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Word Gems 

exploring self-realization, sacred personhood, and full humanity


Jiddu Krishnamurti
1895 - 1986

“There is not only the outward authority, but there is inward authority of one's own experience, of ideals which guide one's life. There is yesterday's authority which is as destructive as the authority of a thousand years. To understand ourselves needs no authority of yesterday, or of a thousand years, because we ourselves are a living thing, moving, never resting, always flowing.”




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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, Saanen, Switzerland - 9 July 1967

... The Communists, the Capitalists, the Socialists are not concerned with the individual at all, although they talk about him; but I don't see how a radical change can come about except through the individual. For the individual human being is the result of the total experience, knowledge and conduct of man - it is in us. We are the storehouse of all the past, the racial, the family, the individual's experience of life - we are that, and unless in the very essence of our being there is a revolution, a mutation, I do not see how a good society can come about.

When we talk about the individual, we are not opposing him to, or setting him against, the collective, the mass, the whole of mankind, because the human individual is the whole of mankind. Unless you feel that, such a statement becomes merely an intellectual concept. Unless each one of us recognizes the central fact that we as individual human beings represent the whole of mankind, whether they live in the Orient or the Occident, we shall not see how to act.

We human beings, as individuals, are totally responsible for the state of the world. Wars - we are responsible for wars by the way we lead our lives, for we are nationalistic, German, French, Dutch, English, American, Russian; we are Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Buddhists, belonging to Zen or this or that sect, dividing, quarrelling, fighting each other. Our gods, our nationalities, have divided us.

When one realizes, not intellectually but actually, as actually as you would recognize that you are hungry, that you and I as human beings are responsible for all this chaos, for all this misery - because we contribute to it, we are part of it - when one realizes that, not emotionally, not intellectually, not sentimentally, but actually, then the problem becomes tremendously serious.

When that realization has become so serious, you will act. Not until then, not until you feel that you are completely responsible for this monstrous society, with its wars, with its divisions, with its ugliness, brutalities, greeds, and so on, not until each one of us realizes that, will we act. And you can only act when you know how this structure, not only outwardly, but inwardly, has been put together. That is why one must know more about oneself and the more one knows about oneself the more mature one is. Immaturity lies only in one's ignorance of oneself.

What we are going to do is to learn about ourselves - not according to the speaker, or to Freud, or to Jung, to some analyst or philosopher - but to learn actually what we are. If we learn about ourselves according to Freud we learn about Freud, not about ourselves. To learn about one self, all authority must come to an end, all authority - whether it be the authority of the church or of the local priest, or of the famous analyst, or of the greatest philosophers with their intellectual formulas, and so on.

So the first thing that one has to realize when we become serious, demanding a total revolution within the structure of our own psyche, is that there is no authority of any kind.

That is very difficult, for there is not only the outward authority, which one can easily reject, but there is inward authority; the inward authority of one's own experience, of one's own accumulated knowledge, of the opens, ideas, ideals which guide one's life and according to which one tries to live.

To be free of that authority is immensely difficult - authority, not only in great things, but in the authority of yesterday when you had an experience which taught you something; what it taught becomes the authority of today.

Do please understand this, the subtlety, the difficulty of it. There is not only the authority of accumulated knowledge as tradition, of every experience that has left a mark, but there is yesterday's authority which is as destructive as the authority of a thousand years. To understand ourselves needs no authority of yesterday, or of a thousand years, because we ourselves are a living thing, moving, never resting, always flowing.


Editor's note: This is the central truth: We, our essential selves, extensions of Universal Consciousness, are a churning, seething, roiling mass of existential energy.


When we look at ourselves with the authority of yesterday, what is important is the authority and not the movement of life which we are, so we don't understand the movement, the flow, the beauty and the quality of that movement - what you understand is the authority you have accumulated, that with which you are examining, looking.

To be free of that authority is to die to everything of yesterday so that your mind is always fresh, always young, innocent, full of vigour and passion - it is only in that state that one observes and learns. Such freedom is no longer an instrument to be used by authority according to our pleasure and pain. And for this is required a great deal of awareness, actual awareness of what is going on within the skin, without correcting it, without telling it what it should be, or what it should not be; because if you correct it you have already established the authority, the censor.

If you are willing, serious, and not merely casual and curious, then we will go into it, step by step, not missing a single movement. This doesn't mean that the speaker is going to become the analyst, there is no analyser and no one to be analysed, there is only the fact, there is only that which is. When we know how to look at that which is, then the analyser comes to an end, totally.

So, in these talks, we are going to communicate with each other, not about what should be, or what has been, but about what is actually taking place in us - not about how we should alter it, or what we should do with it, but how to observe and see what actually is. That demands such intense energy!

You know, we never look at that which is - we never look at the tree as it is, the shadows, the depth of the foliage, as it is, totally - at the beauty of it. This is because we have concepts of what beauty is and we have formulas of how we should look at the tree, or we want to identify our selves with it - we have an idea about the tree first and see the tree after. The idea, formula, or ideal, prevents us from looking at the tree that is. Ideas, formulas, ideals comprise the culture in which we live - that culture is me, is you and with that culture we look, therefore there is no looking at all.

Now, if you are listening to what is being said, actually listening, then the culture, the authority, will totally disappear - you haven't got to fight that background, that culture of the society in which one is brought up - you will be able to recognize that that thing is preventing you from looking. It is only when you actually look that you are in communion, then you have the right contact, not only with the tree, with the cloud, with the mountain, with the beauty of the earth, but also you have direct contact with what is actually within yourself, and when you are directly in contact there is no problem whatever. It is only when there is no contact, when you are the 'observer' and the thing observed is something different from you and therefore there is no contact, that the problems arise - then there are the conflicts, the sorrows, pains and anxieties.

During these talks we are going to help each other to understand and therefore to be in contact with what actually is; this means the 'observer' comes to an end and that to look, to listen, to understand and to act, are all the same...

Editor's note: see the teachings on "no you and no me."

Questioner: I don't understand this business of immediate action.

Krishnamurti: What is action? The actual meaning of that word is 'to do'. Action implies an active present. But action is the result of yesterday's mannerisms, knowledge, experience, ideas, formulas, which have become established and we act according to them. The memory of yesterday, modified and so on, acts in the present and that creates the future, so in that action there is no active present. I am acting in accordance with a dead thing. (Of course I must have memory in certain categories of activities, technical and so on). But acting according to memory only produces action that is not action at all, it is a dead thing, therefore tomorrow is also a dead thing. So what am I to do? I must learn about action which is totally different from the action of memory. To do this I must see what actually takes place, not intellectually, not verbally, not sentimentally. I have had an experience of anger or of pleasure and that remains as a memory, and according to that memory action takes place. That action from memory increases the anger or the pleasure and it is always accumulating the past - such action from the past is virtually inaction. Can the mind be free from these memories of yesterday so as to live in the present? This must not be a question to which I can obtain an intellectual answer. Nor can the mind, which is of time, which is subject to infinite moods, free itself from the memories of yesterday by trying to live in the present in accordance with the philosophy which says 'I must live completely in the present' which says 'there is no future, there is no past, that the future is hopeless therefore live in the present and make the best of the present'.

I cannot live in the present if the present is in the shadow of the past. To understand this the mind must be capable of looking and you can only look when there is no condemnation, no identification, no judgement - as you can look at a tree, a cloud - simply look at it. Before you can look at the most complex structure of memory, you must be able to look at a tree, at the ant, at the movement of the river, to look - we really don't. It is far more important to look at the past as memory, and this we don't know how to do.

Action according to memory, is total inaction, and therefore there is no revolution at all.

Q: I wonder if there is a contradiction between your saying that the individual is the collective and the result of the past and your saying that there must be no authority from the past?

K: After all, the past, whether invested in another, as in the priest, the analyst, the commander of an army or the wife or the husband, that authority invested by me in another is for my own security, for my own safety. That authority man has accepted for centuries upon centuries. But he has built the authority, he wants the authority, because the more he is confused, the more miserable, the more he wants to have another tell him what to do. The authority which he has invested in another, or the authority which he has created in himself as a guide, becomes an impediment.

You see again, this question of authority and the individual is really a very complex affair. To understand the individual we have to understand the collective, and in the collective lies the whole structure of authority. All of us are seeking security in some form or another. Security in jobs, security in having money, security in the continuity of a certain pleasure, sexual or otherwise, and the demand for total security, that is in all of us, and we try to find expression of that urge in different ways. The moment there is the demand for security then there must be authority - obviously - and that is the psychological and cultural structure of our whole society.

Have we ever asked whether this security that we seek, exists at all? We take it for granted it does. We have sought security through churches, through political leaders, through relationships but have we ever found it - have you? Have you ever found security in your relationships? Is there security in any relationship, in any church, or in any government, except physical security? You have security in belief, in dogmas, but that is merely an idea which can be shattered by argument, by doubt, by questioning, by demanding freedom. When one realizes, not as an idea, that there is no such thing as security, permanency, then authority has no meaning whatsoever.

Q: I think you said that we are responsible for the whole of society. I have not interpreted exactly what you mean. Are we responsible for the wars and so on?

K: Don't you think that we are responsible for the wars? The way of our lives indicates that we are brutal, aggressive and have violent prejudices, we have divided ourselves into nationalities, religious groups, hating each other, we destroy each other in business; all that must express itself in wars, in hatred - obviously. To live in peace means to live peacefully every day, doesn't it?

Q: I would say that some people are more responsible than others.

K: Ah! The gentleman says that some people are more responsible for these uglinesses than you and I. That is a nice, happy way out of it. But I am afraid we are not - when you are a German and I a Russian, when you are a Communist and I am a Capitalist, are we not at each other's throats - are we not antagonistic to each other?

You want everything as it is, undisturbed, because you have a little money, a child, a house and for God's sake you don't want to be disturbed - anything that disturbs you, you hate. Are you not responsible when you insist that you will not be disturbed? And you say 'my religion, my Buddha, my Christ', my whatever it is, he is my God, in him you have invested everything, your whole security and misery - you don't want to be disturbed. A man who thinks quite differently, you hate him. To live peacefully every day means you have really no nationality, religion, dogma, or authority. Peace means to love, to be kind; if you haven't that, then you are responsible for all the confusion.



Editor's last word: