there anything that identifies them as being separate?

Krishnamurti (K): You are asking, 'What is the relationship between the brain cells and consciousness? Are they of the same nature or different?'

PJ: You have also said that you regard them as being synonymous.

K: Synonymous. Yes.

PJ: And the great difference between the traditional use of the word consciousness and yours would be that in consciousness they would include that which lies beyond the horizons of the limited.

K: Ah, they use it that way, do they?

PJ: That is what people have told me. It is a semantic problem and, I think, it needs to be discussed now.

Maurice Frydman (MF): The brain is only an agglomeration of cells, a forest of cells, and each cell is quite independent. Every brain cell can live by itself. So is our consciousness the sum total of all the consciousnesses of the various cells, or is there a cognitive factor? Is it merely a resultant?

K: Come to the point.

MF: That is one question. The second is, what is primary and what is secondary? Does consciousness come first and then the brain, or does the brain come first and then consciousness?

K: That is the same thing.

MF: Now, from the purely logical point of view, consciousness is primary because we can talk about brain only as consciousness. So the primary factor is consciousness.

K: If I may ask, what do you mean by that word consciousness? Let's start right from the beginning. What does it mean?

MF: That which is present.

PJ: That is very limited, that is the meaning we have given it.

K: We will go slowly. What is consciousness, to be conscious of?

MF: Both suggest the 'me' and the presentation.

K: I want to be clear that we both understand the meaning of that word. One is conscious of that microphone.

MF: You have gone far away. What you are talking of is a little speck of life.

K: What is consciousness, sir?

MF: You are conscious of this. [Pointing to the microphone]

K: That's all I mean. I mean that.

MF: You are not conscious of any microphone.

K: No. I am conscious of that, but then I use the word microphone.

MF: That is already post-cognitive.

K: Yes, of course. So there is only being conscious of that; then the naming begins, then the like and the dislike.

MF: First of all we need the perception. Then the naming.

K: So consciousness means 'to be aware of'.

MF: To be aware of your sensations.

K: So to be aware of, to be conscious of. Contact, perception, sensation, and thought. Right.

Achyut Patwardhan (AP): I feel that consciousness is prior to sensation. It is a field, and at one time I am aware of some part of it through sensation, but I can see that the field is much vaster. I see that when I am conscious, I am aware of only a part of a very wide thing. That whole field is not in my awareness. So I don't want to restrict consciousness to something that is coterminus with my awareness because my awareness also is not something with a fixed dimension. Awareness can change; at any given moment my awareness may not be coextensive with the entire field. So what I feel is that consciousness can be seen to be much vaster than my focus.

K: I understand. So he is asking, 'What is the relationship between that consciousness and the brain cells?' She used the word consciousness.

MF: You must first of all ask her to define what she means by consciousness instead of going immediately into metaphysics.

K: That is what I was asking.

PJ: Not what I mean by consciousness. From Krishnaji's discussions when you say the content of consciousness is consciousness, it would imply that the content of the brain cells is consciousness, because there is no field which is not held in the brain cells. If there is a field outside the brain cells, which is also called consciousness, then you have to explore further and say...

K: ...all that is consciousness.

PJ: ...all that is consciousness. Then you can't say the content of consciousness is consciousness.

K: Stop there for a minute. Is that clear? I have said the content of consciousness is consciousness.

MF: All that we know about consciousness.

AP: 'The content of consciousness is consciousness' is a statement irrespective of, or unconnected to, the perceiver. It is a statement about consciousness. It is not your consciousness, my consciousness, his consciousness. The content of consciousness is consciousness.

K: That's right. Therefore outside the field of that consciousness there is no content.

PJ: The moment you posit 'outside the field of consciousness', you have posited a state which exists...

K: ...or may not exist.

MF: Putting it simply, what you say is: is the unknown a part of consciousness?

K: That's it, that's all. Very simple. Good, keep it to that. Is the unknown a part of consciousness, consciousness being the content?

PJ: That is what I would really like to discuss. Krishnaji uses consciousness in a very special sense. There is a major difference between the Krishnamurti position and the Vedantists' position, as I have understood it. Consciousness is supposed to be that which exists before anything else exists.

K: Ah no, no, no,

AP: The traditional position, as I have understood it, is this.

