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Word Gems 

exploring self-realization, sacred personhood, and full humanity


Jiddu Krishnamurti
1895 - 1986

Watch what is going on inwardly. It is like watching the movement of a whole river. If you sit on a bank and watch the river go by, you see everything. But you, watching from the bank, and the movement of the river, are two different things; you are the observer and the movement of the river is the thing observed. But when you are in the water - not sitting on the bank - then you are part of that movement, there is no observer at all, and there is cessation of space between the observer and the observed.




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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 1, Paris - 16 April 1967


We can only understand something when we see the totality of it, when we see its whole structure and the meaning of it. You cannot see the whole pattern of life, the whole movement of life, if you merely take one part of it and are tremendously concerned about that particular part. It is only when we see the whole map that we can see where we are and choose a particular road.

So we are not concerned with individual salvation or individual liberation, or whatever the individual is trying to seek but rather with the whole movement of life, the understanding of the whole current of existence; then perhaps the individual problems can be approached entirely differently. It becomes extremely difficult to see the whole issue, to understand it - it demands attention.

One cannot understand anything intellectually - you may hear words, give explanations, find out the cause, but that is not understanding. Understanding - as one observes oneself - takes place only when the mind, including the brain, is totally attentive.

And one is not attentive when one is interpreting and translating what one sees according to one's background. You must have noticed - obviously most of us have - that when the mind is completely quiet - not demanding, not fussing around, not tearing to pieces the problem, but I really facing the problem with complete quietness - then there is an understanding...

Thought is the response of the past, it is memory, experience, accumulated knowledge, it is old, and challenges are always new, if they are challenges. From that background of knowledge, experience, memory, arises the response as thought - thought is always of the past - and thought translates the challenge or the problem in terms of that past. And thought, if one observes it, makes a positive response with regard to the problem in terms of the past...

If I want to understand a child, I have to observe him, I have to watch him, I have to pay attention to him. I watch him playing, crying, misbehaving, doing everything - I just watch him - I don't correct him; I want to understand and therefore I have no prejudices, I have no patterns of thought - as to what he must or must not do - as to what is good and what is bad. I just watch, and in that watchful attention I begin to understand the whole nature of his activity.

In the same way, to observe nature, a flower, is fairly simple; nature does not demand very much of us, just to watch an objective thing is very simple.

But to watch what is going on inwardly, to watch this violence, this sorrow, with that clarity of attention is not so simple. That watching, that observing, denies totally every form of personal inclination, tendency, or the compulsive demand of society, that very watching is like watching the movement of a whole river. If you sit on a bank and watch the river go by, you see everything. But you, watching from the bank, and the movement of the river, are two different things; you are the observer and the movement of the river is the thing observed. But when you are in the water - not sitting on the bank - then you are part of that movement, there is no observer at all. In the same way, watch this violence and sorrow, not as an observer observing the thing, but with this cessation of space between the observer and the observed. It is part of the whole enquiry which is meditation of life...

One has to observe how deep-rooted this violence is within oneself, in the demand for fulfilment, in competing and always comparing oneself with somebody else, in imitating, in obedience and in the following of somebody, conforming to a pattern - all that is a form of violence. To be free of that violence, demands extraordinary attention and care; otherwise I don't see how there can be peace in the world...

Questioner: Am I to understand we have to meditate, but our minds are prevented from meditating because they tick over automatically and so we are unable to observe what happens around us? Does this mean that we must therefore observe what goes on inside our minds first?

Krishnamurti: 'To observe one needs to meditate' - I didn't say so. Observing is meditation, it is not that in order to observe you must meditate. To observe is one of the most, difficult things. To observe a tree, for example, is very difficult, and that is because you have ideas, images, about that tree, and these ideas - botanical knowledge - prevent you from looking at that tree. To observe your wife or your husband is even more difficult, again because you have an image about your wife and she has an image about you, and the relationship is between those two images. That is what is generally called relationship, which is two sets of memories, images, having a relationship. Just think of the absurdity of it - all relationship as we generally know it, is dead.

To observe means actually to be aware of the interference of thought; to see how the image you have about the tree, about the person, about whatever it is, interferes with looking - observe that you forget what you are looking at, which is the tree, or the person; and see why thought interferes, why you have an image about that person. Why do you have an image about anybody?


10.December.1970. The ego’s image-forming process is a way of not getting hurt. If you insult or flatter me, I react, and that reaction builds an image. The reaction comes about when there is no attention to “what is.” But when I am completely attentive, with choiceless awareness, then there is no image-forming at all.


Here we are, you are looking at me, and I am looking at you - the speaker and you, the audience. You have an image about the speaker - unfortunately - but because I don't know you, I have no image and I can therefore look at you. But I cannot look at you if I say to myself, I'm going to use that audience to achieve power, position, to exploit it, become a famous man - you know all the rest of it - all that rubbish which human beings cultivate.

So, to observe means to observe without the interference of one, background; but one is the background - you follow? - one's whole being which looks is one's background - as a Christian, as a Frenchman, or as an intellectual, in observing one discovers this background and observing it without any choice, without any inclination, is tremendous discipline - not the absurd discipline of conformity, imitation. Such observation makes the mind extraordinarily active, extraordinarily sensitive - and the whole of that is meditation. Not, 'to observe you must meditate; but rather it is in observing that all these things take place, and all this is meditation - not just some kind of control of thought, which we will discuss another time.

Questioner: Will you be precise and explain pleasure and fear - how they are related?

Krishnamurti: Fear - have you ever come into direct contact with fear? Have you ever been directly in contact with anything, a tree, with a flower, with a human being - directly, not through the image? You know, when you look at a tree in the park, there is always the observer and the observed - there is you watching the tree - there is a space between the observer and the observed. And to be in direct contact - you can touch the tree but that is not contact, nor is identifying yourself with the tree, I don't mean that, that is another form of mental gymnastics - but to be in direct contact is quite a different thing, it is to have no space at all...

But when one can observe without the observer - that is, the background, the ideological concepts, the memory - then space disappears altogether between people, and perhaps in that state there is no fear, there is only something called - verbally we can use that word - 'love', but it is not the thing that is usually called love.



Editor's last word:

See the Kairissi and Elenchus discussion on "observer and observed," "lover and beloved."