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Word Gems 

exploring self-realization, sacred personhood, and full humanity


Jiddu Krishnamurti
1895 - 1986

“A petty mind is always seeking more and more experiences… a mind that is always concerned with itself, a mind that is not very deep… that is why there is this craze for taking LSD., hoping to expand consciousness… Why do we want experiences? We demand it because our lives are empty.”




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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, Amsterdam - 28 May 1967

We have been talking over together several things which, it seems to me, are quite important. There is another thing we should consider also, which is the whole question of a mind demanding experiences.

Without understanding that question and that problem we cannot come to the next question which we shall go into a little later: whether the mind can come upon a quality of innocence. Innocence is far more important than immortality. And to go into that question very deeply, one has first to understand (obviously not intellectually) a mind demanding experiences.

Editor's note: Immortality, by itself, is not the highest prize. Endless years would become a terrible fate without a mind equal to the benefit. See the article "Will you survive the terror of living forever?"

While innocence may be – I would say -- more fundamental than immortality, I find no good reason to juxtaposition these two concepts, minimizing one in favor of the other. K didn’t like the idea of immortality, was afraid of attendant accountability it might bring, and this is why he subtly disparages living forever. See the final K lecture, at the bottom of the page.

A petty mind, a narrow, shallow mind is always seeking more and more experiences. I mean by that a mind that is always concerned with itself, its self-centred activities, a mind that is not very deep. Such a petty mind may be clever, erudite, have a great deal of technical and analytical capacity, but it still remains a petty, shallow, little mind, the very essence of a bourgeois mind. And we are not using that word 'bourgeois' in a derogatory sense. This mind, most of our minds, are very heavily conditioned and therefore rather narrow, well established in tradition, in experience, in adjusting themselves to the every day demands of a monotonous, laborious, rather useless life. Such a mind, being very limited, is always exploring wider and deeper experiences. It demands not only biological, physiological experiences of sex and so on, but also it demands wider experience of consciousness.


Editor’s note: K brings up an important point. Almost everyone would offer unconditional approval of experience. But there is a difference between a mind that seeks to fulfill itself and its destiny by education, by experience, as opposed to the “petty and narrow mind” which craves experience as a means to distract, and escape from, itself. This is pathological. The entire doctrine of reincarnation is built up the “sacred cow” adulation of experience. Who could speak against it? It is not our savior, ready to alchemically transform the knavish spirit into shining godhood? But this is gross illusion. Reincarnation appeals to the many as if offers the perfect venue of ridding oneself of the “spoiled self” via untold number of experiential lives. But this concept, along with the entire doctrine of R, is fantasy. See much discussion on the "reincarnation" page.


Our daily life, as we know it, the life that one leads, is pretty monotonous, empty. And following a routine of well established habits and traditions, the norm is set and the mind follows that, and continues until it dies, comes to an end. Such a mind, which we shall call for the moment, narrow, limited, petty, shallow, demands many experiences. It has had physical experiences such as sex, satisfying various sensory pleasures, but also it demands much wider experiences. And that is why there is this craze in the world at the present for taking drugs like L.S.D., hoping thereby to expand consciousness and have greater, wider more meaningful experiences. I think one should understand this craving.

What is an experience, what is involved in experience? When one wants the most marvellous experience that one can possibly have, what is involved? What do we mean by this experiencing? Is it a legitimate demand; is it possible really to have a totally new experience? We mean by experience, to go through something; that is the dictionary meaning of that word: to go through an experience, to go through a response to a challenge to the very end of it. In this process of experiencing several things are necessary. (And in observing oneself, I hope each one of us who is listening to this morning's talk is not merely hearing a lot of words, either agreeing or disagreeing, but actually examining, using the speaker's words as a mirror to observe himself.)

To understand this question deeply, you have to observe your own mind in operation. Why do we want experiences? What is involved in experiencing? Obviously we demand it because our lives are empty, shallow, petty, we have had enough of the daily routine and we want something wider, deeper, more lasting. So we are looking for experiences. And of course, there is the ultimate experience of a religious mind (a mind that is not really religious but that is caught in the traps of religious organizations, which are merely the continuity of propaganda and not religion at all). Such a mind wants the experience of the ultimate, some mystical state reality, God or the projection of its own conditioning. If you are a Christian you will experience that which you have been conditioned to; an Indian, or Asiatic, they are conditioned to their own particular psychology, culture. In this process of experiencing (if one observes, as I hope you are observing yourself) is there anything new at all? Or is it merely the continuity of what has been, modified, extended and given a different significance?

In this demand for experience, which is natural, one has to go into the question of what is an experience, what is its nature, and is any new experience at all possible. Being dissatisfied with things as they are in our life, we stretch out our consciousness, hoping to grasp some new fundamental, original, pristine experience. And in that we do not completely understand what is involved. All experiences are a response to a condition. There are always challenges, if one is greatly alive, to which we either respond adequately or inadequately, totally, or partially. This response to a challenge is the experiencing - otherwise there is no experience at all. And when we ask for deeper, wider, more significant experience, a process of recognition is involved, isn't it. If I don't recognize a new experience, it is not an experience at all. If there is an experience, if something takes place in consciousness and I don't recognize the nature of it, it ceases to be an experience.

So, to experience a thing I must recognize it. And to recognize it I must have had it already, otherwise I can't recognize it. Please follow this step by step. Recognition is necessary in experiencing, otherwise it is not. And to recognize is the response of memory. Therefore any experience which is recognizable is always the old. Therefore a mind that is seeking a wider and deeper experience and is capable of recognizing it, can never find the new, however much it may demand a new experience. Therefore one has to understand whether it is at all possible to be totally free from the whole structure of memory.

We are not saying that you must have no memory, which is absurd. We must have memory, technological memory, otherwise we shan't be able to live at all. But not the memory of a mind that is always seeking the new, and translating what it finds into terms of the old. After all, if you have taken a chemical like L.S.D. it obviously heightens your sensitivity, heightens your perception, you see much more clearly, much more directly; then the interval between the observer and observed is not. There is a chemical change in the whole metabolism of the body. And in that state one experiences and that experience obviously is recognizable, otherwise we would be empty. So when there is the process of recognition it is the projection of the past. The mind is always functioning within the field of time, which is of memory. And can the mind go beyond that?

Truth is not recognizable, therefore it is always new, fresh. A mind that is seeking truth can never find truth, because it is not to be sought after. A conditioned mind demanding what truth is, demanding that it must find it, will never find it because it is so conditioned. It can never find that immense, immeasurable thing. But without coming upon it, life becomes dull, stupid, drab, meaningless. So is it possible for a mind to come upon that thing which man has everlastingly sought?... a state of innocency, freshness, which is constantly renewing itself. Is it possible? We are going to go into that this morning, if we can.


Editor’s note: K is correct. We cannot find “the truth” by searching for it as if it were just another experience to be snatched and corralled. At the surface-level of consciousness, we wouldn’t even recognize “truth” – and, with a moment’s reflection, we can see this to be the case. Think of the masses of planet Earth’s inhabitants. Do they recognize truth when they stumble upon it? Or are they too busy “drawing the target around the arrow”? that is, they approach truth-seeking with conclusions already in place, with minds, "petty and narrow," burdened with memories of ancient belief systems. But how to obtain this "innocence," the ability to look at something as it were fresh and new, without the baggage of memories?


As we said the other day, the word, the symbol is not the reality. The word door is not the door. So one has to be very attentive not to be caught in words. Although we have to use words to communicate, words become a terrible hindrance; because we think by understanding the word, defining the word, or the meaning and the structure of a sentence.. through explanation, we think we have understood the whole thing. So we are going to find out whether a mind, that is heavily conditioned, whether such a mind can free itself totally and be in a state of freedom in which the new is joy, great ecstasy, cannot be sought. You can seek pleasure excitement, sensation, seek ways and means of entertainment, certain forms of excitement, pleasure; but joy is something that cannot possibly be sought or put together by thought. And that joy is not related at all to pleasure or desire. So it is important to understand the nature of pleasure and desire.

You know, throughout the world those people who have belonged to any particular organized religion have always said you must be without desire to find reality. That is why there are so many monks and various forms of renunciations of the world, denying pleasure and desire. Monasteries are full of them. And by denying pleasure, desire, they hope to find something beyond these categories.

What is pleasure and what is desire? We must understand this very carefully, because otherwise the mind will always be caught in the search for pleasure, or the avoidance of pleasure, or the control of desire; hence the mind becomes a tortured thing. Either the indulgence of pleasure, or the suppression of pleasure, does deteriorate the quality of mind. And so one has to understand both desire and pleasure, not intellectually, not conceptually but actually. The understanding through a concept, through a formula, is not understanding at all. That is, we have an idea of what pleasure is and try to understand the nature and structure of pleasure through that idea. First we conceive, we formulate an ideology and use that ideology, that concept, to understand. We mean by understanding a direct perception And action without the interval, without the interference of thought and concepts. Only then is there understanding and therefore immediate action.

One can see how desire arises. It is not a very complex issue. There is first perception, seeing, visually, with the eyes; from that there is certain pleasure, if it is beautiful. There is first perception, then there is sensation, then there is contact, then out of that contact desire. You see a beautiful car, there is perception, seeing, sensation, contact and desire. Then thought begins to nourish, sustain and give continuity to that desire. Then it becomes pleasure. All this takes place instantly, I see a beautiful face, a beautiful tree, and I touch that face or that tree and in that there is desire, and that desire is sustained by thought, which becomes pleasure. You can observe this in yourself if you are at all watchful, alert. When one is aware of this, then is it possible, one asks oneself, for thought not to interfere. You understand? One can see very well how desire arises; then thought comes in and says, I want to have it. I want to possess it, I want it to continue. So thought not only gives it nourishment, sustenance, but by thinking about it over and over again, continuity. This is what takes place when you have sex, or any deep experience.

Please watch what is taking place. You experience; thought experiencing is the present, which is looking at a car; there is direct perception, then thought comes, thought being the old, and gives continuity to that desire by thinking about it, which is pleasure. All this, as we said, is instantaneous. And is it possible for thought not to interfere at all? Because one cannot shut one's eyes, or ears.

You see, you hear, you taste, you look at a beautiful sunset, a tree, a lovely landscape with lakes and mountains, you can't shut your eyes to it all. Then thought comes in giving to the new (which is direct seeing) a continuity which becomes the memory. There was a lovely sunrise this morning, one looked at it, it was a beautiful thing, thought captured it and wants that pleasure repeated tomorrow. The old has captured the instant beauty of a sunset sunrise, and so thought can never find the new, thought can never experience the new. And how is it possible, without control, without subjugation, without denial, for thought not to allow itself to interfere? You understand the question I hope the problem is clear. Because we have lived so long a human beings, over two million years, accumulated so much so many thousand experiences, and our innocency is not There is nothing new and man, if he is at all alert and awake, is always demanding the new. And the entity that is seeking the new is always thought. And thought is always the old, because it is the response of accumulated memories, of experienced knowledge. And is it possible for thought not to interfere at all?

Now we are going to find this out, find out for ourselves if it is at all possible. But if you say it is not possible you have already blocked it. Or, if you say it is possible you have also blocked it. Either agreement or disagreement with that statement prevents you from going further, which may be what you want. But if you want to go into it very deeply there must be neither acceptance nor denial, but examination. And to examine there must be freedom, freedom from opinion, from conclusion.

That is to say, thought, which is always old, always conditioned, never free-though it may talk endlessly about freedom, peace and love - thought can never find the new. All our life is based on thought, from the moment we wake up in the morning until we go to sleep, thought is in operation, cunning, desperate, hopeful, in despair, seeking pleasure, denying sorrow, and so on and on endlessly. Therefore we are living always in the past, always.

So when we ask this question, whether thought can have a stop, whether thought which is in time can come to an end, we are asking a most fundamental question. A fundamental question cannot be answered by somebody else. When you ask a fundamental question all authority has gone. Therefore when all authority, of every kind, is put aside, denied, then you can find out for yourself.

We are asking a question that demands attention. We are asking whether thought can come to a stop (though thought is necessary at certain levels) whether thought can come to an end and not interfere.

When you look at the sunset, at a tree, at a bird on the wing, when you see a face with which you have lived, to look at it as though for the first time! Though you walk in the same path, the same road, to look at the whole thing as though it had never happened before! - that is important, because from that there is a discovery of something entirely different.

So is it possible for thought to stop? You know, man has tried this in different ways, through drugs, through control, through meditation, through the demand for that state when you can receive grace. Or by identifying, to lose oneself entirely in something, in the country (which is an idea), in patriotism (which is again an idea), in a projection which one calls God (which is again a concept, an image, a symbol). Man has tried so many ways, by control, by suppression, by identifying himself with something which he calls greater, to forget himself totally; through sex, through a particular activity to which he is committed - like the Communist who is committed to a particular ideology and having identified himself with it he works endlessly for that ideology; but it is still identifying himself with an idea, he is working for himself, calling it for the collective, and so on. So is it possible for a mind to become totally empty, totally fresh, completely innocent, although it has lived a thousand years?

To come upon this one has to enquire into what is awareness. And one also has to find out what it is to be attentive. To be aware of the lights, of the shape of the hall, the roof, the carpet, the colour, just to be aware of it without any choice, without any comparison, without any condemnation - just to observe. I do not know if you have ever tried it. If you have, and if you are aware, then you will see how you judge, condemn, approve: 'I like', 'I don't like', 'this is ugly', 'this is beautiful', 'this particular colour I don't like at all, it is repulsive', 'that colour is very attractive'. Such statements prevent that awareness, which is to be aware without any choice; then only are you watching, then only do you see.

You know, when you are completely attentive, in that state you see; it's only love that sees and nothing else, not thought, not the mind, not the intellect. So one has to learn how to look, how to hear. As we said the other day, learning is not accumulating, learning is always the active present, It is not that having learnt you observe; you see only in the instant present.

And when you are so aware, then you begin to discover for yourself, without any preacher, any teacher, any book, any philosophy, theologian, priest, or psychologist, you begin to discover the nature and the structure of your own self: how you look, how you feel, what you think, what your motives are; you are aware of yourself instantly. And from that awareness there comes the state of attention. You know most of us are inattentive, that is our habit. We are never attentive. Attention means complete attention, not intellectual, emotional attention, but the total attention which one gives when one is completely in front of a danger, or in face of a crisis. That attention is virtue. It is only in that attention virtue can flower.

And when there is that attention, then you will find that out of it comes complete aloneness. I do not know if you have ever experienced what loneliness is. I think one has. To be lonely, that is to feel oneself isolated, having no relationship with anything; in that sense of loneliness there is despair - there are moods, one is familiar with that sense of loneliness - and one runs away from it by turning on the radio, by reading a book, by sex and ten different activities. That loneliness is the very essence of self-consciousness.

And when one goes beyond that, there is this state of attention in which there is complete aloneness, which is not isolation, which is not separation, which is not a withdrawal. Because it is only this aloneness, when the mind is no longer a plaything of thought, when thought has been understood totally - then out of that comes this sense of aloneness. it is that which is innocence, and it is that innocence which is beyond all mortality. It is only that innocence which can come upon the new, that which is always new, which is timeless.

This whole process man has sought through meditation. Perhaps you do not know that word. The whole of Asia knows the meaning of that word. Here you may use a different word. Man has tried through meditation, through control, through following a system, a method, to come upon this innocence, this freshness, this reality, which is not of time. One can only come upon it when one has understood what it means to experience, what pleasure and desire mean, and also the nature of awareness and attention. Then out of that total comprehension comes the solitude and aloneness which opens the door. And no one - no drug, no priest, no God, no religion - will ever give the energy to open that door...

So you have to find out if you are asking questions out of confusion or are asking questions out of clarity. If there is clarity you will never ask a question. It is only the confused mind that asks, and having asked, because it cannot receive the right answer, remains in confusion. Therefore asking a question reveals your own state of mind to yourself, whether it is confused or not confused. That is why one has to ask questions, and there is great beauty in the discovery of what one actually is.

Editor’s note: A mind of clarity does not ask questions, neither does it seek for common experience; these two quests are very similar. Elsewhere, K speaks of a “total field of perception,” a cognizance extending beyond the craving mind. It is the mind of "austerity" and “aloneness” he says, dependent on nothing external, not the mind of “loneliness.” How to access this “innocence”? We’re talking about encouraging a mystical experience, an experience which transcends the five senses. See my article on this subject.

(See K's "valentine's day, 1969" lecture wherein he speaks of "total field.")


Editor's last word: