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"Can a confused mind choose? If it does, the choice must also be confused... We think we are free when we choose, but we are not, are we? Where there is choice, there is no freedom because that very choice springs from our conditioned state. We think we have a will of our own, and we exercise that will through choice. But, if you observe, you will see that will is the outcome of innumerable desires, of many forms of frustration, fears, and these frustrations, fears, desires are the outcome of our conditioning, of our background, so when we choose, we are never free." Jiddu Krishnamurti
Editor's 1-Minute Essay: Choice
Editor's note: The following excerpts from Jiddu Krishnamurti's lectures constitute, in my opinion, the greatest offering ever on the subject of "choice." A word of warning, however: if you are a newcomer to this subject, it is not what you think. "Choice," as understood by the Small Ego, is vastly different - counter-intuitively so - from its higher-level expression. To successfully proceed here, be prepared to redefine words that you thought you knew. If you're a student of Tolle, you're at an advantage and very nearly home-free; but, in any case, a proper view of the following is vital in terms of negotiating the real world of the 'true self.'
Jiddu Krishnamurti, Madras, India, January 19, 1952: "What is simplicity? Can simplicity be the discarding of non-essentials and pursuing of essentials - which means choice? Please follow this. Does it not mean choice, choosing? I choose essentials and discard non-essentials. What is this process of choosing? Think deeply. What is the entity that chooses? The mind, is it not? It does not matter what you call it. You say, "I will choose this essential." How do you know what is the essential? Either you have a pattern of what other people have said or your own experience says that is the essential. Can you rely on your experience? Because, when you choose, your choice is based on desire; what you call essential is that which gives you satisfaction. So you are back again in the same process, are you not? Can a confused mind choose? If it does, the choice must also be confused. Therefore, the choice between the essential and the nonessential is not simplicity. It is a conflict. A mind in conflict, in confusion, can never be simple. So when you discard, when you see all the false things and the tricks of the mind, when you observe it, look at it, are aware of it, then you will know what simplicity is. A mind which is bound by belief is never a simple mind. A mind that is crippled with knowledge is not simple. A mind that is distracted by God, by women, by music, is not a simple mind. A mind caught in the routine of the office, of the rituals, of the mantras, such a mind is not simple. Simplicity is action without idea. But, that is a very rare thing; that means creation. As long as there is not creation, we are centers of mischief and misery and destruction. Simplicity is not a thing which you pursue and experience. Simplicity comes, as a flower opens, at the right moment when each one understands the whole process of existence and relationship. Because we have not thought about it or have not observed it, we are not aware of it; we value in a certain way all of the outer forms of simplicity - such as shaving our heads, having clothing or unclothing in a certain way. Those are not simplicity. Simplicity is not to be found. Simplicity does not lie between essential and nonessential. It comes into being when the self is not, when the self is not caught in speculations, in conclusions, in beliefs, in ideations. Such a mind only can find truth. Such a mind alone can receive that which is immeasurable, which is unnameable - and that is simplicity."
Jiddu Krishnamurti, Paris, 1950: "Now, it is clear that we cannot resolve any human problem, either external or inward, without understanding ourselves, and the understanding of ourselves is possible only when we do not condemn or justify that of which we are aware. To be aware, without condemnation, justification, or comparison, of every thought, of every mood, of every reaction, does not demand the approximation to an idea. What it does require is earnestness - a sense of going into it fully, completely. But most of us do not want to understand any problem deeply, fully; we would rather escape from it through an idea, through approximation, through comparison or condemnation, and thereby we never solve the particular issue in front of us. So, it is important, is it not, in order to understand ourselves, that we be aware of every reaction, every feeling as it arises, and awareness does not depend on any formula, on any doctrine or belief - which are merely self-projected escapes. To understand every mood, every sense of reaction, surely one must be aware without choice because the moment we choose, we set into motion a process of conflict. That is, when we choose, there is resistance, and in resistance there is no understanding. Choice is merely fixing the mind on a particular interest and resisting other interests, other demands, other pursuits, and obviously, such choice will not help us to resolve or understand the whole process of ourselves. Each one of us is made up of many entities, conscious as well as unconscious, and to choose one particular entity, one particular desire, and pursue that is surely an impediment to the understanding of ourselves."
Jiddu Krishnamurti, Bombay, India, March 3, 1954: "Living has so many accidents, and the mind gets so many scars. As we grow older, the accumulation of accidents, experiences, the constant battle with life, leaves many scars on the mind. We only know suffering with very little joy, and problems increase; that seems to be the lot of most of us, whatever our capacities are - intellectual, scientific, or otherwise. We seem to burden our minds with all kinds of activity, our hearts wither away with the sense of frustration, fear, and the everlasting shadow of loneliness. Very few of us are happy, and we never know the feeling of being creative. Having been grooved, it is very difficult to heal the mind again so that it is once again fresh and unspotted. And in the search of this happiness, this feeling, we pursue so many things, we have so many desires, unfulfilled and fulfilled. And our society, our culture, our parents, our neighbors, husbands, wives are all the time impinging on the mind, shaping the mind, conditioning the mind so that we hardly are individuals, though we have a particular name, a special face. If we are lucky, we have a house and a little bank account and also a few capacities - that is what we call individuality. But beyond the name and the few little qualities and the little puddles which we call our minds, we are not individuals at all; we are conditioned entities with very little freedom. We think we are free when we choose, but we are not, are we? Where there is choice, there is no freedom because that very choice springs from our conditioned state. We think we have a will of our own, and we exercise that will through choice. But, if you observe, you will see that will is the outcome of innumerable desires, of many forms of frustration, fears, and these frustrations, fears, desires are the outcome of our conditioning, of our background, so when we choose, we are never free. Choice in itself indicates the lack of freedom. A man who is really free has no choice; he is free not to do this or that but to be. As long as we have choice, we are really not free and we are not really individuals. It is very important to understand this because most of us live with choice - choosing a virtue, a person, an action - and choice invariably leads to misery; there is no good choice and bad choice. Only the mind that is free from choice is capable of perceiving what is true. Truth does not come through choice. Truth does not come with analysis, with the capacity to choose between this and that, right and wrong; on the contrary, all choice is the outcome of our conditioning which is based on fear and acquisitiveness. We, you and I, call ourselves individuals, but we are really not individuals at all. It is only when we are free from the background, from our conditioning, that there is real individuality, and that requires a great deal of thought, inquiry."
Jiddu Krishnamurti, Alpino, Italy, July 4, 1933: "Most of you are faced by some kind of crisis, with regard to money, or people, or love, or death; and when you are caught up in such a crisis you have to choose, to decide. How do you decide? Your decision springs from fear, want, sensation. So you are merely postponing; you are choosing what is convenient, what is pleasant, and therefore you are merely creating another shadow through which you have to pass. Only when you feel the absurdity of your present existence, feel it not just intellectually, but with your whole heart and mind - when you really feel the absurdity of this continual choice - then out of that awareness is born discernment. Then you do not choose: you act. It is easy to give examples, but I shall give none, for they are often confusing. So to me, awareness does not result from the struggle to be aware; it comes of its own accord when you are conscious with your whole being, when you realize the futility of choice. At present you choose between two things, two courses of action; you make a choice between this and that; one you understand, the other you do not. With the result of such choice, you hope to fill your life. You act according to your wants, your desires. Naturally, when that desire is fulfilled, action has come to an end. Then, since you are still lonely, you look for another action, another fulfillment. Each one of you is faced with a duality in action, a choice between doing this or that; but when you are aware of the futility of choice, when you are aware with your whole being, without effort, then you will truly discern. You can test this only when you are really in a crisis; you cannot test it intellectually, when sitting at your ease and imagining a mental conflict. You can learn its truth only when you are face to face with an insistent demand for choice, when you have to make a decision, when your whole being demands action. If in that moment you realize with your whole being, if in that moment you are aware of the futility of choice, then out of that comes the flower of intuition, the flower of discernment. Action born of that is infinite; then action is life itself. Then there is no division between action and actor; all is continuous. There is no temporary fulfillment which is soon over."
Jiddu Krishnamurti, Alpino, Italy, July 6, 1933: "Where there is choice there can be no discernment, for discernment is choiceless. Where there is choice and the capacity to choose, there is only limitation. Only when choice ceases is there liberation, fullness, richness of action, which is life itself. Creation is choiceless, as life is choiceless, as understanding is choiceless. Likewise is truth; it is a continuous action, an everbecoming, in which there is no choice. It is pure discernment."
Jiddu Krishnamurti, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, May 18, 1935: Question: "What is human will power?" Krishnamurti: "It is nothing but a reaction against resistance. The mind has created, through its desire for self-protection and comfort, many hindrances and barriers, thus bringing about its own incompleteness, its own sorrow. To free itself from this sorrow, the mind begins to battle against these self-created resistances and limitations. In this conflict there is born and developed will, with which the mind identifies itself, thus giving birth to the "I" consciousness. If these barriers did not exist, there would be continual fulfillment in action, not an overcoming of a conflict. You are trying to kill out, to conquer these self-imposed limitations, which only give birth to resistance which we call will. But if we understood why these barriers were created, then there would not be an overcoming, a conquering, which but creates further resistance. These barriers, these hindrances have come into being through the desire for self-protection, and hence there is a conflict between the movement of eternal life and that desire. From this conflict arise sorrow and the many carefully cultivated escapes. Where there is escape there must be illusion, there must be the erection of barriers. Will is but another of the illusions which have been created in search of self-protection; and it is only when the mind liberates itself from its own centre of illusions and is creatively empty that there is discernment of that which is true. Discernment is not the result of will, as will springs from resistance. Will is the outcome of the conflict of choice, but discernment is choiceless."
Jiddu Krishnamurti, Montevideo, Uruguay, June 28, 1935: Question: "Do you believe in free will, in determinism, or in inexorable karma?" Krishnamurti: "We have the capacity to choose, and as long as this exists, however conditioned and however unjust, there must be limited freedom. Now our thought is conditioned by past experiences, memories; therefore it cannot be truly free. If you want to understand the eternal present, if you want to complete your action in the present, you must understand the cause of limitation, from which arises this division between consciousness and impeded consciousness. It is this limited consciousness, with its impeded action, that creates incompleteness, causing suffering. If action is not creating further limitations, then there is the continual movement of life. Karma, or the limitation of action in the present, is created through impeded consciousness of values, ideals, hopes which each one has not wholly understood. Only through deep discernment of these hindrances, can the mind liberate itself from the limitation of action."
Jiddu Krishnamurti, Ojai, California, April 26, 1936: "We are now making an effort to acquire virtues, pleasures, possessions, and are developing many tendencies towards greater accumulation and security; or, if we are not doing this, we go about it negatively by denying these things and trying to develop another series of subtle self-protections. If you examine this process carefully, you will perceive that consciousness, the mind, is ever isolating itself through acquisitive and self-protective desires. In this separative process duality is created, which brings conflict, suffering and confusion. The "I" process itself creates its own illusions, sorrows, through its self-created ignorance. To understand this process, there must be awareness, without the desire to choose between opposites. Choice in action creates duality, and this affirms the process of consciousness as individuality. If the mind-heart, not cognizant of its own secret demands, pursuits, of its hopes and fears, chooses, there must be the further creation of limitation and frustration. Thus, through the lack of understanding of ourselves, there is choice, which creates circumstances necessitating a further series of choices, and so mind-heart is caught over and over again in its own self-created circle of limitation."
Jiddu Krishnamurti, Chennai, India, December 6, 1936: "Now, you think you are able to choose between the false and the true. That choice is based on prejudice; it is induced by preconceived ideals, by tradition, hope, and so the choice is only a modification of the false. But, if you are able to perceive the actual without any desire or identification, then in that very perception of the false there is the beginning of the true. That is intelligence, which is not based on prejudice, tradition, want, and that alone can dissolve the subtle essence of all problems, spontaneously, richly, and without the compulsion of fear. Let us find out, if we can, what is the actual, without interpretation, without identification. When I speak of your beliefs and theories, your worships, your Gods, your ideals and leaders, when I speak of the disease of nationalism, of systems of gurus and masters, do not project defensive reactions. All that I am trying to do is to point out what I consider to be the cause of conflict and suffering."
Jiddu Krishnamurti, Ojai, California, 1945: "Choice between opposing desires merely continues conflict; choice implies duality; through choice there is no freedom, for will is still productive of conflict. Then how is it possible for thought to go beyond and above the pattern of duality? Only when we understand the ways of craving and of self-gratification is it possible to transcend the endless conflict of opposites. We are ever seeking pleasure and avoiding sorrow; the constant desire to become hardens the mind-heart, causing strife and pain. Have you not noticed how ruthless a man is in his desire to become? To become something in this world is relatively the same as becoming something in what is considered the spiritual world; in each, man is driven by the desire to become and this craving leads to incessant conflict, to peculiar ruthlessness and antagonism. Then to renounce is to acquire and acquisition is the seed of conflict. This process of renouncing and acquiring, of becoming and not becoming is an endless chain of sorrow."
Jiddu Krishnamurti, Mumbai, India, February 22, 1948: "...to choose one of the contradictions is to avoid direct action, because choice at all times is a process of the avoidance of action. That is, if I choose one of the contradictions, peace, and do not understand its opposite, conflict, then such choice leads to inaction. It is not choice, but right thinking, that brings about integration. Where there is right thinking, contradictions are not possible; when we know how to think rightly, contradiction will cease. So, we have to find out what is right thinking, and not be caught in choice between good and evil, between war and peace, between riches and poverty, between freedom and regimentation. When right thinking comes into being, there is no contradiction. Contradiction is the very nature of the self, the seat of desire. So, to understand desire is the beginning of self-knowledge, and without self-knowledge, there is no right thinking. If I don't know myself, the total process of myself, not only at the economic level of everyday existence, but at the different psychological levels, then I live in a state of contradiction; and to choose one of the opposites does not bring about integration. We see contradiction about us and in our lives, there is a constant battle of choice between right and wrong; and we choose one of the opposites, yet that does not bring about peace, integration. So, to choose is to avoid action, and only right thinking can bring about integration."
Jiddu Krishnamurti, Mumbai, India, April 11, 1948: Question: "Are we not always in daily life, if we are intelligent, making a choice?" Krishnamurti: "You make a choice only when you do not know what to do. For factual things, you must choose. But, choice in psychological things is when you are confused. You do not choose between pleasure and pain but you pursue pleasure. A mind which is confused and choosing is a dishonest mind, i.e., doing a thing not knowing what it is doing." Question: "Dishonesty implies a standard of morality." Krishnamurti: "No. Choice exists only in matters that are irrelevant or are not clearly seen. Clear perception is honest thinking. As long as there is choice, there is confusion. Do you ever psychologically choose?" Question: "Yes; when I want to earn money or when I renounce something." Krishnamurti: "No. You are seeking pleasure whether it comes through earning money or renouncing something. Therefore, there is no choice, psychologically. I do not see clearly because I am choosing. Psychologically, I pursue pleasure. As long as I am pursuing pleasure and using wrong words, I am deceiving myself - for instance, by saying "I serve the world," "I serve the poor" etc. All this is based on pleasure. I must not deceive myself in any way. I must be very clear in my feelings, thoughts and actions. Then only there can be immediate transformation. Do you not get what you want if that desire is not lukewarm? You envy Napoleons and Stalins who went ruthlessly and wholeheartedly after what they wanted. Spiritual leaders also have acted likewise, though with kid gloves. Dishonesty is lack of perception, avoidance of looking at things as they are. We have now come to this point: Transformation is not a matter of words or explanations; it comes instantaneously when we see things clearly. When one gives up property or good income, how does one do it? Have you given up anything instantaneously?"
Jiddu Krishnamurti, Frognerseteren, Norway, September 12, 1933:
Today am going to make a sum of what I have been saying here.
We have the idea that wisdom is a process of acquisition through constant multiplication of experience. We think that by multiplying experiences we shall learn, and that learning will give us wisdom, and through that wisdom in action we hope to find richness, self-sufficiency, happiness, truth. That is, to us, experience is but a constant change of sensation, because we look to time to give us wisdom. When we think in this manner - that through time we shall acquire wisdom - we have the idea of getting somewhere. That is, we say that time will gradually reveal wisdom. But time does not reveal wisdom, because we use time only as a means of getting somewhere. When we have the idea of acquiring wisdom through the constant change of experience, we are looking for acquisition, and so there is no immediate perception, which is wisdom.
Let us take an example; perhaps it will clarify what I mean. This change of desire, this change of sensation, this multiplication of experiences which that change of sensation brings about, we call progress. Suppose we see a hat in a shop, and we desire to possess it; having obtained that hat, we want something else - a car, and so on. Then we turn to emotional wants, and we think that in thus changing our desire from a hat to an emotional sensation we have grown. From emotional sensation we turn to intellectual sensations, to ideas, to God, to truth. That is, we think that we have progressed through constant change of experiences, from the state of wanting a hat to the state of wanting and searching for God. So we believe that through experiences, through choice, we have made progress.
Now, to me that is not progress; it is merely a change in sensation, sensation more and more subtle, more and more refined, but still sensation, and therefore superficial. We have merely changed the object of our desire; at first it was a hat, now it has become God, and therein we think we have made tremendous progress. That is, we think that through this gradual process of refining sensation we shall find out what truth, God, eternity is. I say, you will never find truth through the gradual change of the object of desire. But if you understand that only through immediate perception, immediate discernment, lies the whole of wisdom, then this idea of the gradual change of desire will disappear.
Now what are we doing? We think, ''I was different yesterday, I am different today, and I shall be different tomorrow''; so we look to difference, to change - not to discernment. Take, for instance, the idea of detachment. We say to ourselves, ''Two years ago I was very much attached, today I am less attached, and in a few years I shall be still less, eventually coming to a state in which I shall be quite detached.'' So we think that we have grown from attachment to detachment through the constant shock of experience, which we call progress, development of character.
To me, this is not progress. If you perceive with your entire being the whole significance of attachment, then you do not progress towards detachment. The mere pursuit of detachment does not reveal the shallowness of attachment, which can be understood only when the mind and heart are not escaping through the idea of detachment. This understanding is not brought about through time, but only in the realization that in attachment itself there is pain as well as transient joy. Then you ask me, ''Won't time help me to perceive that?'' Time will not. What will make you perceive is either the transiency of joy or the intensity of pain in attachment. If you are fully aware of this, then you are no longer held by the idea of being different now from what you were a few years ago, and later on being different again. The idea of progressive time becomes illusory.
To put it differently, we think that through choice we shall advance, we shall learn, through choice we shall change. We choose mostly through want. There is no satisfaction in comparative choice. That which does not satisfy us we call the unessential, and that which does, the essential. Thus, we are constantly being caught in this conflict of choice from which we hope to learn. Choice, then, is merely opposites in action; it is calculation between the opposites, and not enduring discernment. Hence, we grow from what we call the unessential to what we call the essential, and that, in turn, becomes the unessential. That is, we grow from the desire for the hat, which we thought was the essential and which has now become the unessential, to what we think is the essential, only to discover that also to be the unessential. So, through choice we think that we shall come to the fullness of action, to the completeness of life.
As I have said, to me perception or discernment is timeless. Time does not give you discernment of experiences; it makes you only more clever, more cunning, in meeting experiences. But if you perceive and live completely in the very thing that you are experiencing, then this idea of change from the unessential to the essential disappears, and so mind frees itself from the idea of progressive time.
You look to time to change you. You say to yourself, ''Through the multiplication of experiences, as in changing from the desire for the hat to the desire for God, I shall learn wisdom, I shall learn understanding.'' In action born of choice there is no discernment, choice being calculation, a remembrance of incomplete action. That is, you now meet an experience partially, with a religious bias, with the prejudices of social or class distinctions, and this perverted mind, when it meets life, creates choice; it does not give you the fullness of understanding. But if you meet life with freedom, with openness, with simplicity, then choice disappears, for you live completely, without creating the conflict of opposites.
Questioner: What do you mean by living fully, openly, freely? Please give a practical example. Please also explain, with a practical example, how in the attempt to live fully, openly, and freely one becomes conscious of one's hindrances which prevent freedom, and how by becoming fully conscious of them one can be liberated from them.
Krishnamurti: Suppose I am a snob and am unconscious that I am a snob; that is, I have class prejudice, and I meet life, unconscious of this prejudice. Naturally, having my mind distorted by this idea of class distinction, I cannot understand, I cannot meet life openly, freely, simply. Or again, if I have been brought up with strong religious doctrines or with some particular training, my thoughts and emotions are perverted; with this background of prejudice I go forth to meet life, and this prejudice naturally prevents my complete understanding of life. In such a background of tradition and false values, of class distinction and religious bias, of fear and prejudice, we are caught. With that background, with those established standards, either inner or outer, we go forth trying to meet life and trying to understand. From these prejudices there arises conflict, transient joys, and suffering. But we are unconscious of this, unconscious that we are slaves to certain forms of tradition, to social and political environment, to false values.
Now, to free yourself from this slavery, I say, do not try to analyze the past, the background of tradition to which you are a slave and of which you are unconscious. If you are a snob, do not try to find out after your action is over whether you are a snob. Be fully aware, and through what you say and through what you do, the snobbery that you are unconscious of will come into activity; then you can be free of it, for this flame of awareness creates an intense conflict, which dissolves snobbery.
As I said the other day, self-analysis is destructive, because the more you analyze yourself, the less there is of action. Self-analysis takes place only when the incident is over, when it has passed away; then you return to that incident intellectually and try intellectually to dissect it, to understand it. There is no understanding in a dead thing. Rather, if you are fully conscious in your action - not as a watcher who only observes, but as an actor who is wholly consumed in that action - if you are fully aware of it and not apart from it, then the process of self-analysis does not exist. It does not exist because you are then meeting life wholly, you are then not separate from experience, and in that flame of awareness you bring into activity all your prejudices, all the false standards that have crippled your mind; and by bringing them into your full consciousness, you free yourself from them, because they create trouble and conflict, and through that very conflict you are liberated.
