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Word Gems 

exploring self-realization, sacred personhood, and full humanity


Jiddu Krishnamurti
1895 - 1986

Why is the morality of the world based on acquiring pleasure? Can we see ourselves without the distorting filter of an image, without any wish to change? We create faux images of reality, of the self, of others, and in this division the entire conflict of man exists.




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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 1968

I THINK WE ought to ask fundamental questions of ourselves and not await the answers from others. These fundamental questions must be answered by each one of us and we must not depend on theoreticians, however clever, erudite, scholarly or experienced. For the world is in terrible confusion, mounting sorrow and we are responsible for this; each human being throughout the world is responsible for this frightening confusion.

Apparently we depend for explanations on others and we are satisfied with these explanations; but all explanations are naturally verbal and therefore of no great importance. Any description, any explanation of the actual state of the world is useless, it has no meaning; but most of us are satisfied by words, intellectual explanations which have been woven beautifully, or very subtly. It seems to me that we must be beyond all these explanations, whether they are offered by the churches, by the Communists, or by any group of people who are asserting themselves.

What is very important is to ask ourselves these fundamental questions, and to be utterly responsible in finding not only the answer, but, in the very answering of these questions, to act. Because with us action is not part of the question and its answer. Surely in the fact of asking these fundamental questions and in discovering the answers for ourselves, that very discovery must be expressed in action. The questioning, the answering and the action are simultaneous and not separate. Because when they are separate then everything is broken up into departments, categories; and out of that division arise prejudices, conflicts, opinions and judgments. Whereas, it seems to me, if we could really ask, in the very asking we would discover the understanding of question and action; they are not separate.

And during these talks, I hope we shall be able not only to ask ourselves these questions but also to understand them, not intellectually or verbally, but with our hearts and with our minds. In this process of understanding, action takes place.

One of the fundamental questions consists in man's relationship to reality. That reality has been expressed in different ways: in the East in one way and in the West in another. If we do not discover for ourselves what that relationship is, independently of the theoreticians and the theologians and the priests, we are incapable of discovering what relationship with reality is.

That reality may be named as God - and the name is really of very little importance - because the name the word, the symbol, is never the actual, and to be caught in symbols and words seems utterly foolish - and yet we are so caught, Christians in one way, Hindus, Muslims and others in other ways - and words and symbols have become extraordinarily significant. But the symbol, the word, is never the actual, the real thing.

So in asking the question, as to what is the true relationship of man to reality, one must be free of the word with all its associations, with all its prejudices and conditions. If we do not find that relationship, then life has really very little meaning; then our confusion, our misery is bound to grow, and life will become more and more intolerable, superficial, meaningless. One must be extraordinarily serious to find out if there is such a reality, or if there is not, and what is man's relationship to it.

Now we want to find out first if there is something immeasurable (beyond all reach of thought, above all measurement) a thing that cannot possibly be touched by words, that has no symbol. Is it possible, first of all - not mystically, not romantically or emotionally, but actually - to discover, or to come upon this extraordinary state? The ancients and some who throughout the world have perhaps come upon it unknowingly, have said 'there is something'. Serious-minded men for millions of years have attempted to find that. Those who are casual, flippant, have their own reward, their own way of life, but there is always a small minority who are really earnest, who come upon this endless, measureless thing.

To understand it, one must obviously be free of all dogma, of all belief, of all the traditional impediments which condition the mind, which are merely inventions of thought. We are human beings, suffering, lonely, confused, in great sorrow, whether we call ourselves Communists or Socialists or anything else - we are human beings. But apparently the important thing for us is the label, French, German or any other. It is important to be free from all this because you need freedom, not merely verbally but actually. It is only in freedom that you can discover what is the real, not through beliefs and dogmas.

So, if one is really earnest in the sense that one is willing to go to the very end, then there must be this freedom - freedom from all nationalities, freedom from all dogma, ritual, beliefs. And apparently this is one of the most difficult things to do. You find in India people who have thought a great deal about these matters and yet they remain soaked in Hindu tradition. In the West they are immersed in the Catholic, Protestant, or Communist dogmas and so they cannot possibly break through. And if one is to have a different kind of life, a life at a different dimension, one must not only be free consciously from all this, but also deep down in the very roots of one's being. Then only is one capable of really looking, seeing. Because to find reality the mind must be sane, healthy, highly intelligent, which means highly sensitive.

What is important is to have a mind that has never been tortured, never been forced into a certain pattern. As one observes throughout the world, religions have maintained that to find reality you must torture yourself, you must deny everything, every sensuous pleasure, you must discipline yourself until your whole mind is shaped according to a pattern which has been established; so that the mind, at the end, has lost the pliability, the quickness, the sensitivity, the beauty of movement.

What is necessary is a mind that is untortured, a mind that is very clear. And such a mind is not possible if it has any kind of prejudice. You know one of the most difficult things is to observe, to look: to look at anything without the image of that thing, to look at a cloud without the previous associations with regard to that cloud, to see a flower without the image, the memories, the associations, concerning that flower.

Because these associations, these images and memories, create distance between the observer and the observed. And in that distance, the division between the seer and the thing seen, in that division the whole conflict of man exists.

It is necessary to see without the image, so that the space between the observer and the thing observed is simply not there. When that space exists then there is conflict, which we shall go into, if we have time, this evening. So the art of seeing is very important. As we said, if we see ourselves with the images which we have built about ourselves, then there is conflict between the image and the fact. And all our life is this conflict between what is and what should be.

Now, please, do not merely listen to these words, phrases and expressions, but observe as we go along, not analytically, but actually observe the process of your own mind; see how it is working, how it is looking at itself. Then you will be actually listening, not trying to translate what you hear according to your prejudices and conditioning. Because the world is in such a frightful state, there is such catastrophe and misery that we must live a different kind of life, there must be fundamental revolution in our way of living. Man has apparently chosen war, conflict, as the way of life and there is a revolt among the young against all this. But unfortunately such a revolt has very little meaning unless one has found for oneself the basic answers to the fundamental questions of life.

One of the primary questions is: what is this thing called reality? Can you and I, living our daily lives (not retiring into a monastery, or becoming disciples of some guru, or running off to some strange academy in India) can we find this reality for ourselves? And we must - not through prayers, nor imitation, nor following somebody, but through becoming aware of our own conditioning, seeing it actually not theoretically, seeing as you would see a flower, a cloud and seeing without separation. I do not know if you have ever tried to look at anything, to look, for example, at your own wife or husband; to look without the image that you or he has built through a relationship of many years, of many irritations, pleasures, angers, to look at each other without the image. I do not know if you have ever tried this; but, if you have, you will have found how extraordinarily difficult it is to be free of images. It is these images which are expected to enter into relationship, not human beings. You have an image about me, and I have an image about you, and the relationship is between these two images with their symbols, associations and memories.

There will be division as long as there is the image which engenders the whole structure of conflict. So one must learn the art of looking, not only at the clouds and the flowers, at the movement of a tree in the wind, but actually looking at ourselves as we are, not saying, 'It is ugly', 'It is beautiful, or 'Is that all?' - all the verbal assertions that one has with regard to oneself. When we can look at ourselves clearly, without the image, then perhaps we shall be able to discover what is true for ourselves. And that truth is not in the realm of thought but of direct perception, in which there is no separation between the observer and the observed. One of the fundamental questions is man's relationship to the ultimate, to the nameless, to what is beyond all words.

Then there is the fundamental question of man's relationship to man. This relationship is society, the society which we have created through our envy, greed, hatred, brutality, competition and violence.


Editor's note: This is very interesting, the levels of relationship:

(1) man's relationship to "the ultimate"

(2) man's relationship to "the self"

(3) man's relationship to others

In all these, in each case, we tend to erect symbols, images, with which we interact and, in so doing, never approach the reality of the thing in itself. This "distance" between observer and observed, K says, is the root of world conflict.


Our chosen relationship to society, based on a life of battle, of wars, of conflict, of violence, of aggression, has gone on for thousands of years and has become our daily life, in the office, at home, in the factory, in churches. We have invented a morality out of this conflict, but it is no morality at all, it is a morality of respectability, which has no meaning whatsoever. You go to church and love your neighbour there and in the office you destroy him. When there are nationalistic differences based on ideas, opinions, prejudices, a society in which there is terrible injustice, inequality - we all know this, we are terribly aware of all this - aware of the war that is going on, of the action of the politicians and the economists trying to bring order out of disorder - we are aware of this. And we say, 'What can we do?' We are aware that we have chosen a way of life that leads ultimately to the field of murder. We have probably asked this, if we are at all serious, a thousand times but we say 'I, as a human being, can't do anything. What can I do faced with this colossal machine?'

When one puts a question to oneself such as 'What can I do?' - I think one is putting the wrong question. To that there is no answer. If you do answer it then you will form an organization, belong to something, commit yourself to a particular course of political, economic, social action; and you are back again in the same old circle in your particular organization with its presidents, secretaries, money, its own little group, against all other groups. We are caught in this.

'What can I do?' is a totally wrong question - you can't do a thing when you put the question that way. But you can, when you actually see (as you see the microphone and the speaker sitting here) actually see that each one of us is responsible for the war that is going on in the Far East, and that it is not the Americans, nor the Vietnamese, nor the Communists, but you and I who are responsible, actually, desperately responsible for what is going on in the world, not only there but everywhere. We are responsible for the politicians, whom we have brought into being, responsible for the army which is trained to kill, responsible for all our actions, conscious or unconscious.

But you say, 'We don't want to be responsible', we are frightened to say 'I am responsible for this whole monumental mess'. But if you actually, with your heart, feel this thing, then you will act, then you will find that you are totally outside society. You may have a few clothes, go about in a car and all the rest of it, but in order to be truly moral you will have to be psychologically, inwardly, completely out of society, which is to deny all morality. If you accept the present structure of morality then you are actually immoral. There is corruption, society is going down-hill. You know about the riots in America - and about what is happening in the Near East and worse in the Far East and in India where there is immense starvation. Each country feels that it has to solve the problems for itself while politicians throughout the world are playing a game with starvation, with murder, because we have divided the world into nationalities, into sovereign governments, with different flags. And to bring about order, the concern of every human being must be the unity of man. That means a government which is not divided into French, German and all the other nationalities.

Don't you often wonder why politicians exist at all? A government can be run by computers, impersonal, non-ambitious, not people who are seeking their own personal glory in the name of their nation; then we might have a sane government! But you see, unfortunately, human beings are not sane, they want to live in this immense mess. And you and I are responsible for it. Don't, please, merely agree, or shake your head in assent; you have to do something about it. The doing is the seeing, the listening. You know when you see a danger you act, there is no hesitation, there is no argument, there is no personal opinion, there is immediate action. But you don't see the immense danger of what is going on in the world around you, in the educational system, the business world, the religious world - you don't see the danger of all that. But to see the danger of it is to act. When you see something actually then there is no conflict, there is immediate movement away from the thing, without resistance, without conflict.

To look at social injustice, social misery, social morality and culture in the midst of which organized religions exist, and to deny their validity psychologically, is to become extraordinarily moral. Because after all morality is order; virtue is complete order. And that can only come into being when you deny disorder, the disorder in which we live, the disorder of conflict, of fear in which each individual is seeking personal security.

I do not know if you have ever considered the question of security. You know we find security in commitment; in being committed to something there is a great feeling of security, in being a Communist, in being a Frenchman, or an Englishman, or anything else. That commitment gives us security. If you have committed yourself to a course of action, that commitment gives a great deal of surety, assurance, certainty. But that commitment always breeds disorder, and this is what is actually taking place. I am a Communist and you are not - whatever you are. We are committed to ideas, to theories, to slogans and so we divide, as you are this and I am that. Whereas if we are involved, not committed, involved in the whole movement of life then there is no division; then we are human beings in sorrow, not a Frenchman in sorrow, not a Catholic in sorrow, but human beings who are guilty, anxious, in agony, lonely, bored with the routine of life. If you are involved in it, then we'll find a way out of it together. But we like to be committed, we like to be separately secure, not only nationalistically, communally, but also individually. And in this commitment there is isolation. When the mind is isolated it is not sane.

We may all know this verbally, because most people have read a great deal about all this, but unfortunately what they have read does not constitute a discovery of themselves, it is not their own discovery, their own understanding. For that, one must investigate, look at oneself without any criteria, look at oneself with choiceless awareness so as to see exactly what one is, not what one should be. And when you see exactly what you are then there is no conflict.


Editor's note: Above we listed three aspects of division, and here is one more: If we learn something via the testimony of an external source the resulting knowledge will not truly be our own; we will not be one with it, and, therefore, it cannot reach us at the depths, it cannot satisfy us. This is not to say that we should not seek for knowledge in books, etc., but when we do we must also acknowledge that our custody of it is tenuous at best, mere hearsay evidence.


Also there is the question of love and death. Again the thing which we call love has really lost its meaning. When one says, 'I love you' there is an abundance of pleasure in this. So one has to find out for oneself if love is pleasure; this doesn't mean one must deny pleasure to find love; but when love is hedged about with greed, with jealousy, hate, envy, as it is with most of us - is this love? When love is divided as the divine and ordinary, sensuous love - is it love? Or is not love something that is not touched by pleasure?

One has to go into this question of what pleasure is. Why is everything based on pleasure? The search for what you call 'God' is based on pleasure. One derives pleasure from having possessions, prestige, position, power, domination. But without love, do what you will, be as clever as you like, you will solve nothing. Whatever you do you will create more misery for yourself and for another.

Then we come again to this extraordinary question of the nature of death. That must be answered, neither with fear, nor by escaping from that absolute fact, nor by belief, nor hope. There is an answer, the right answer, but to find the right answer one has to put the right question. But you cannot possibly put the right question if you are merely seeking a way out of it, if the question is born of fear, of despair and of loneliness. Then if you do put the right question with regard to reality, with regard to man's relationship to man, and what that thing called love is, and also this immense question of death, then out of the right question will come the right answer.

From that answer comes right action. Right action is in the answer itself. And we are responsible. Don't fool yourself by saying 'What can I do? What can I, an individual, living a shoddy little life, with all its confusion and ignorance, what can I do?' Ignorance exists only when you don't know yourself. Self-knowing is wisdom. You may be ignorant of all the books in the world (and I hope you are), of all the latest theories, but that is not ignorance. Not knowing oneself deeply, profoundly, is ignorance; and you cannot know yourself if you cannot look at yourself, see yourself actually as you are, without any distortion, without any wish to change. Then what you see is transformed because the distance between the observer and the observed is removed and hence there is no conflict.



Editor's last word: