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Word Gems 

exploring self-realization, sacred personhood, and full humanity


Jiddu Krishnamurti
1895 - 1986

What is learning - do we ever learn? from experience, from accumulation of knowledge? With 15,000 wars in the last 5,000 years, are we more wise now? Is learning a matter of time? or does lasting change come from an instant of clarity? To learn, the mind must not have any opinion, conclusion. We are sorrowful beings, with not a moment of bliss, untainted by thought or memory.




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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 7, Saanen, Switzerland - 23 July 1967

We were saying the other day that fear and being, beyond and above fear, is a very complex problem, it needs a great deal of understanding in which there is neither suppression nor control nor any form of elimination. To understand fear one must be aware of the structure and the nature of fear - one has to learn about it and not come to it with any form of conclusion.

I do not know if you have thought about the question of learning. It is really quite an interesting issue. What is learning - and do we ever learn? Do we learn from experience? Do we ever learn from accumulation of knowledge? We say we learn from experience - do we? There have been nearly fifteen thousand wars during the last five thousand years - that is a great deal of experience for man. Have we learnt from these experiences that war is a most appalling thing and must come to an end?

And is learning a matter of time? We have not learnt after five thousand years that war, the organized killing of another, for whatever reason, is a most... I don't know what words to use. If we have not learnt during these five thousand years then is learning a matter time? Apparently we have not learnt from this vast experience of killing another - what will teach us?

Apparently environmental circumstances, pressures, disturbances, destruction, starvation, brutality, have not taught us and we have taken five thousand years to learn that we haven't learnt.

... What is learning and when does it take place - is it a matter of time, a gradual process? And enquiring about learning and whether it implies time, I think we have to enquire into the question of humility. In talking of humility we are talking not of the harshness of the saint or the priest or of the vain man who cultivates humility. Obviously if I want to learn about something my mind must not have reached any conclusion about it, it must have no opinion or previous knowledge.

It is only a mind that is very innocent that can enquire into the question of humility - innocent in the sense that it is not knowing and is capable of a great deal of freedom.

Obviously, learning has nothing whatsoever to do with the accumulation of knowledge or experience or tradition and it is only a mind that is free that can be in a state of humility - it is only such a mind that can learn.

And with such an act of learning one can approach the very complex problem of fear. And you cannot learn about fear because you have heard here a series of explanations which you apply, for that application is merely mechanical and therefore fails to act. So when we begin to understand - for ourselves and not according to somebody else - what humility is, that it is a mind that is not cluttered up with opinions, judgments, knowledge, then there is a state in which we are capable of learning...

What is implied in all this is a total psychological revolution which lies beyond society; and the bringing about of a radical revolution in the psyche of the individual himself; we are only concerned with a total mutation of the individual, for the individual is the collective, the two are not separate. As society is the individual and the individual is society, then to bring about a transformation within the structure of society the individual must completely change...

So to learn one must start with great humility. If one has opinions, conclusions, definite dogmas, one is merely accumulating, therefore resisting, and hence creating conflict in oneself and with another, which is society.

So, is learning a matter of time? Is humility to be cultivated? Humility is freedom and it is only in freedom you can learn, not with an accumulation of memories. Can humility be a matter of cultivation and therefore of time? Can humility be acquired gradually?

... for if it is a matter of time in which to accumulate humility, then humility is being cultivated - the moment you have cultivated or gathered humility it ceases to be humility. Obviously, a man who says 'I am humble' is a most vain man. Humility is not of time... it is a matter of instant perception and that immediate perception is denied when you make humility an idea.

You hear that it is only a very clear, innocent mind, that can learn, and you want to learn about fear. You hear that and it has already become an idea - you want to be free from fear and you hear that you must learn about it and can only learn if your mind is very clear, simple - this structure has already become an organized thought, an idea. From that idea you hope you are going to learn, but you are not learning at all, you are merely carrying an idea into action and between idea and action there is conflict. You do not, in that, see instantly the truth of learning, the truth of humility, in which the very seeing is the acting. I think we must go over this in different ways so that it becomes very clear.

Have you ever wondered why you have ideas and opinions at all - why? Why do you form an image, an image being an idea? Why does thought function through ideas, ideas of nationality, of what is right and what is wrong, that it is right to kill under certain circumstances, the beliefs that you have about God, the family and the non-family; you have ideas - why? Are ideas a means of self-protection, a resistance to any form of change, to any form of movement, to life? And do ideas - psychological ideas, not technical ideas, I am not talking about them - do ideas bring about clarity of action? Or are not these ideas always the past - and for this reason is not the past always acting in the present and continuing in the future? I learn a trade, having learnt that particular trade, that particular function, I then proceed to apply what I have learnt. Then that which I have learnt and according to which I act becomes mechanical, repeated over and over again. That gives me a sense of security, in which there is no disturbance; I can add more to it, but it will always be mechanical.