We hold to the idea that time will give us understanding. To me, this is but a prejudice, a hindrance. Now suppose you think about this idea for a moment - not accept it, but think it over and desire to find out if it is true. You will find then that you can test it only in action, not by theorizing about it; then you will not ask if what I say is true - you will test it in action. I say that time does not bring you understanding; when you look to time as a gradual process of unfoldment you are creating a hindrance. You can test this only through action; only in experience can you perceive whether this idea has any value in itself. But you will miss its deep significance if you try to use it as a means to something else.
The idea of time as a process of unfoldment is but a cultivated method of postponement. You do not meet the thing that confronts you because you are afraid; you do not want to meet experience wholly, either because of your prejudices or because of the desire to postpone.
When you have a twisted ankle, you cannot gradually untwist it. This idea that we learn through many and increasing experiences, through the multiplication of joy and suffering, is one of our prejudices, one of our hindrances. To find out if this is true, you have to act; you will never find out merely by sitting down and discussing about it. You can find out only in the movement of action, by seeing how your mind and heart react, not by shaping them, pushing them towards a particular end; then you will see that they are reacting according to the prejudice of accumulation. You say, ''Ten years ago I was different, today I am different, and ten years hence I shall be still more different''; but the meeting of experiences with the idea that you will be different, that you will gradually learn, prevents you from understanding them, from discerning instantaneously, fully.
Questioner: Would you also give a practical example of how self-analysis is destructive? Does your teaching on this point spring from your own experience?
Krishnamurti: First of all, I have not studied philosophies or the sacred books. I am giving you of my own experiences. I am often asked if I have studied the sacred books, philosophies, and other such writings. I have not. I am telling you what to me is truth, wisdom, and it is for you to find out, you who are learned. I think that in that very process of accumulation, which we call learning, lies our misfortune. When it is burdened with knowledge, with learning, mind is crippled - not that we must not read. But wisdom is not to be bought; it must be experienced in action. I think that answers the second part of the question.
I shall answer the question differently, and I hope that I shall explain it more clearly. Why do you think that you must analyze yourself? Because you have not lived fully in experiences, and that experience has created a disturbance in you; therefore you say to yourself, ''The next time I meet it I must be prepared, so let me look at that incident which is past, and I shall learn from it; then I shall meet the next experience fully, and it will not then trouble me.'' So you begin to analyze, which is an intellectual process, and therefore not wholly true; as you have not understood it completely, you say, ''I have learned something from that past experience; now, with that little knowledge, let me meet the next experience from which I shall learn a little more.'' Thus, you never live completely in the experience itself; this intellectual process of learning, accumulating, is always going on.
This is what you do every day, only unconsciously. You have not the desire to meet life harmoniously, completely; rather, you think that you will learn to meet it harmoniously through analysis; that is, by adding little by little to the granary in the mind, you hope to become full, and to be able to meet life fully, wholly. But your mind will never become free through this process; full it may become - but never free, open, simple. And what prevents your being simple, open, is this constant process of analyzing an incident of the past, which must of necessity be incomplete. There can be complete understanding only in the very movement of experience itself. When you are in a great crisis, when there must be action, then you do not analyze, you do not calculate; you put all that aside, for in that moment your mind and heart are in creative harmony, and there is true action.
Questioner: What is your view concerning religious, ceremonial, and occult practices - to mention only some activities that help mankind? Is your attitude to them merely one of complete indifference, or is it one of antagonism?
Krishnamurti: To take up such practices seems to me a waste of effort. When you say ''practice,'' you mean following a method, a discipline, which you hope will give you the understanding of truth. I have said a great deal about this, and I have not the time to go into it fully again. The whole idea of following a discipline makes the mind and heart rigid and consistent. Having already laid down a plan of conduct and desiring to be consistent, you say to yourself, ''I must do this and I must not do that,'' and your memory of that discipline is guiding you through life. That is, because of the fear of religious dogmas and the economic situation, you meet experiences partially, through the veil of these methods and disciplines. You meet life with fear, which creates prejudices; so there is incomplete understanding, and from this arise conflicts. And in order to overcome these conflicts you find a method, a discipline, according to which you judge, ''I must'' and ''I must not.'' So, having established a consistency, a standard, you discipline yourself according to it through constant memory, and this you call self-discipline, occult practices. I say that such self-discipline, practice, this continual adjustment to a pattern or not adjusting to a standard, does not free the mind. What liberates the mind is meeting life fully, being fully aware, which does not demand practice. You cannot say to yourself, ''I must be aware, I must be aware.'' Awareness comes in complete intensity of action. When you suffer greatly, when you enjoy greatly, at that moment you meet life with full awareness, and not with a divided consciousness; then you meet all things completely, and in this there is freedom.
With regard to religious ceremonies, the matter is very simple from my point of view. A ceremony is merely a glorified sensation. Some of you probably do not agree with this opinion. You know, it is with religious ceremonials as it is with worldly pomp: when a king holds court, the spectators are tremendously impressed and greatly exploited. The reason the majority of people go to church is to find comfort, to escape, to exploit and to be exploited; and if some of you have listened to what I have been saying during the last five or six days, you will have understood my attitude and action towards ceremonies.
Questioner: Since you do not seek followers, why then do you ask people to leave their religions and follow your advice? Are you prepared to take the consequences of such advice? Or do you mean that people need guidance? If not, why do you preach at all?
Krishnamurti: Sorry, I have never created such a thing as a follower; I have said to no one, ''Leave your church and follow me.'' That would be but asking you to come to another church, into another prison. I say that by following another you become but a slave, unintelligent; you become a machine, an imitative automaton. In following another you can never find out what life is, what eternity is. I say that all following of another is destructive, cruel, leading to exploitation. I am concerned with the sowing of the seed. I am not asking you to follow; I say that the very following of another is the destruction of that life, that eternal becoming.
To put it differently, by following another you destroy the possibility of discovering truth, eternity. Why do you follow? Because you want to be guided, you want to be helped. You think that you cannot understand; therefore, you go to another and learn his technique, and to his method you become a slave. You become the exploiter and the exploited, and yet you hope that by continually practicing that method you will release creative thinking. You can never release creative thinking by following. It is only when you begin to question the very idea of following, of setting up authorities and worshipping them, that you can find out what is true; and truth shall free your mind and heart.
Questioner: Is your experience of reality something peculiar to this time? If not, why has it not been possible in the past?
Krishnamurti: Surely reality, eternity, cannot be conditioned by time. You mean to ask whether people have not searched and struggled after reality throughout the centuries. To me, that very struggle after truth has prevented them from understanding.
Questioner: You say that suffering cannot give us understanding, but can only awaken us. If that is so, why does not suffering cease when we have been fully awakened?
Krishnamurti: That is just it. We are not fully awakened through suffering. Suppose someone dies. What happens? You want an immediate relief from that sorrow so you accept an idea, a belief, or you seek amusements. Now, what has happened? There has been true suffering, an awakened struggle, a shock, and to overcome the shock, that suffering, you have accepted an idea such as reincarnation, or faith in the hereafter, or belief in communication with the dead. These are all ways of escape. That is, when you are awakened there is conflict, struggle, which you call suffering, but immediately you want to put away that struggle, that awakening; you long for forgetfulness through an idea, a theory, or through an explanation, which is but a process of being put to sleep again.
So this is the everyday process of existence: you are awakened through the impact with life, experience, which causes suffering, and you want to he comforted; so you seek out people, ideas, explanations, to give you comfort, satisfaction, and this creates the exploiter and the exploited. But if in that state of acute questioning, which is suffering, if in that state of awakened interest, you meet experiences completely, then you will find out the true value and significance of all the human shelters and illusions which you have created; and the understanding of them alone will free you from suffering.
Questioner: What is the shortest way to get rid of our worries and troubles and our hard feelings, and reach happiness and freedom?
Krishnamurti: There is no shortest way; but hard feelings, worries, and troubles themselves liberate you if you are not trying to escape from them through the desire for freedom and happiness. You say that you want freedom and happiness, because hard feelings and troubles are difficult to bear. So you are merely running away from them; you don't understand why they exist, you don't understand why you have worries, why you have troubles, hard feelings, bitterness, suffering, and passing joy. And since you don't understand, you want to know the shortest way out of the confusion. I say, beware of the man who shows you the shortest way out. There is no way out of suffering and trouble except through that suffering and trouble itself. This is not a hard saying; you will understand it if you think it over. The moment you stop trying to escape you will understand; you cannot but understand, for then you are no longer entangled in explanations. When all explanations have ceased, when they no longer have any meaning, then truth is. Now you are seeking explanations; you are seeking the shortest way, the quickest method; you are looking to practices, to ceremonials, to the newest theory of science. These are all escapes. But when you really understand the illusion of escape, when you are wholly confronting the thing that creates conflict within you, then that very thing will release you.
Now, life creates great disturbance in you - problems of possession, sex, hatred. So you say, ''Let me find a higher life, a divine life, a life of nonpossession, a life of love.'' But your very striving for such a life is but an escape from these disturbances. If you become aware of the falseness of escape, which you can understand only when there is conflict, then you will see how your mind is accustomed to escape. And when you have ceased to escape, when your mind is no longer seeking an explanation - which is but a drug - then that very thing from which you have been trying to escape reveals its full significance. This understanding frees the mind and heart from sorrow.
Questioner: Have you no faith whatever in the power of Divinity that shapes the destiny of man? If not, are you then an atheist?
Krishnamurti: The belief that there is a Divinity that can shape man is one of the hindrances of man; but when I say that, it does not mean that I am an atheist. I think the people who say they believe in God are atheists, not only those who do not believe in God, because both are slaves to a belief.
You cannot believe in God; you have to believe in God only when there is no understanding, and you cannot have understanding by searching for it. Rather, when your mind is really free from all values, which have become the very center of ego-consciousness, then there is God. We have an idea that some miracle will change us; we think that some divine or external influence will bring about changes in ourselves and in the world. We have lived in that hope for centuries, and that is what is the matter with the world - complete chaos, irresponsibility in action, because we think someone else is going to do everything for us. To discard this false idea does not mean that we must turn to its opposite. When we free the mind from opposites, when we see the falseness of the belief that someone else is looking after us, then a new intelligence is awakened in us.
You want to know what God is, what truth is, what eternal life is, so you ask me, ''Are you an atheist or a theist? If you are a believer in God, then tell me what God is.'' I say the man who describes what truth or God is, to him truth does not exist. When it is put in the cage of words, then truth is no longer a living reality. But if you understand the false values in which you are held, if you free yourself from them, then there is an ever-living reality.
Questioner: When we know that our way of living will inevitably disgust others and produce complete misunderstanding in their minds, how should we act if we are to respect their feelings and their points of view?
Krishnamurti: This question seems so simple that I do not see where the difficulty is. ''How should we act in order not to trouble others?'' Is that what you want to know? I am afraid then, we should not be acting at all. If you live completely, your actions may cause trouble; but what is more important: finding out what is true, or not disturbing others? This seems so simple that it hardly needs to be answered. Why do you want to respect other people's feelings and points of view? Are you afraid of having your own feelings hurt, your point of view being changed? If people have opinions that differ from yours, you can find out if they are true only by questioning them, by coming into active contact with them. And if you find that those opinions and feelings are not true, your discovery may cause disturbance to those who cherish them. Then what should you do? Should you comply with them, or compromise with them in order not to hurt your friends?
Questioner: Do you think that pure food has anything to do with the fulfillment of your ideas of life? Are you a vegetarian? (Laughter)
Krishnamurti: You know, humor is impersonal. I hope that the questioner is not hurt when people laugh. If I am a vegetarian, what of it? It is not what goes into your mouth that will free you, but the finding out of true values, from which arises complete action.
Questioner: Your message of disinterested remoteness, detachment, has been preached in all ages and in many faiths to a few chosen disciples. What makes you think that this message is now fit for everyone in a human society where there is of necessity interdependence in all social actions?
Krishnamurti: I am very sorry, but I have never said that one should be remotely disinterested, that one should be detached; quite the contrary. So, first please understand what I say, and then see if it has any value.
Let us take the question of detachment. You know, for centuries we have been gathering, accumulating, making ourselves secure. Intellectually you may see the foolishness of possessiveness, and say to yourself, ''Let me be detached.'' Or rather, you don't see the foolishness of it; so you begin to practice detachment, which is but another way of gathering in, laying up. For if you really perceive the foolishness of possessiveness, then you are free from both detachment and its opposite. The result is not a remote inactivity, but rather, complete action.
You know, we are slaves to legislation. If a law were passed tomorrow decreeing that we should not possess property, we should be forced to comply with it, with a good deal of kicking. In that also there would be security, security in nonpossession. So I say, do not be the plaything of legislation, but find out the very thing to which you are a slave - that is, acquisitiveness. Find out its true significance, without escaping into detachment - how it gives you social distinctions, power, leading to an empty, superficial life. If you relinquish possessions without understanding them, you will have the same emptiness in nonpossession - the sensation of security in asceticism, in detachment - which will become the shelter to which you will withdraw in times of conflict. As long as there is fear, there must be the pursuit of opposites; but if the mind frees itself from the very cause of fear, which is self-consciousness, the 'I', the limited consciousness, then there is fulfillment, completeness of action.
Editor's last word:
“When making a decision of minor importance, I have always found it advantageous to consider all the pros and cons. In vital matters, however, such as the choice of a mate or a profession, the decision should come from the unconscious, from somewhere within ourselves. In the important decisions of personal life, we should be governed, I think, by the deep inner needs of our nature.”