PJ: Not the Buddhist tradition.

AP: Yes, we must take the Vedantist position.

K: Also, you must explain the Vedantist position because I don't know what it is.

AP: Basically at the source of existence is a vast, incomprehensible energy which they call chaitanya. Chaitanya is the energy source. Chit is life, the life force. This is one position. The Buddhist position does not say anything about this at all.

K: Quite right.

AP: It refuses to say a word about it. Therefore we cannot answer her query from the Buddhist position because the Buddhists themselves don't talk about it. Any talk about it would be speculative, and they say that speculative processes are not the means for actual perception.

K: Therefore the content of consciousness is part of speculation.

AP: Therefore they say we can restrict ourselves only to that which is.

K: Would this be right? As we said yesterday, ignorance has no beginning, but it has an end. Don't inquire into the beginning of ignorance.

AP: That's right. That's marvellous, that's marvellous.

K: But find out how to end it. That is right, that is a good point. Let's stick to that.

AP: That is a wonderful point. We have immediately come upon something.

K: Quite right. That is a good point.

MF: The Buddhists say there is no such thing as consciousness in general, but there are states of consciousness, atomic states of consciousness.

K: Yes, yes.

MF: And the succession of these states is the root of consciousness.

K: So let's begin now. Ignorance has no beginning, ignorance can end. Don't let us investigate into the beginning of ignorance because that would be speculative, would be a waste of time. But is it possible to end ignorance? And this ignorance is consciousness, right?

AP: That consciousness is ignorance is a position which we will have to examine in the sense that it is not as obvious as the first.

K: No, no.

AP: It is an absolutely factual thing we are saying.

MF: That is exactly what the Advaitins say.

K: I don't know what the Advaitins say.

MF: They say what you said just now: that ignorance, that very consciousness is in the air; by seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, wanting, not wanting, feeling, that very consciousness, which is all the time present to us, is the very form of our awareness.

K: Ah, no.

AP: As I understand it, the Advaitin's position is slightly different. They say that the source, which you refer to as ignorance, is of the nature of chit and ananda. That is, the source, what you call the unknown, is of the nature of bliss and is constantly renewing itself. It is a flux, but it is a flux which is constantly into being, and the entire process of birth, growth, and decay is in that. Therefore the nature of that out of which the universe arises, out of which everything arises, is this place. They say that. Since you don't know anything about it, you can just call it ignorance. It is not ignorance because the world is not born out of it. They say the world is born out of that which is sat, which is reality in its essence, chit which is creativity, and ananda which is rapturous bliss. So here is again perhaps a semantic difference. I am merely stating the two positions side by side.

K: I understand that.

AP: A man who does not accept the Buddhist position will not immediately accept what you say.

PJ: About consciousness or the other thing?

AP: That it is a self-sustaining process of ignorance of which you cannot trace the beginning but which can be put an end to.

K: That's right.

AP: I have stated the two positions, but I don't want to say that they are conflicting positions. I only want to say that there are two different statements made by traditionalists.

K: Now, not knowing the traditionalists, Advaita, or Vedanta, we simply say ignorance has no beginning. One can see it in oneself. And it can be ended. That's all. Now, consciousness is within that field.

PJ: If it is within this field, then has it any existence apart from the brain cells which contain the memory about this?

K: Yes, that's right.

PJ: The scientific position is that whereas the brain cells and their operations are measurable, consciousness is not measurable; therefore the two are not synonymous.

K: I see.

PJ: This may not be the scientific position, but this was stated to me.

K: What you are saying is: consciousness is measurable.

AP: The brain cells and their movements are measurable, but consciousness is immeasurable.

K: I understand, I get the meaning.

AP: When we look through the biggest electric telescope, you see the expanse of the cosmos as far as that instrument will show it. But you know that if you get a bigger instrument, you may see a bigger thing. In that sense, though you measure it, you know that your measurement is relative only to the instrument with which you are perceiving.

K: Quite right, quite right.

AP: In that sense this is a relative element.

K: That is simple.

AP: And in the same sense consciousness also is...

K: ...measurable.

AP: Immeasurable. In the sense in which we say the electric telescope proves to you that the measurement of the universe you have is not the measurement of the universe: it is the measurement of the instrument. In the same way, consciousness is also something about which you do not know whether it is measurable or immeasurable. When you use a measure, it is your own instrument that you are measuring. Therefore about consciousness also they are not prepared to make any other statement except that any instrument with which you seek to measure it may be the measurement of your instrument; therefore you cannot say that that is the measurement of consciousness.

K: That is right. So consciousness is not measurable. The electric telescope reveals the universe according to the instrument. And if there was an instrument to measure consciousness, it will be dependent on the instrument. Therefore the instrument can be big or small; according to the instrument, you measure consciousness. That is all. Now, what is the next question?

MF: The next question is: how does it happen? A needle with cold air injected in your brain radically changes consciousness. Or an electric stimulation radically changes it.

K: Not radically changes. It changes the pattern, but still within the field of the known.

MF: How can you know?

K: It will always be in the field of the known.

MF: But it was not there before.

K: Just a minute. What Pupul is asking is: outside consciousness as we know it-the content and all the rest of it-is there a consciousness, is there a state which is not measurable, which is not pertaining to this consciousness?

PJ: Because in terms of consciousness and the brain cells, the instruments are the senses. The measurement of consciousness is in terms of your senses. When you say there is expanded consciousness, it is also in terms of that. Is there a state...

K: ...which is not knowable?

PJ: ...which is not cognizable, not knowable, not obtainable within the brain cells?

K: That's right, that's right. You got it?

MF: Yes. Why should it interest me?

K: Interest you?

MF: Yes, because you say it is not knowable.

K: Not knowable in the sense of recognizable.

MF: That means something new.

K: Something totally new.

AP: I am coming to the in-between step. We know that consciousness is also the source of racial memories and all the memories that man has. That is an intermediate step. I am answering Maurice's point; he said that the brain cells will recognize everything that comes out of the racial memories, out of the field of man's past.

K: Out of the known.

PJ: A million years of the known.

AP: A million years, whatever it be. Even the earliest memories of man in the primeval jungles the brain may be able to remember.

K: Keep it very simple. We said the known is consciousness. The content of the known is consciousness. Now, is there something outside this which is not known, which is totally new? And does it already exist in the brain cells, and if it exists outside the known, is it recognizable, experienceable? If it is experienceable, it is not the unknown; if it is recognizable, it is still in the field of the known.

MF: Is it available or not?

K: It is available only when the recognizing and experiencing process come to an end. Pupul asked, 'Is it in the known or out of the known? If it is out of the known, is it already in the brain cells?' If it is in the brain cells, it is already the known because the brain cells can't contain something new.

PJ: I may even put it this way: is it in the brain cells in the sense that it is only because we do not have the instruments...

K: ...to measure, to experience, to feel this? Very dangerous this thing, because the moment you say it is in the brain cells, it may be tradition, it may be my father's father's father's...

PJ: You have to ask that question.

K: We have asked it. It may be in the deep recesses of the brain cells; therefore, to me, the whole of this is the known.

MF: The potentially known is also there.

K: Of course, of course.

MF: So all that is knowable is the known.

K: Yes. Which is already in the brain cells.

MF: The potential is in the brain cells, so that is a universe by itself.

K: Yes.

MF: That is available.

K: It is there, it is there. I will have to dig deep into the treasure.

MF: You asked, 'Is there anything else outside the brain?'

K: That is all, keep it simple. I say there is.

MF: On what do you base your statement?

K: The statement that every process of recognition, experience is always within the field of known. And any movement of the brain cells as thought, moving away from the known, trying to investigate into the other, is still the known.

MF: How do you know there is something different?

K: You can't know it.

MF: So on what ground do you make that statement?

K: On the ground that there is a state where the mind cannot recognize anything.

MF: A space with its own emptiness.

K: No. Don't give it a name, don't give it a name.

MF: Let me repeat: there is state in which the mind does not recognize.

K: There is a state in which recognition and experience, which are the movements of the known, have totally come to an end. I want to convey it to you first. Yes, sir. That is quite right, that is quite right. It is so. Now I can battle with you.

PJ: In what way is it differentiated from a state of death? There also there is a total ending.

AP: Yes, of the process of recognition.

K: Of the process of recognition, experiencing.

PJ: Is it of a different nature?

K: You see, when you use the word death, we have to go into that. The organism and the brain cells come to an end, there is no blood going to it; the whole thing collapses. That is a different state altogether.

PJ: We'll leave that out. Let me put it to you in another way: when you say that all the processes of cognition have come to an end and yet it is a living state, is the sense of existence, of being...

K: No. These words existence, being don't apply.

AP: Could you say how it is different from deep sleep?

K: I don't know what you mean by deep sleep.

AP: By deep sleep I mean the processes of recognition and recording, that is, experiencing, are for the time being in total abeyance.

K: Abeyance? No, that is quite a different thing. Let's see.

PJ: What has happened to the senses in that state?

K: The senses are in abeyance.

PJ: They are not operating?

K: In that state I might scratch myself-you follow? Flies come and sting me, I scratch myself. That is the reaction of the senses, but that doesn't affect that.

MF: Doesn't affect that, but the knowledge that there is a scratching going on, is it present in that?

K: This is a natural thing, isn't it? But that's not present in that.

MF: It isn't recorded.

K: No.

MF: So is it not aware?

K: No, no. You must go very carefully, very slowly with this. Any movement of the known, any movement-potential, non-potential-is within the field of the known. That is the content of consciousness. That experiences, recognizes, demands, craves for something new, craves for freedom from the known. Now, only when all that movement has completely come to an end-which I am not sure it does during sleep-does the other quality come into being. This has a motive, that has no motive. The mind can't through motive come to that. The motive is the known. So the mind says-this is the point-it is no good investigating into ignorance, but I know how it can come to an end. Ignorance is part of the content, ignorance is part of this demand to experience more. So when that comes to an end, not brought about by conscious effort-which has motive, will, direction, and all the rest of it-then the other thing comes into being. Not comes into being; the other thing is seen, or the other thing is there.

MF: If you don't mind a personal question: at this moment when you are talking to us, are you in contact with the other thing?

K: Yes.

MF: Now, if you are in contact with the other thing, in this situation which you are in now, is there consciousness or not?

K: Not contact, I wouldn't use the word contact.

MF: All right. Being in that other thing.

K: No, it is there.

MF: All right, the thing is there. The situation which you are in now-are you cognizant of it?

K: What does that mean?

MF: Do you know that we are here and you are talking to us?

K: Of course, of course, I see your shirt, I see that you've a coloured dress. Obviously.

MF: Then how does it compare with what you said just before-that in that state the sensations are not?

K: That is very different, isn't it?

MF: Where is the difference? Why should the mosquito be less important to you than we are?

K: No. I see the colour, the senses are in operation, recognition is in operation.

MF: Very normal.

K: Normal. The other is there.

MF: Look at my plight. The same man who says that that, the other, is beyond all knowledge says, 'I am in a state of knowing now because I recognize all these things, I know what is going on, and at the same time I am cognizant of something, there is something which is beyond knowledge.'

K: Definitely, sir. It is not a duality.

MF: It pervades knowledge.

K: No.

MF: Knowledge is a part of it.

K: No.

MF: It functions in knowledge.

K: I must go very slowly. I know what you are getting at, I understand what you are asking. I want to get at this very simply. I see the colour, and there are the senses in operation.

AP: Even trying to translate what you are saying seems to prevent us from getting at what you are saying, because that would be duality immediately.

K: Yes.

AP: The moment you say something, you make a statement which immediately says this is not the door of knowledge as you know it, and therefore go slow because this can't go by this door. When you say something, any movement in the mind prevents us from meeting it. I am pointing to the difficulty that arises in communication at this point.

K: I think communication about the other is not possible.

MF: I don't want you to state theory. I am trying to understand only the conscious part of the mind of the man who talks to me, the man who behaves normally.

K: I understand, yes.

MF: By what right, on what basis, does he tell me that there is something else?

K: I'll tell you. The basis for that is that there is no movement of recognition, of experiencing, of motive, which is freedom from the known.

MF: That is pure cognition without any recognition.

K: No, no, no.

MF: Well, you just said it.

K: But you are translating it differently. This movement has come to an end for the time being; that's all.

MF: That movement of recognition has gone.

K: All that comes to an end.

MF: Why do you suddenly use the word time being? Where does the 'time being' come in?

K: I see. Why did I use it?

MF: You said all movement of recognition has come to an end for 'the time being'. Is there another time when all this operates?

K: Look, let's begin again. The mind, the brain, is the known, all that which functions within the field of the known. In that there is recognition. Then the mind, the brain, is completely stable. The time element is the known.

MF: Now you look at the still mind. What do you see?

K: I don't see my still mind. There is no knowing that your mind is still. If you know it, it is not still. Then there is an observer who says 'I know' and all the rest of it. So the stillness of which we talk about is non-recognizable, nonexperienceable.

MF: Then who is the gentleman who is telling me this just now?

K: He is merely the entity that wants to tell you about it- verbal communication.

MF: Does he abide with a still mind?

K: The moment he moves away in communication, the still mind is not.

MF: Is there anyone who can move in and out of the still mind?

K: No.

MF: See how puzzled I get?

K: I know, I know. Just look at it. It isn't something you enter into and come out of. It is there-I am not saying it is always there-for the man who understands the known and all the rest of it.

MF: It's always there.

K: It is there, and it never leaves though he communicates, though he says this, this, this. That is never gone; it is there.

MF: Why do you use the word communicate?

K: This is it: communication, talking.

MF: Why do you attribute it to that?

K: I don't attribute it to that.

MF: You do. Who communicates? There is a state which is always there. I am asking you, who communicates? Who talked to me just now?

K: Just now? The brain cells that have acquired the knowledge of language. It is the brain cells that are communicating through the brain operation.

MF: I follow. So the brain contains its own observer.

K: The brain is the observer.

MF: The brain is the observer and also the operator.

K: The operator and all the rest of it.

MF: So outside the brain cells there is that state or whatever you call it. Put it that way. Now, what is the relationship between that and the brain?

K: Tentatively I say there is no relationship.

MF: You want to say it just happens by itself, unpredicted?

K: Please, I am experimenting. Don't catch me and say, 'You said that.' This is a fact, isn't it? The brain cells hold the known. And the brain is completely stable; it is not operating at all.

MF: In the field of the known the brain is functioning.

K: No, wait a minute. When the mind-when the brain is completely still, in that there is no verbal statement or communication. The brain is completely still. The other is there. What is the relationship between the brain and that?

MF: By the brain I mean a piece of tissue.

K: A piece of tissue.

MF: Not the...

K: ...idea. Why do you ask this question?

MF: Because we have listened to it.

PJ: I would like to ask: why is it that this state of consciousness, this state of being...

K: Don't call it anything.

PJ: Why is it that the state of not-knowing is associated with the brain cells here, which makes these brain cells respond?

K: Put it simply.

PJ: He asked you a question. In the state of not-knowing you speak. Therefore the state of not-knowing has taken over the brain cells. Why has it done it in this case?

MF: He has not yet answered the first question: what is the relationship between that state and the brain? How is the brain affected by that state, and how is that state affected by the brain? If they are isolated, if one is lived by itself and the other by itself, then how can there be cognition between these two? The mere relationship of cognition I know. So if there is cognition between that state and the brain, there must be a common factor. You say the common factor is the still mind; at least that is what I understand.

K: That's right, that's right.

MF: The common factor is the still mind. When the mind is still, that can communicate with the brain; the brain can respond to that, the brain is open to that, sensitive to that. Now, that is what I guess. Is this correct or not?

K: Yes. I think it is correct, I think it is correct.

MF: Now we will come to Pupul's question. By what magic, by what means does that state of a still mind make a bridge? How do you manage to bring a permanent bridge between the brain and that and maintain that bridge? We all complain that it comes and goes, but you maintain that the bridge is there, solid. What has built that bridge?

K: If one says, 'I don't know', what would you answer?

MF: That you have inherited it.

K: No.

MF: It's from some past lives.

PJ: Or chance.

MF: Or you may say karma or something, or somebody has presented you with this.

K: I think I know. I'm beginning to get it. Chance? No. Chance, an event that happens.

MF: Chance, choice, whatever it is.

AP: I don't think an event that happened to you can happen to us.

K: 'Why doesn't it happen to me?' Is that it?

PJ: Is there any preparation for it?

MF: Honestly, Krishnaji, I am not finding an excuse.

K: No, no. We have gone beyond all that.

MF: If it can happen to you, it can happen to others, it can happen to everybody.

K: I say it can happen to everybody.

MF: Now, is there a way to awaken that?

K: No, no, no.

MF: Or can you do something?

K: Yes, definitely you can do something.

MF: Your teaching goes on all the time turning round and round one single point that awareness is the truth.

K: Attention, awareness, yes.

MF: So most of us, by trying to be aware, seem to have a sense of despair-I speak for myself.

K: Despair. I understand.

MF: Everything crumbles.

K: I understand.

MF: And the more you do, the more it crumbles.

K: I understand.

MF: So where have we made the mistake?

K: Let's begin again. Is it by chance, by an event happening? Can that event happen to us? Or is it an exception? This is what we are discussing now.

AP: It is obviously not through time.

K: Obviously.

MF: Let it be through time.

K: We'll leave it for the moment, leave it. If it is a miracle, can you do that miracle? Can it happen to you?

MF: Then there must be somebody to produce it.

K: So it is not an event, it is not a miracle, it is not giveable.

MF: It may not be an event, it may not be a miracle, it may not be giveable.

K: Maybe. How did this happen with this person and not with another? Right, Frydman?

MF: I will put that question like this.

K: Put it differently.

MF: How can it happen to me?

K: Yes, that's all. How can it happen to you? I don't think it can happen to you that way.

MF: All right, so what?

K: The thing that happened to me, will the very same thing happen to you?

MF: No. I never ask, 'Will it happen to me?' I ask, 'What can I do?'

K: Nothing.

MF: Granted, agreed. So you are condemning me, sir.

K: No, no.

MF: With time.

K: No, no. You are missing my point. When you say, 'Can it happen to me?' I say you are putting a wrong question. What am I to do for it to happen? I say you can do nothing, which doesn't mean nothing.

MF: What are the two meanings of nothing?

K: I will tell you. The two meanings of nothing are: the desire to experience that, to recognize that, to have that- do nothing about that; but do everything else in the other, which is, see, be aware, really not theoretically, be deeply attentive to the known. Nothing else.

MF: That means you seem to say: do nothing, just behave.

K: Behave properly?

MF: 'Behave' means act consciously.

K: Put it that way if you want to.

MF: So it brings the entire thing down to action.

K: To action. Quite right.

MF: You may come, you may achieve.

K: Ah, no.

MF: No? All right.

AP: The wrong word I thought was me: will it happen to me? Because the moment understanding is cracked up into 'me' and 'not me', we have created a barrier of our own making.

K: Sir, I think it is this that happens. You must touch life, this thing, very, very lightly-the food, the talk-as though you are dying the next minute. The body, the senses must become very light. Death and life must be moving so easily-you follow? You might die any moment. Have I answered anywhere near your question?

PJ: You haven't answered specifically. Possibly an answer is not possible for this.

K: Can we put the whole thing differently? That-we will call it for the moment that-is infinite energy. And the energy created by our strife, conflict, is entirely different from that. When there is no conflict at all, the other, that infinite energy, which is always renewing itself, goes on. The energy that peters out is what we know. There is the energy that never peters out, never. What is the relationship of the two? There is none.

MF: Do you mean to say that the infinite energy is patiently waiting for me to get out of the...

K: No, it is there.

MF: It will flow in when I am not there.

K: Yes, obviously.

MF: And there is no nudging, no kicking?

K: [Laughs] Then you are back again.

AP: There is no what?

K: Nudging, pushing, inviting, saying 'Come on, boy, get out.' No, no, no. You can't do it; those are all tricks.

MF: My own experience is that there is something which keeps on teasing me, nudging me, nagging me that this cannot continue, this must continue.

K: That's obvious.

MF: Is that an age factor, or is it related to that?

K: No. Do you know what it means? You are back again in...

MF: ...consciousness.

K: All my concern is to be out of the way.

MF: Out of the way. And that we do through action.

K: Action, relationship, all that. We're putting all this very crudely.

MF: By action do you mean only the ego or something more?

K: Oh, much more.