So there are several things involved in learning. Do we learn ideas, conclusions and having learnt them, apply them in action? That is one of the things. And is there idea separate from action at the moment when you are acting? Are all ideas - whether the Christian ideas, or Communists', Socialists', Capitalists' ideas, whatever they are - are all ideas in the past? All ideas are always in the past, therefore when I am functioning according to ideas, dogmas, beliefs, conclusions, I am living in the past, therefore I am dead. It is as if a man lived on dead memories. Is there at the moment you are doing - not having learnt and then doing, but as you are actually doing - is there at that moment idea? That is to say, I am angry or I am jealous, at that moment of anger or jealousy is there idea? Or is idea a judgement about anger which I have formed in the past and with which I condemn anger, or justify anger?

Learning implies a great sensitivity and there is no sensitivity if there is an idea, which is of the past, dominating the present. It is only a very sensitive mind that can learn and that sensitivity is denied when there is the domination of an idea. That is, as a Communist with all the Marxian Leninist doctrines, or with all the learning and the accumulated ideas of the bourgeois, or with dialectical ideas and so on. I am no longer sensitive, the mind is no longer quick, pliable, alert - it is incapable of learning.

Learning implies humility and in that state a mind cannot be achieving - the moment you achieve you cease to have that quality of innocency and humility. And there can be a mind that is clear, that is sensitive, not only physically sensitive but much more important, a mind which is psychologically sensitive, inwardly, inside the skin.

Most of us are insensitive, even physically. Do observe yourselves. We overeat, we have not thought about the right diet, we over-smoke, so that our bodies become gross, insensitive, the quality of attention in the organism itself is made dull. How can there be a very sensitive mind, alert, clear, if the organism itself is dull, heavy? We may be sensitive about certain things which touch us personally, but to be sensitive totally, to all the implications of life, demands non-fragmentation of the organism as separate from the psyche, a total movement, a unitary movement.

To learn about fear is to learn about sorrow, also to learn about fear is to learn about pleasure. Pleasure and fear go together. If I don't get what I want I am frightened, I am anxious, I am jealous, I become hateful. To understand fear one must understand sorrow - I think the two are related. Yet before we enter into the question of sorrow we must understand passion. I am sorry there are so many things to understand, life is like that, isn't it, really? It isn't that one thing is understood and then you hope to understand every thing else.

But there is really only one thing to understand and if you do understand that completely everything else is of little importance. But to come upon that totality requires not only a non-fragmentary mind but also a great deal of love.

We must understand and learn about fear and learning about fear means learning about sorrow and the ending of sorrow and all this implies the enquiry into passion. You know that word is derived from sorrow, and most of us consciously, or otherwise, are in sorrow of some kind or another. We are sorrowful human beings who have not a moment of bliss uncontaminated by thought, not a moment of real deep enjoyment untouched by any thought or memory. We are a battlefield from the moment we are born until we die. There is never order, never peace, never a sense of tranquillity and bliss. All that we know is sorrow and conflict.

To understand the nature of sorrow we must, as we said, go into this question of passion. You know, love is not desire or pleasure and that is a very difficult thing to see the truth of - to see, to actually feel from the very depth of your being, that love is not desire or pleasure. Because desire, which we have gone into in previous talks, becomes pleasure though thinking about something which has given you pleasure, enjoyment, and you think about it more and more - that thought is not love. Thinking about you, whom I love, is not love. When I think about you - whom I think I love - when I think about you, it is pleasure that I have derived from you being sustained by thought - I think about you and the moment thought enters love goes away.

What we know of love, as desire, pleasure and passion, which is lust, has nothing whatsoever to do with the passion which we are talking about, which passion is not the product of thought. If I become passionate about you, about something or an idea, it has stimulation in it, it has motive in it, the motive being 'I am going to derive pleasure'.

Please watch in yourself all this. So passion through, or for, something, is not the passion we are talking about, because in all that is involved pain and sorrow. Passion implies that thought and idea have been totally abandoned. And when there is that passion, that intensity, that drive - which is always in the present, not tomorrow or yesterday - then we can come upon this question of sorrow and see whether it can ever end.

A mind that is in sorrow cannot possibly function naturally, it becomes neurotic, it may take to the various drugs, whether STP or LSD or marihuana, because is hasn't understood life, life has no meaning for it and life is very superficial. If by the time you are twenty you have had everything, then you want more of the so-called mind-expanding drugs that give you heightened sensitivity for the time being, but they do not free the mind from sorrow.


Editor's note: It is possible to function while sorrowing. One can be unhappy while, at a deeper level, knowing joy. Happiness is related to happenings, the events of an unpredictable life "down here in hell", but, in the midst, one can experience a soul-based joy.


So what we are trying to do, or trying to talk over together, is to see if it is at all possible to completely end sorrow. You know, there is the sorrow of loneliness, there is the sorrow of death, there are all those petty little sorrows of not having love or not having been loved, or not being able to fulfil, not being a great man, the quantities of sorrows that we accumulate through life. Is it possible to be free, of the great and the little sorrows, of all sorrow? Is it possible to sweep them all away?


Editor's note: Sorrow ends during the "no you and no me" experience, no matter the circumstances in the world.


It is only possible when there is that passion to find out and that passion does find out through self knowing - through learning about oneself but not according to Freud, Jung and the psychologists and analysts, that is too infantile, for if I learn according to them I learn what they are, I am not learning about myself. To learn about myself there must be no moment of accumulation from which I learn. Myself is a constant movement, of yesterday through to today and tomorrow, a single movement, endless. I have to learn about this movement and I can only learn if the mind is free from all previous conclusions about myself.

To see that on the instant, to see this whole movement, you must have intense passion. When you listened to the thunder last night - if you listened and were not too heavily asleep - if you listened and if there was space between the listener and the thing that you listened to, you didn't hear the thunder. But if you listened without any idea, directly, then you were the thunder, because there was no space between you and that. This is not some fantastic, oriental rubbish.


Editor's note: This is not true. There is no will-power directed "intense passion" vivifying the "no you and no me" event. It can occur even against one's will and wishes. See the "waves" article.


You know, life being divided into the Orient and the Occident is really very immature, we are human beings whether we live in India or China or in this lovely country. And man is in sorrow, has always been in sorrow and because he does not know how to get out of it, how to end sorrow, he worships it personified in a church - therefore you must have the redeemer, a saviour and all the rest of the things that man has invented when he finds himself in sorrow and there is no way out.

But we are saying that there is a way out, completely and totally, and that is to see the total movement of life as yourself, on the instant, and to see that clearly you must have passion. There is no passion when there is fear, you do not have passion when there is love, which is not desire or pleasure.

Can we talk over together what we have said this morning?

Questioner: Sir, you said that to learn we must have a sensitive mind, but when we have not a sensitive mind how do you get it?

Krishnamurti: First, does one know that one's mind is not clear and sensitive? Do you know it? Please follow carefully? Do you know this as you know hunger? Or do you know it because somebody has told you or because you are comparing your mind with somebody else's and you say to yourself 'My mind is not clear'? You see the difference? Do you compare and therefore say 'I am not'? When you compare, what is taking place? You have an idea that you are dull and you have an idea that somebody else is very intelligent. The two images, the one about yourself and the image about another, are in competition. Can you observe yourself as being dull without comparison? Or do you know only through comparison? Now this is an important question to ask and to answer. Do you know that you are hungry because you were hungry yesterday, or do you know hunger because you are actually hungry? You know through comparison and you don't really know, or do you know because it is so? This is a very important question because throughout life, from childhood, from school until we die, we are taught to compare ourselves with another; yet when I compare myself with another I am destroying myself. In a school, in an ordinary school where there are a lot of boys, when one boy is pared with another, who is very clever, who is the head of the class, what is actually taking place? You are destroying the boy. That's what we are doing throughout life. Now, can I live without comparison - without comparison with anybody? This means there is no high, no low - there is not the one who is superior and the other who is inferior. You are actually what you are and to understand what you are, to look at yourself and to see actually what you are, this process of comparison must come to an end. If I am always comparing myself with some saint or some teacher, some businessman, writer, poet, and all the rest, what has happened to me; - what have I done? I only compare in order to gain, in order to achieve, in order to become - but when I don't compare I am beginning to understand what I am. Beginning to understand what I am is far more fascinating, far more interesting, it goes beyond all this stupid comparison.

Q: What does it mean, to be serious, and why am I not serious?

K: Sir, very few people are serious, anyhow. We are serious at odd moments, when we are driven into a corner. What does it mean to be serious, Sir, to you, to each one of us - what does it mean? It means, generally, that we become serious when there is a personal threat, danger - when our security, financial or emotional, or our security in relationship, is disturbed - then we become very serious. That seriousness turns to jealousy, fear, self-protection. Is that really seriousness? To be serious means to be earnest doesn't it? not merely sincere or integrated - to be earnest about life, about earning a living, the family, what you do, what you think, what you feel, to be serious about the totality of all that. To be earnest, serious, not when you are forced, not when you are pricked, not when you have some profit to gain or some pleasure to achieve. This seriousness is not to be given by another, for then it is merely a stimulation - and if you are being stimulated to be serious this morning, in this gathering, then when you go outside it will evaporate.

Editor's note. Yes - the higher-order beauty and pleasure will exist not as a function of "mere stimulation."


concepts of 'beauty' and 'pleasure' become colored by fearful thought

Krishnamurti's discussion of pleasure (in many lectures, but, for example, in the May 18, 1968 talk) in union with thought invites a review of the term "stimulus"; from the internet we learn:

Stimuli (Latin, “goad, prick”) are those actions, acts, or procedures that evoke a reaction from the mind. The stimuli may be visual, audio, physical, or a mix of them. It may be an object, event, or a factor capable of inciting a physiological response. Any of the five senses will respond to a particular stimulus.

Sensory organs can detect external changes (such as temperature, light, sound, etc.) or internal changes (loss of energy results in hunger). The sensory system signals these changes to the brain which elicits a response. The response can be in the form of physical activity (move, run, change shape, etc.) or internal response (perspiration).

A mechanism of stimulus recognition in animals involves:

  • Stimulus: A detectable change happens in the environment
  • Receptors: The receptors convert environmental stimuli into electrical nerve signals
  • Neurons: The nerve signals are transferred to the central nervous system via neurons
  • Effectors: Effectors, muscles and glands, produce a response as a result of the stimulus.

Editor's note: The following is excerpted from the article on the meaning of beauty:

stimulation, perception, conception

The dog undoubtedly knows that a large vertical object of rough exterior blocks its path, but to see a tree as a tree requires a certain abstract knowledge, an awareness of a general category of “trees,” as opposed to a certain individual tree. To see a particular tree as part of a larger family of "trees" is a quantum leap, far too high even for good jumpers like dogs.

Dr. Robinson makes an extremely valuable comment by drawing distinction among stimulation, perception, and conception. A lower form of life might be incited to movement by a shaft of light, that is, mere stimulation as a result of photon activity.

Editor’s note: I sometimes make reference to my young-teen state of mind, rather, a lack of it, by comparing a boy's lower level awareness to a worm vaguely aware of a light source. This is not advanced sentience but mere “stimulation.”

And if the bees “see” the flowers, and have some minimal awareness of the “beauty” of color, I would suggest that any such appreciation of floral beauty would be on par, or lower than, that of the dog which does not see a tree as a tree.

Perception, as we learn from Dr. Robinson, moves us up the line of cognitive awareness. A perception is an awareness of stimulation. I think the dog lives on this level. It is aware of stimulation, and also perceives trees, but does not mentally conceive of trees as trees.

Conception takes us a step further, a gigantic one, wherein perceptions are categorized now as ideas of the world, sorted into general headings.

each species sees 'beauty' and 'pleasure' somewhat differently

What we call "pleasure" is the brain's reaction to certain stimuli which evoke positive sensation. Humans are hard-wired to recognize, as “pleasure”, particular stimulus-reaction sequences, but other organisms, a goose, for example, will not "raise an eyebrow" at these sensory awakenings. In other words, much of what we call "beauty" and “pleasure” is a positive, near-autonomic, response to species-specific stimuli.

A great deal of this “incitement to riot” is bio-chem prompted, just a trick Mother Nature plays on each life-form, to encourage reproduction, the perpetuation of the species.

See more discussion in the “waves” article.

Krishnamurti says that pleasure is one thing, but it becomes something else when thought gets involved. Thought is like a parasite to the process. When we think about pleasure, he says, invariably fear becomes entangled with the perception; either we say “I wish I had pleasure and fear I won’t get it,” or “I have pleasure and fear that I’ll lose it.”

This fear creates, what he calls, a mental "image", and our relationship with pleasure is filtered through this image. The needy ego gets involved and colors everything with its assessment of “I don’t have enough” because “I am not enough.”

not all aspects of beauty and pleasure spring from bio-chem origin

There is a higher-order of beauty and pleasure which has nothing to do with brain chemicals or reproductive “fever.”

These forms of beauty and pleasure, of zenith and pinnacle levels, issue as a resonance with sacred destiny, an affinity with the celestial infinite, a union with universal consciousness.

See more discussion in the “waves” article.




Editor's last word: