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Word Gems 

exploring self-realization, sacred personhood, and full humanity


Jiddu Krishnamurti
1895 - 1986

Meditation: discovering truth by claiming total freedom for oneself: we must have freedom from all forms of authority, not necessarily to reject what others have said, but that we might discover truth on our own




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Editor’s prefatory comments:

Jiddu Krishnamurti has been an important teacher in my life. I began learning about the “true” and “false” selves about 15 years ago, and his insights served to inaugurate this vital area of enquiry.

He was the one to make clear that “guru” signifies merely “one who points,” not “infallible sage.” Pointing the way is what even the best teachers provide, but no more. One must walk the path of enlightenment alone, no one can do this for us.




Public Talk 4, Brockwood Park, England - 14 September 1969

Krishnamurti: I think we might talk about, or rather explore freely, into the question of meditation, which is really a very important question.

Before we go into that I feel we should clearly understand the relationship between the speaker and the audience. Here we are investigating, exploring freely, and there is no authority whatsoever, neither of achievement, reputation nor experience. The man who says he knows really does not know, and to explore into this question, which is very serious, demands a great deal of thought, enquiry and freedom.

Editor’s note: I think this is what I really like about Jiddu. He’s never condescending, never holier-than-thou, but always includes himself with the audience as simply one more seeker after truth. Elsewhere, I’ve discussed how it is so common for teachers, even ones of great repute, ones who have helped all of us, to fall into a mindframe of “I am better.” I have noticed that, if they speak long enough, eventually, they will let slip some reference, whether subtle or overt, that “I am better, I am above.” But Jiddu Krishnamurti possesses a degree of awareness that does not allow him to stumble into this kind of insane pride.

We’re reminded of the afterlife testimony of Elizabeth Fry, residing on an advanced world beyond Summerland. I frequently think of what she said about “above all things, avoid men of power and position,” and that “those who are truly advanced, never, ever want to create even an impression of superiority.” It strikes me just now that, in order to fit oneself for residence in one of these advanced worlds, one of necessity will have developed a true humility which never separates itself from a knowledge of “the heart of darkness” within all human beings. I suspect that, as we study a man like Jiddu, we’re looking at a person, like Elizabeth, near the higher levels of human development, well beyond that of Summerland.

One needs above all else freedom from authority; not the authority of the policeman or the law nor the authority which one brings about because one is so disturbed and uncertain in oneself. In this enormous disorder and confusion we want somebody to tell us how to live, how to meditate and what to think. Thereby we destroy any kind of freedom we may have. If you are going to enquire into this question there must be freedom from the whole sense of authority - freedom from the authority of the speaker, the authority of books, the tradition and what others say they have achieved - because all of them may be wrong, and probably are wrong. Putting one's faith in another is detrimental to freedom; one must remain free to enquire about everything - not only politically, which is comparatively easy, but also in the much more difficult looking inward and searching.

If that is taken for granted then every intelligent person, whether young or old, will no longer accept any belief or authority about these matters. One has to find out for oneself.

This doesn't mean that you reject what others say but that you enquire without acceptance or denial. An aggressive mind, a mind tethered to a belief, is not free and therefore it is incapable of enquiry. All this demands intensive enquiry, not acceptance. The beauty of meditation lies in this very freedom to enquire, not only into outward things but also inwardly, inside the skin, psychologically. So we begin by not accepting any authority.

Perhaps you know the word 'guru', which has crept into the English language and which practically everybody uses now. It is a Sanskrit word meaning 'the one who points', 'the one who sheds light', 'the one who alleviates or lightens the burden'. There are innumerable gurus all over the world - brown, black, white or pink - who practise various systems of meditation and who say. 'Do these things and you will achieve the most extraordinary states and attain peace'. Since most of us are disturbed, both outwardly and inwardly, with minds that are everlastingly chattering to themselves and burdened with innumerable problems, guilt, anxiety, fear, despair and sorrow, such peace seems highly desirable. One feels that if one could have a few days or a few minutes of absolute quiet - that extraordinary 'peace that passes all understanding' - one would be able to arrange one's life in an orderly manner; hence the ready acceptance of systems and methods without a full realization of what is implied in them.

A system implies not only the authority of the one who has achieved and who says, 'I know', but it also means to practise, day after day, in the hope of achieving some particular result offered by the system and which must lead to both the system and the one who practises it becoming mechanical. If I practise something daily, over and over again, my mind becomes more and more dulled as it gets caught in the habit of a routine. So one has to reject all systems because they are unintelligent; they make the mind mechanical and they introduce this whole problem of time, promising peace eventually but not now. Somebody comes from Asia offering initiations and enlightenment in return for a certain sum of money, and we are so greedy and thoughtless that we are prepared to accept the method in the hope that we shall come upon that which we think is peaceful. And we reassure ourselves by saying that the system helps. Is that so? Or is it a waste of time altogether?

Take those systems which involve repeating words, especially Sanskrit words, which produce a certain sound which quietens the mind and therefore makes it more observant, not only of outward things but also inwardly. This repeating of a sound, whether it is 'Ave Maria, or some other word, does induce a momentary quietness; but a mind that is dull, unintelligent, insensitive and causing a disorderly life, can repeat any number of words and have some experience of what it calls peace; but it is still a dull mind, incapable of observing deeply all the process of itself. So can we observe this fact - it is not a question of my opinion against your opinion, or your experience against my experience - that a dull mind which is not capable of looking at things directly but only in a devious manner, frightened, anxious, burdened with innumerable problems - cannot basically be peaceful though it may repeat thousands of words for a thousand years. Can we, looking at that fact without forming an opinion and seeing the truth of it, put aside all systems? These systems cultivate habit and a mind caught in habit is not free to observe. Can we completely drop the idea of following someone who offers systems, who gives promises and hopes? It seems to me that is absolutely necessary for a mind to be capable of meditation.

Besides meditation, another major issue is the question of how to bring about order, to live a life of righteousness, which is highly intelligent and sensitive - not intellectual or verbal, but a life in which there is no conflict. For a mind that is in conflict is not a free mind and is incapable of looking at itself, incapable of seeing 'what is'.

So our next point is: can the mind bring about order within itself? Because without laying the right foundation one cannot build anything, and if one is to meditate it is part of that meditation to lay the foundation. This foundation is freedom from opinion. Most of us, as you know, have a thousand opinions about everything.

Can the mind be free altogether from opinions, remaining only with 'what is' and nothing else? If the mind can remain with 'what is', it is free of this process of duality. Where there is duality, there is contradiction and therefore conflict.

Please, we are observing ourselves, you are not merely listening to the speaker. In the very act of listening, in seeing the truth or the falseness of what is being said, you are using the speaker, as it were, as a mirror in which you are looking at yourselves; therefore you are discovering that there can be no perception without distortion as long as there is conflict of any kind in relationship. What is the good of your meditating or seeking God or whatever it is you seek, if you are jealous of another? It is only when there is freedom from jealousy, from anxiety and guilt, that the mind, being free, can look, learn and act.

So there must be no system and therefore no authority, no following of another; then ending of all conflict within oneself will bring about a life of righteous behaviour. All this is part of meditation also: to see one's mistakes and to correct them immediately - because perception is action, the seeing is the doing. Then the mind is not carrying over the insults, the flatteries, the anxieties, the hurts; it is free from moment to moment, all the time.

It is only in relationship with others that one can begin to discover oneself and see what one actually is and the understanding of it is the ending of all conflict. A mind that is in conflict is obviously a distorted mind and however much it may practise meditation, such a mind will only see its own distortion and not something totally new.

Then there is the question of how to observe, how to look, not only outwardly but inwardly. The outer and the inner are one process - it is not a dual process. One can only observe when there is no image through which one is looking. If I have an image about you, I am not looking at you; I am looking through the image, or the image is looking at you. That is fairly simple, isn't it? To observe means to have freedom from prejudice, from belief, freedom from any form of distortion. And there is distortion when the mind is tethered to a belief. When the mind is frightened, ambitious, striving to achieve a position of power and so on, how can it possibly be free to look? So it is very important, it seems to me, to find out what it means to observe, to see. That is, what it means to be aware, to be attentive. Attention is not concentration. Concentration implies the effort to exclude all thought outside one particular issue. We think it is part of meditation to learn to concentrate either on an image or an idea, or to practise certain systems which involve concentration. But where there is concentration there is exclusion and resistance; and where there is resistance there is conflict and the way of duality. I think that is fairly clear?

On the other hand, attention is not exclusion: just to be aware. This awareness is distorted when observation is coloured by prejudice from which springs a conclusion; when you are conditioned as a believer in some particular form of religious dogma or tradition, such as the Christian, Hindu or Buddhist tradition. A conditioned mind is incapable of observation, for it will act, think and experience according to its conditioning - just as a devout Catholic, practising his belief day after day, will experience the figure of Christ in his vision or dreams. That only strengthens his conditioning, therefore such a person is not free to observe; he remains a little bourgeois ["conventional"], caught in his own particular belief, his own particular dogma, inviting the world to enter his cage.

So an essential part of meditation is this understanding of the difference between concentration and attention. Concentration demands effort; awareness or attention does not. When one understands this whole process of accepting dogma, tradition, belief, of living in the past, attention comes naturally, and therefore it is a state of mind in which there is no effort; when the mind is completely attentive you give your whole body, mind and heart, everything you have, to observe and to listen. And this requires energy. I don't know if you have noticed that when you listen to somebody very carefully, without prejudice, without the interference of your likes and dislikes, then you are attentive; when you are really listening to somebody there is no 'me' or 'you' - there is only the act of listening. That requires energy. If you are listening very attentively now to what is being said - and therefore learning - you are not concentrating, you are completely attentive; therefore there is no division between the speaker and the one who listens - and in this there is involved a great deal more.

Speaking psychologically, is the observer at all different from the thing he observes? When I look at myself, is the observer different from the thing he looks at? If he is different, then there is a division between the thing observed, between that which is experienced, and the experiencer, the observer. It is this difference that brings about conflict and therefore distortion. So one must be very clear and find out directly for oneself whether the observer is the observed, or not. This again is part of what is called meditation. When you go into it very deeply, you will see that the observer is the observed. When you are jealous, the jealousy is not different from the entity that observes or is aware of the jealousy. He is jealousy. He is the reaction which is called jealousy. When there is no resistance to that thing which he has called jealousy, but mere observation of the fact, then you will see the word is not the thing. Jealousy is awakened through the word, through memory and thereby brings about the observer as different from the observed. The understanding of all that frees the mind from jealousy without effort.

All this is part of meditation and I hope you are doing it as we are talking. If you don't do it now, you will never do it; it isn't a thing you go home to think about. It is the beauty of meditation that one does it all the time as one is living - every minute of the day as one walks, as one talks - so that the mind becomes acutely aware of itself and therefore highly sensitive, intelligent and deeply honest. Then there is no distortion, no illusion.

It is also part of meditation to find out for oneself, freely, what the nature of thinking is, where the beginning of thought lies, and whether the mind can be completely still to find out when the action of thought is necessary and when it is not - thought being the reaction of knowledge, memory and experience, which is the past. When we are thinking we are living in the past - we are the past. Though thought may project the future or assert that only the present matters, it is still thought in operation. And thought is the past. For most of us thought is enormously important because we are living in the past, because we are the past and because all our activities stem from the past. It is part of that meditation to find out where the act of thinking is absolutely necessary, logical, healthy and clear, without the interference of any personal like or dislike - and also when thought must be absolutely quiet.

Editor's note: "When we are thinking we are living in the past - we are the past." Egoic thinking represents a summation of one's cultural conditioning, which is a projection of the past. Meditation sorts out, allows one to see the difference between, conditioned thought and the sacred stillness of the true self. 

If you have not done all this, meditation has very little meaning. One can meditate in the bus, washing dishes, wiping the floor or talking to another. But perhaps it may help sometimes to sit quietly by yourself or when you walk by yourself in the woods or in the street, to observe yourself by your reactions; or to be completely quiet. The whole idea of sitting in a certain posture, as they advocate it in the East, is very simple. It is to sit straight so that the blood flows to the head properly, whereas if one sits doubled over the free passage of the blood is restricted. But if the brain is rather petty, narrow and limited, no amount of blood will prevent it from remaining petty, narrow and stupid. If one is really serious about meditation one should not only observe what has been said this morning but also see if the body can remain completely quiet.

It is part of meditation to learn all this in oneself. To communicate one must use words, but there is also a communication which is non-verbal. The non-verbal state of understanding between you and the speaker, requires that you also have been through all this, otherwise we cannot possibly communicate. It is like leading someone to the door, the rest of the process you will have to do yourself.

The whole promise of meditation is that you will eventually have a still mind, a mind that is highly awake and able to go into itself to depths impossible for a mind that is full of effort. That is what is generally promised in all these systems. But when one has discarded all those systems one can see the importance of having a quiet mind - not a dull or mechanical mind, but one that is very quiet, very still, observing. Silence, also, is necessary to observe, to listen. If I am continually talking to myself, offering opinions, making judgments and evaluations, have aggressive attitudes because I have certain beliefs, then I am not listening. I can only listen to you when the mind is completely quiet, not resisting, neither agreeing nor disagreeing, but actually listening with my whole being. For that there must be silence. If you would see the beauty of a cloud or a tree, you must look at it with complete quiet. But if, in that quietness, there is the observer who is different from the thing observed, then there is no quiet.

They tell us to take drugs to induce the mind to observe so intensely, so intimately and so fantastically, that the space between the observer and the thing observed disappears. Or to give you an insight into yourself. Obviously a frightened mind, freed for the moment from fear by taking some drug, might temporarily be enabled to look and listen with that intensity in which there is no observer, but after it has 'taken the trip' the fear will still be there. So one depends inwardly, more and more on something - a drug, a Master, a guru, a belief - and so there is more dependence and more resistance and more fear.

So meditation is the beginning of understanding oneself directly - not through the medium of some drug or drink or excitement; it is there to be understood directly and simply; to understand oneself, to know oneself. The ending of sorrow is the beginning of self-knowing. Most of us are burdened with a great many sorrows, and in the ending of that sorrow lies the understanding of oneself. To understand oneself one must observe without any distortion, without any like or dislike, without saying 'This is good, I'll keep it', or 'This is bad, I'll put it away: observe, so that the mind becomes completely alert, both at the conscious level and in the deeper and hidden parts of the mind.

All this, of course, involves much more, but I don't know if we have the time to go into it. There is the question of the nature of the brain: whether the brain, which is so conditioned after thousands of years, can be really quiet, responding only when it is absolutely necessary. That also is part of meditation.

So, when one has gone through all this and understood it, there comes a quietness, a silence that is beyond all verbalization, and which is necessary for the mind if it would understand something beyond itself, beyond the projection of thought and time and bondage, something which man has everlastingly sought - the immortal and the timeless. It is only then, perhaps, that a quiet mind can come upon it.

Do you want to ask any questions about this or about anything else?

Questioner: You spoke just now of a mirror; is there perhaps an analogy between the mind - in as much as we know it - and a photographic camera, in that the camera is a mirror with a memory? The mind, as we know it, is also a mirror with a memory; should it perhaps be a mirror without a memory?

Krishnamurti: Sir, to observe and to listen, not only memory is necessary, but there must also be freedom from the known, from the memory. The question of memory is quite a complex problem. Where is memory to function - completely, logically and sanely - and when must memory be quiet in order to look, to listen? One has to learn about this, but not in terms of time as you would learn a language, which demands time, but to learn by watching and listening, to find out when memory, which is part of the brain, must respond instantly, healthily and with logic, and when the past - which is tradition, which is the conditioning - when that memory must be completely still so that one can look at the present in all its immensity, without the past. That is the problem. Can I look at myself as though I were seeing myself for the first time? Can I look at my wife, or my husband, or a tree or the running waters, as though I were looking with eyes that had never seen them before? This is not a romantic statement or question. Because if I look with all the memories, the images, the hurts, the fears, the pleasures and the hopes, then I am incapable of looking with eyes that are fresh, young and innocent. As we said before, innocency is love. Memory is not love because it is of the past, memory is attachment to pleasure and to pain. But love is not of time; it has nothing to do with yesterday or tomorrow.

Questioner: Observation often brings thought into action. That is the difficulty.

Krishnamurti: If I may ask, did you listen to what was said previously before you asked the question?

Questioner: Yes.

Krishnamurti: You know Madam, it is one of the most difficult things to ask questions. We must ask questions, but also we must know when not to question but to listen. One must have doubts, scepticism, but also one has to tether that scepticism, when necessary. When the question is asked about the very act of thinking being action, that brings the question: what is action? Do you want to go into all this? Or are you tired after this morning?

Audience: No.

Krishnamurti: If you have really worked for forty-five minutes and followed what has been said about meditation - your brains must obviously be rather tired, because you have been giving a great deal of attention, which is rather difficult.

Questioner: Sir, you said that attention didn't use up energy.

Krishnamurti: Wait, Madam, Did I say, attention doesn't use up energy? Go slowly. When attention is not effort it increases energy. If you have listened attentively you have abundance of energy now and therefore you are not tired. Is that so? I can't answer for you.

We are asking: what is action? Action means the active present. Please go into it a bit semantically. Action means the doing now, not having done or what you will do. If action is based on an ideal, or on a hope, or on a belief, it is no longer the active present - is it? I believe in something and I am acting according to that belief, principle or conclusion; therefore there is a division between the act and what the act should be; therefore it is not action. Or I will act according to my past experience, according to what I have learnt yesterday; then that is not action. So one has to find out if there is an action that has no reference to the future or to the past. That, surely, is living. If I love my wife or my husband or my neighbour according to a conclusion which has been part of my conditioning as a Christian, or whatever it is, then surely that act is not love. The active present, the acting is the living - not the future or the past. If that living is based on past memory, then I am living in the past; and if that living is conditioned by the future because I have a formula or a conclusion or an ideal, then I am living in the future and not in the present. So can the mind, including the brain, live in the present, which is to act?

Questioner: I am thinking of people who are suffering physical illness. Can meditation bring about a process of healing?

Krishnamurti: Most of us have had pain of some kind - intense, superficial, or pain that cannot be cured. What effect has pain on the psyche, the brain or the mind? Can the mind meditate, disassociating itself from pain? Can the mind look at the physical pain and observe it without identifying itself with that pain? If it can observe without identifying itself then there is quite a different quality to that pain. I do not know if you have observed that if one has a toothache or stomach ache, one can somewhat disassociate oneself. One does not have to rush to the doctor or take some pill; one observes it with detachment, with a feeling of looking at it as though one was outside it. Surely that helps the pain, doesn't it? The more you are attached to the pain, the more intense it is. So that may help to bring about this healing, which is an important question and which can only take place when there is no 'me', no ego or self-centred activity. Some people have a gift for it. Others come upon it because there is no ego functioning.

Questioner: I would like to know how you organized this conference without thinking about the future?

Krishnamurti: We said thought is necessary; we have to think about the future, about what we are going to do, how to organize the meetings in the tent and so on. Unless you thought about the future when you have to go home, you would be in a state of amnesia, and you cannot possibly live that way. We have to think sanely and organize wisely for the future. But we are saying, when action is wholly conditioned by the past or by the future, then conflict comes out of that action. In organizing these meetings and planning for the school, we must use our thoughts very carefully and wisely, not bringing in our personal idiosyncrasies and characteristics, but by observing help to bring it about. If I stick to my opinion that it should be this way or that way, then there is no co-operation. Co-operation is only possible when there is no personal evaluation or personal idiosyncrasy interfering with the act.

Will you be any wiser when you leave here, any different - so that your whole mind and body is entirely awake and alert? Are we learning to look at the beauty of a tree, the flight of a bird, to watch a young child playing, or are we going to step back into our shoddy lives with our particular characteristics, opinions, hopes and fears ?

Questioner: May I ask if we are only the result of our past or can we be affected in some way by our future?

Krishnamurti: When we are violent and angry, that violence is part of the animal. We have evolved from the higher apes, we have got that violence in us. Aren't you the result of yesterday?

Questioner: Yes, we are. What I wanted to know was if this is all we are.

Krishnamurti: I call myself a Hindu (I am not, but that's what I call myself), and that has conditioned me; the climate, the food, the belief, the temples, the scriptures, the tradition. And through that conditioning, through the past, there runs a thread, a hope, a glimmer that wants to find out, go beyond the past. And the past projects the tomorrow, the future - doesn't it? The past is always incarnating in the future - modified, changing a little here and there. It is not a question of whether one is entirely of the past - of course one is not entirely the past as there is always modification going on. The past meeting the present modifies itself and thereby creates the future; but it is still the past, though somewhat changed. That is the whole cycle of reincarnation - the past everlastingly being reborn tomorrow. To change this process, this chain in which the mind is caught, is to understand and to be free of the past and the future; it is to understand one's own conditioning, the nationalism, and all the rest of it. And can one be free of it instantly, without taking time? That means not to be reborn again tomorrow.

Questioner. Sir have we been conditioned to believe that we have a spirit or soul?

Krishnamurti: You know, there is a whole section, the Communists, who do not believe in spirit, not in a spirit, nor in a soul. The whole Asiatic world believes that there is a soul, that there is the Atman. You can be conditioned to believe anything. The Communist doesn't believe in God; the others believe in God because that is the way they have been brought up. The Hindus believe in a thousand different gods, conditioned by their own fears, their own demands and their own urges. Can one become aware of these conditionings - not only of the superficial conditionings but also of those deep down - and be free of them? If one is not free, one is a slave, always living in this rat race, and that we call living.

Questioner: Can you avoid being affected by other people's fears when they react to you, when you have no fear of them yourself? Can one keep one's mind quiet and not be affected?

Krishnamurti: If I am not afraid, will you affect me? If I am not greedy, no amount of propaganda will affect me. If I am not nationalistic, all the waving of flags has no meaning. But going into it more deeply, the question can be asked: can the mind, which is the result of time and influence, be free of time and influence? Can I look at the newspaper and not be influenced? Can I live with my wife or my husband who wants to dominate me, and not be dominated? Can education be a process, not of influence, but a freeing from all influence, so that the mind can think clearly and without confusion? But children want to be like others, all the movements of Hitler and Mussolini were based on influencing people to imitate each other and conform to the pattern. Although one is, of course, superficially influenced - which is a very small affair - can one live deeply without being really influenced at all? That can only take place when one sees things very clearly. It is only a confused mind that chooses, not the mind that sees very clearly.



Editor's last word:

"You can be conditioned to believe anything" might be a subtitle of history. Think of all the belief-systems in the world, so many of them, almost all, reflect what we were taught as children.

This brings up the issue, in an ideal world, of what parenting should be. We are not to impose our belief-systems on naive minds so much, but, primarily, to teach children how to think, how to negotiate life and reality, on their own.