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Word Gems 

exploring self-realization, sacred personhood, and full humanity


Jiddu Krishnamurti
1895 - 1986

“I am a living thing.” My mind, my inner being, is a movement, constantly undergoing a change through strain, through pressure, through daily life. And we make a mistake by leading that “living thing” by images of the past. These images prevent the “living thing” that is myself to expand and grow unrestrictedly.




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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 2, London - 17 Sept 1967

If we may, we will continue with what we were talking about yesterday.

Either we follow blindly, or intelligently, or according to our inclination. There is really no intelligent following. And blind following, psychologically, is obviously most detrimental, not only to the follower but also to the one who is followed.


Editor's note: As I've stated elsewhere, there are no good belief-systems. We are to follow the evidence, wherever it leads, while holding "the truth" loosely in our hands; pending further light. And there's always more to come.


And if we follow another according to our inclination, that again leads to a great deal of misery. So one observes that any form of psychological following (except of course in the technological field) is most destructive;


Editor's note: No, even in science -- maybe especially in science as the very term suggests knowledge production -- this same precept of anticipating more information very much applies. The best minds in science say there are no "laws" but only observed, tentatively-affirmed regularities. See Sheldrake on "habits."


you follow someone who you consider knows more, accepting what he says, but thereby you distort your own intelligence. Can one follow another intelligently at all? And does not following of a particular authority in the psychological field destroy every form of intelligence? Most of us are inclined, in the so-called psychological field, to accept according to our inclination, which is essentially based on pleasure.

And it seems to me that every form of following, imitation, conformity, is contrary to understanding, to learning. So one can, right from the beginning, put aside every form of psychological authority and that is extraordinarily difficult to do for most people; because most people are afraid of going wrong, of not coming quickly to a certain understanding and experience, and if another promises such understanding, such experience, obviously it is very tempting. The inclination to follow becomes stronger when the bait is very attractive; and in the psychological field there are so many baits, each leader, guru, teacher, promising something. When we imitate and follow, we are not understanding ourselves, which is absolutely necessary. Hence I think from the very beginning we have to put aside every form of authority: the guru, the leader, the teacher, the saviour, the priest, the analyst, the psychologist, the philosopher, the theoretician, (communist or spiritual) - the theologian.

Can we do this? Because if we do not do this - not verbally but actually, inwardly, directly and very simply - I do not see how we can at all be free to learn. And can one stand alone? Because if one is not following any form of authority, both outward and inward, then inevitably there is the fear of going wrong.

One can more or less intelligently discard the outer authority of any particular system, guru, teacher, psychologist, philosopher, theologian and priest; that is fairly simple, because one sees through all that very quickly. One can set that aside comparatively easily; but what is much more difficult, it seems to me, is to put aside the authority of our own experience, the authority of our own knowledge, the authority that one has accumulated through learning, which becomes the guide.

Therefore we live on the past, so the past becomes a great measure, a great teacher: the past established through centuries of propaganda of the church, or the past of our own experience. Because when one follows the past, the totality of time is not understood. And most of us do accept the past most obediently. In the technological field, obviously, one must rely on that which has been, which has been accumulated, which is so-called knowledge. It would be absurd to destroy all that and begin all over again;


Editor's note: It is not absurd. Relativity and quantum mechanics overthrew centuries of Newtonian "law" and, from a higher perspective, science had to start all over again. And there's no "destroying" but adding to what went before. K is far off base here. But, generally, we take his point. He is speaking against authorities, and that will include his own dicta, and mine.


but in the psychological field, in the field that lies behind the mind - behind the skin as it were - there the authority of our own knowledge, of our own experience, which is essentially based on our inclination and tendency and the pressure of environment (which we call the past), that authority becomes our guiding principle. If one observes oneself one can see that very simply. I've learnt something yesterday, or after having lived for so many years have accumulated a certain knowledge through endeavour, through conflict, through sorrow, through pain and pleasure and that memory becomes the guide, and that becomes our authority and therefore all learning comes to an end.


Editor's note: We are not to cavalierly reject all that we've learned -- if this were to be the case, then also reject what K is saying here -- but, instead, hold loosely all that we've learned, pending new information.


If I am learning - I want to learn about myself. I don't think one sees the extraordinary importance of learning about oneself - not what others have said about one (however great specialists they may be) - but actually to learn about oneself; I don't think we are very keen about it, we accept more readily second-hand information about ourselves. You know, there are all these Yogis, Swamis, Maharishis, the whole gang of them wandering through India and through this country and Europe and America. People are so gullible, they follow another so easily, those who promise something! But to learn about myself demands a total denial of the past, denial of everything I have learnt about myself, because I am a living thing, it's a movement, something that is constantly undergoing a change through strain, through pressure, through daily life, through propaganda, the constant pressure of the world and the pressure of relationship.

And that living thing we are trying to translate in terms of the past, examining that living thing through the past, and that's why we find it so extraordinarily difficult to learn about ourselves; because we have the standard of the past, the right and the wrong, the good and the bad (not that there is not good and bad), but we have this image established, rooted in the past and that image prevents the understanding of the present, which is the living me.

And so the question arises, whether it is not possible to discard the outward authority of the whole spiritual system of the church, of books, of the religious leaders, the theologians, the whole... I don't know what word to use - I feel they are real exploiters! To wipe out all that with one blow, as it were, and also to wipe out this accumulative psychological process through experience, through knowledge, through learning, so that there is a foundation from which to start to learn. This means really, can the mind - which observes this very simply and very clearly if it is at all sane and healthy, not neurotic and emotional - then ask itself: is it possible to face the fear that inevitably comes when you stand completely alone?

Because when you deny outer authority as well as inner authority knowing that you may go totally wrong, that there is no guide, no philosopher, no friend, no direction even as you are learning about yourself, then inevitably this fear arises.


Editor's note: There are different kinds of "inner authority." The inner authority of the "false self" is highly suspect, but the "inner authority" of the "true self" cannot possibly lead us astray (although we might misread it for a time).


This fear invariably comes through comparison; that is: somebody has got this enlightenment and I haven't got it. I would like to get it. Also there is the fear of making a mistake, of wasting time. And also there is the fear of having no support, being completely alone...


Editor's note: These blanket statements about fear are not altogether helpful. There is but one foundational fear, manifested variously. It is the primary fear, the ego's terror of annihilation - as it continually chants to us "I don't have enough" because "I am not enough."


... And so I see in myself the inclination to follow, because I'm afraid. And I see in myself the danger, the fear of being utterly alone. And I see in myself the fear of making a mistake, of not arriving, not achieving, not gaining that something which lies beyond all thought, all experience.

And when I have examined all this, what is there of 'me' to learn about? I've already learnt; I've learnt the total nature of myself. But there still remains this thing called fear. And if we may, we'll go into it. Because a mind that is caught in fear in any form, conscious or unconscious, must live in a darkened world, must see things in distortion; it can never understand something that is really free; and being afraid we naturally and inevitably develop a series of networks of escapes, whether those escapes be the football field, the church or the pub.

So is it possible to be free of fear? Because that's part of myself. I've examined the reactions of authority - following, imitation, acceptance, obedience - and I find behind all this there is this quality of fear. And is it possible to be wholly and totally free of this thing called fear?

Now to understand it and go into it, one must be aware of it and not accept it because somebody tells you you are afraid. There is surely a difference between a person who feels hungry and a person who is told that he is hungry. Most of us are told that we are hungry. So is it possible for us to be aware without escape, without justification, without condemning this fear? - fear of death, fear of husband or wife, fear of society, fear of losing a job, fear of a dozen things.

Can we be aware now, as we are talking about it? Take your own particular form of fear ... I am afraid about something, there is no fear as an abstraction; it is in relation to something. I am afraid of something - the past, what people say, death, lack of love...

What is important is how you observe. One has to learn not about fear (for the moment) but how to observe, how to watch. If I know how to watch, really learn about watching, observing, seeing, then perhaps there is no need to enquire into fear at all! We'll go into that.

... When there is already a conclusion, when there is already a judgment, when you've already an opinion about that which you're going to watch, it is all based on memory: memory from which thought arises. So when there is a watching with thought, there is no watching at all - right? So I have to learn to watch without a conclusion... When I am watching something with complete attention, there is no space for a conclusion, a formula, memory, an experience which will dictate it.

I watch a flower, and as I watch it the botanical knowledge of that flower comes in and interferes with watching - not that I should not have botanical knowledge about that flower, or about that tree - but that knowledge interferes with watching. When I give my complete attention to it, to the watching of that flower, there is no room for the botanical knowledge at all. It's only when I'm inattentive that the other thing slips in. You can try this and observe it in yourself very simply.

So it's not a question of not having a conclusion, of how to get rid of a conclusion; nor of not having a formula and getting rid of that formula and so on. But the question is, can I watch with that complete attention, not only the flower, which is fairly easy - the clouds, the light on the water, the line of a mountain - but what is much more difficult, can I watch myself, because there the demands are so rapid, the reactions are so quick.

Can I watch fear without any conclusion, without any interference of the knowledge which I have accumulated about that fear, which will interfere with watching that fear? If it does interfere, what you are watching is the past, not that fear.

And so, when you watch with attention you're watching it for the first time, without the interference of the past. Then you begin to learn. This is really important to understand; then you are in a position to learn. So learning is not accumulation, it is not a process of accumulation but a process in which all accumulation has come to an end - you are moving. Learning is not the process of having learnt and then applying what you have learnt; but rather, learning is a constant movement with the fact of what is.


Editor's note: "learning is not accumulation, it is not a process of accumulation." There is the ordinary academic learning which is very much "accumulation" but what K means here is that the kind of learning that will change us spiritually and evolve us is not "accumulation" but will require an instantaneous "total field perception" of the truth.


So can I watch that fear without any escape, without any verbalization - verbalization being thought and the image which thought has created as memory - and so look? If one understands all this, that very understanding is a discipline in itself, because watching demands tremendous discipline; not the discipline imposed because you want to understand - in which there is conflict, contradiction. But when you watch, and know that every form of conclusion, judgment, evaluation, memory, distorts that watching - to be aware of all this is a discipline, is a tremendous discipline; but that discipline is the outcome of freedom. And so, can I watch that fear?

Then the question arises: who is the watcher? Who is the entity that is observing that fear? Please go with me a little. It may be a bit complex, a little subtle, but please go on with it. I am watching that fear and I am asking myself who is the watcher, who is the observer? And why is he watching fear? What is important is to watch, not the observer who is watching. Right? I don't know if you are following.

What we are concerned with is watching fear. And when you say I am watching fear, you have gone away from watching altogether, because you have projected the 'I' into the observer. So one has to find out who is this observer, who says, 'I must watch fear'. The observer is the censor who doesn't want fear. The observer is the accumulated knowledge which says: 'fear is a dreadful thing, get rid of it'. The observer is the totality of all his experiences with regard to that fear. So the observer is separate from that thing which he calls fear. There is a space between the observer and the thing observed. Hence, he is trying to overcome it, find a substitute for it, escape from it, transform it, and hence the conflict between the fear, which is observed, and the observer. Hence this constant battle between the two is a waste of energy.

But now we begin to enquire into who is the observer - not with a conclusion that you have derived from learning and all the rest of it - but to find out actually who is the observer, to watch the observer. Before we watched fear, fear which had developed various forms of escape; we approached that fear with conclusions, with judgments, the idea of getting rid of it and so on. But now I'm watching, or rather there is watching - not 'I am watching - there is watching the observer. Isn't that so? Before I watched fear; now there is watching of the I who is the observer. Right?

Now, what is the observer? I am watching it. The observer is all this accumulated, conditioned entity - as the Christian, the Nationalist, the Communist, the Socialist; the Roman Catholic, the experience and the temporary memory - I am all that, with all the accumulated racial, inherited memory, all the temporal memory. I am all that. That is watching and therefore that cannot understand it at all. Because that is based on the past, but fear is an active thing and with the accumulation of the past the observer says, 'I am going to look'. Is this fairly clear, can we proceed? - not verbally, but actually step by step. Now there is only watching of the observer, not 'I am watching fear', but watching the observer. I don't know if you see the difference?

Then, as you watch you learn about the observer, and you learn that the observer is merely a series of ideas and memories without any validity, any substance, except as an idea, as a bundle of memories. But the fear is an actuality; so you are trying to understand the fact with an abstraction - and hence you don't. I don't know if you are following?

Therefore, when this watching of the observer takes place, then there is only watching, not 'the watcher and the watched'. I don't know if you see the difference between the two - when you watch fear, not the observer watching fear. When the watcher watches fear, there is a space between the observer and the observed, between the watcher and the watched. In that space, which is a time interval, there is an effort to get rid of fear; it will take time to get rid of it. 'I will have to do something about that fear', 'I must dominate it', 'I must condemn it,. When there is space between the watcher and the watched, then I say: 'I must escape from it', 'I must find a way, a somebody who will help me to get rid of that fear.

But when there is a watching of the observer, there is the perception that the observer is merely a bundle of accumulated conditioned memories; then the observer is the observed. And therefore watching is all-important, not 'the observer and the observed'. And when one watches so completely, totally, attentively, is there fear? - not theoretically but actually? One can observe the outward fears, that is, fear at the conscious level; at the upper levels of consciousness, we can observe various forms of fear.

At deeper levels, at the unconscious level, is it possible to observe fear at all? Because there are hidden fears of which I am not at all conscious. So a problem arises. How am I to watch something hidden, something which I cannot fathom through conscious effort? So I depend on dreams and the whole circus of interpretation - the analyst. And I never question why I dream at all! Is it necessary to dream? I know many analysts say that unless you dream you go mad, that you must dream. But we have never asked ourselves whether it is necessary to dream at all? I don't know if you're following, if it interests you? But it is part of learning about oneself...

...one has to watch, keep awake, watching. And you will find, if you do that - not at casual moments when you have nothing else to do - but seriously with full intention to pursue it, then you will find out for yourself that it is possible, psychologically, to be completely free of fear. You know what that means? There is no shadow, neither inwardly nor outwardly. You see things clearly as they are.

That is the clarity of the mind: to see things exactly as they are, both outwardly objectively, and inwardly. When one looks clearly there is no problem. As most of us are ridden by problems, to understand a problem is to understand this whole process, not a particular problem; because one problem is related to every other problem and when I begin to understand one problem completely, to the very end of it, I have understood all problems.


Editor’s note: There are two levels of “watchers”, by the “true” and “false” selves. When the ego or the false-self watches, it creates “space”, “distance”, between subject and object. In this psychological distance, the ego injects fears rooted in the past, or concerns of loss in the future. But if we learn to access a kind of watching led by the true-self, this higher order watching will result in “watching the watcher.” In other words, it’s quite possible, and not hard to do once we learn how, to mentally step back and watch ourselves watching. This supra-watcher is the soul, the true self, and when it watches it does so without the ego’s poisonous influence. Why should we want to "watch the watcher"? You'll have to experience it to really get it, but - in this seemingly innocuous activity, all of the soul's inner riches will unfold, beginning with tiny "sparks" of insight, over the coming eons. Make note of these sparks, follow the breadcrumbs - this is how God teaches individually. It's a private tutoring, for endless ages to come. Ancient Spirit Guides inform us that there is no end to what we might learn and become in this process of transformation.



Editor's last word: