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Word Gems 

exploring self-realization, sacred personhood, and full humanity


Jiddu Krishnamurti
1895 - 1986

Can we define death, love, and life, but not materialistically? e.g., death is more than the physical organism's demise but a coming to an end of the ego's separateness and division.




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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 3, Berkeley, California - 05 February 1969


What is important in all these talks is not the idea, or the negation of the idea, but rather to be involved in the complexities of life, in the sorrow, with hopelessness and the lack of passion. The root of the word passion means "sorrow". We are using that word not with the implication of sorrow, or of the energy that comes through anger, through hate, through resistance, but rather in the sense of passion that comes naturally without effort when there is love. This evening we would like to talk about death, life and love.

One uses the words "love", "death", and "living" so loosely - every politician talks about love and every priest has that word on his lips. Love and death, both are of immense importance, and I say that without understanding what death is, there is no understanding of love. To understand what death is, one has to understand most profoundly, with great earnestness, what living is; one must examine freely, actually without any hope.

a mind burdened with hope

It doesn't mean we must be in a state of despair to examine. A mind that is in despair becomes cynical; nor can a mind that is burdened with hope examine properly, it is already biased. So to examine what we call living, the daily act of living, needs clarity, not of thought, but clarity of perception: the clarity of seeing actually "what is."

The seeing of "what is", that very act is passion! For most of us passion is always derived from hatred, from sorrow, anger, tension; or there is passion that is brought about through pleasure which becomes lust. Such passion is incapable of the energy that is required to understand this whole process of living. Understanding really is passion; without passion you can't do anything. Intellectual passion is not passion at all. But to examine the whole of living needs not only extraordinary clarity of perception, but also the intensity of passion.

So what is it that we call living? Not what we would like it to be - that's just an idea, it has no reality, it's merely the opposite of "what is". The opposite of "what is" creates division and in that division there is conflict. In looking at what living is, we should utterly banish the idea of what "should be", for that is escaping into ideological seeing, which is totally unreal.

As we said, without understanding what living is, we shall never understand what dying is, and without understanding what death is, love merely becomes pleasure and therefore pain. What is it that we call living? As one observes in daily life, in every relationship with people, with ideas, with property, with things, there is great conflict. To us, all relationship has become a battlefield, a struggle. From the moment we are born till we die, living is a process of accumulating problems, never resolving them, of being burdened with all kinds of issues. Basically it is a field in which man is against man. So living is conflict. Nobody can deny that, we are all in conflict, whether we like it or not. We want to get away from this everlasting conflict, so we invent all kinds of escapes - from football to the image of God. Each of us knows not only the burden of that conflict, but also the sorrow, the loneliness, the despair, the anxiety, the ambition and the frustration, the utter boredom, the routine. There are occasional flashes of joy to which the mind immediately clings as something extraordinary and wants repeated; then that joy becomes a memory, ashes. That is what we call living. If we look at our own life - not verbally or intellectually, but actually as it is - we see how empty it is. Think of spending forty, fifty years going to the office every day, to accumulate money to sustain a family and all the rest of it. That's what we call living - with disease, old age and death. And we try to escape from this misery through religion, through drink, through erudition, through sex, through every form of entertainment, religious or otherwise. That is our life despite our theories, ideals and philosophy; we live in conflict and sorrow.

Our life has brought about a culture, a society, which has become the trap in which we are caught. The trap is built by us; for that trap each one of us is responsible. Though we may revolt against the established order, that order is what we have made, what we have built. And merely to revolt against it has very little meaning, because you will create another established order, another bureaucracy. All this, with the national, racial, religious differences, the wars and the shedding of blood and tears, is what we call living, and we don't know what to do. We are confronted with this. Not knowing what to do, we try to escape, or we try to find somebody who will tell us what to do, some authority, guru, teacher, someone who will say, "Look, this is the way".

The teachers, the gurus, the mahatmas, the philosophers, have all led us astray, because actually we have not solved our problems, our lives are not different. We are the same miserable, unhappy, sorrow-laden people. So the first thing is never to follow another, including the speaker. Never try to find out from another how to behave, how to live. Because what another tells you is not your life. If you rely or depend on another you will be misled. But if you deny the authority of the guru ... look at yourself, then you can find the answer. But as long as one relies and depends on another, however wise he may be, one is lost. The man who says he knows, does not know. So the first thing is never to follow another and that is very difficult because we don't know what to do; we have been so conditioned to believe, to follow.

In examining this thing called "living", can we actually - not theoretically - put aside every form of psychological following, every urge to find somebody who will tell us what to do? How can a confused mind find somebody who will tell the truth? The confused mind will choose somebody according to its own confusion. So don't rely or depend on another. If we do, we carry a heavy burden, the burden of dependence on books, on all the theories of the world; that is a tremendous burden and if you can put it aside then you are free to observe, then you have no opinion, no ideology, no conclusion, but can actually see "what is". Then you can look, then you can say: "What is this conflict that one lives with?"

As one observes - and I hope you are also observing, not depending on the words of the speaker - you will see this conflict exists as long as there is contradiction in oneself, the contradiction of opposing desires; as long as there is the opposite, the "what is" and the "what should be". The "what should be" is the opposite of "what is" and "what should be" is shaped by "what is". So the opposite is also "what is"...

We are trained and conditioned to compare, to measure ourselves against the hero, the saint, the big man. To observe "what is", the mind must be free of all comparison, of the ideal, of the opposite. Then you will see that what actually "is", is far more important than what "should be". Then you have the energy, the vitality, to put aside the contradiction which is brought about by the opposite. To be free of the process of comparison requires discipline and that discipline comes in the very act of understanding the futility of the opposite. To observe this closely, to see the whole structure and nature of this conflict, this very act of looking demands discipline; it is discipline. Discipline means learning and we are learning - not suppressing, not trying to become something, not trying to imitate, to conform. This discipline is extraordinarily pliable, sensitive.

Each one of us is examining this conflict. We said it arises through the opposite. The opposite is part of "what is". The opposite is also "what is". And as the mind cannot understand or resolve "what is", it escapes into "what should be". When you have put aside all that, then the mind is observing closely "what is", which is violence (we are taking that as an example). So what is this thing we call violence? When there is no opposite to violence, when you are actually faced with that fact of anger, the feeling of hatred - then is there violence, is there anger? Go into it, if I may suggest, you will see it in yourself. I can't go into it in too much detail because we have got to understand what death is, what love is; so we must proceed rather rapidly.

What we call living is conflict and we see what that conflict is. When we understand that conflict, "what is" is the truth and it is the observation of the truth that frees the mind from "what is". There is also much sorrow in our life and we do not know how to end it. The ending of sorrow is the beginning of wisdom.

Without knowing what sorrow is and understanding its nature and structure, we shall not know what love is, because for us love is sorrow, pain, pleasure, jealousy. When a husband says to his wife that he loves her and at the same time is ambitious, has that love any meaning? Can an ambitious man love? Can a competitive man love?


Editor's note: Compare this to John's soliloquy on his wedding day. He loves Mary, so he says, and yet he is consumed by his ambitions to make his mark on the world.


And yet we talk about love, about tenderness, about ending war, when we are competitive, ambitious, seeking our own personal position, advancement and so on. All this brings sorrow. Can sorrow end? It can only come to an end when you understand yourself, which is actually "what is". Then you understand why you have sorrow, whether that sorrow is self-pity, or the fear of being alone, or the emptiness of your own life, or the sorrow that comes about when you depend on another. And all this is part of our living.


Editor's note: "understand yourself" to discover "what is." Right now, this moment, center yourself and feel the disquietude within. Can you sense it? Do you feel the latent fear, the unease, the unsettledness shifting about? This is "what is." This is where we start our journey home.


When we understand all this we come to a much greater problem, which is death. Please bear in mind that we are not talking about reincarnation, about what happens after death. We are not talking about that, or giving hope to those people who are afraid of death.

Yesterday we went into the question of fear. When the mind is free of fear, then what is death? There is old age with all its troubles: disease, loss of memory, a thousand ailments, the fear of ageing... People are frightened and when there is fear there is no understanding; when there is self-pity there is no end to sorrow.

So what is it to die? The organism comes to an end, obviously. Man lives for ninety years, and if the scientists discover some medicine he might live one hundred and fifty - and God knows why he wants to live to one hundred and fifty, the way we live! But even then, even if you live for one hundred years, the organism wears out, because we live so utterly wrongly: in conflict, fear, tension, killing animals and human beings. What a mess we make of our lives! So old age becomes a terrible thing. Yet there is always death - [even] for the young, for the middle-aged or for the old. What do we mean by dying, apart from physical death, which is inevitable?

There is a deeper meaning to death than merely the physical organism coming to an end; that is, psychologically coming to an end - the "me", the "you", coming abruptly to an end. The "me", the "you", that has accumulated knowledge, suffered, lived with memories pleasurable and aching, with all the travail of the known, with the psychological conflicts, the things that one has not understood, the things that one wanted to do and has not done. The psychological struggle, the memories, the pleasure, the pains - all that comes to an end.

That is actually what one is afraid of, not what lies beyond death. One is never afraid of the unknown; one is afraid of the known coming to an end. The known being your house, your family, your wife, your children, your ideas, your furniture, your books, the things with which you have identified yourself. When that is gone you feel completely isolated, lonely, that is what you are afraid of. That is a form of death and that is the only death.

Seeing that - not theoretically, but actually - seeing that one is afraid of losing everything that one has owned or created or worked for, one asks: "Is it not possible to die psychologically, every day, to everything that one has known?" Can one die every day, so that the mind is fresh, young and innocent each day? Actually do it and you will find out what extraordinary things happen. The mind then becomes innocent. An old mind, however experienced, is never innocent. Only a mind that has shed all its burdens every day, that has ended every problem every day, is an innocent mind. Then life has a different meaning altogether. Then one can find out what love is. Obviously love is not pleasure; as we said yesterday, pleasure brings pain because pleasure, like fear, is the process of thought.


Editor's note: Can we sense the fear lurking behind pleasure? Think of something considered to be pleasurable. But now go behind this facade. Do we perceive the fear in the shadows? - a fear which laments "I need this pleasure or I will never find happiness, I will never be 'enough' without it."


If love is the process of thought, then is it love? Most of us are jealous, envious, and yet we talk about love. Can an envious mind love? When one says one loves, is it love? Or is the mind protecting its own pleasure and therefore cultivating fear? Can love be cultivated when there is fear and pleasure, which is thought?


Editor's note: A jealous mind, an envious mind, is a fearful mind. It's apprehensive, threatened, about losing something. It doesn't want its source of pleasure to be taken away. If that happened, how would it ever feel itself to be "enough"?


We know what others have done and do, we repeat what others have said - the Buddha, Christ, and all the others - we theorize. That is not intellectual freedom, which is freedom from thought. We are bound by thought, and thought is always old, it is never new [as it projects the past]; so intellectually there is no freedom in the deep sense of that word, because thought can never bring about that freedom. Intellectually we are bound and emotionally we are shoddy, ugly, sentimental, false, hypocritical.

Everywhere else you are not free, because we are slaves to propaganda whether it is Christian, Catholic, or Communist. Lacking freedom everywhere, there is only this freedom [of sex, which people say is free,]and that too is not freedom because you are caught by pleasure and the responsibility of pleasure, which is the family. But if you really loved the family, the children, if you really loved with your heart, do you think you would have a single day of war?

Your security is in pleasure and therefore in that security there is pain, sorrow and confusion; and so in everything, including sex, there is pain, torture, doubt, jealousy, dependence... So seeing all this - actually, not verbally, not carried away by description, because the description is never the thing that is described - seeing it with your eyes, with your heart, with your mind, with complete attention, you will know what love is. And also you will know what death is, and what living is.



Editor's last word:

Death: in “the 500 tape-recorded messages from the other side” research I saw that the “insane ones” over there were led by the fear of death, just as in this world, but not a death of the mortal body for it no longer existed. There, the essential fear exhibited its truest colors, the ego’s fear of annihilation. And this is why, as K points out, letting go of all ego supports, the things it identifies with, becomes the death of the ego.

Life: we think of one’s life as one’s life situation, all of the events and stage props of mortal existence. But none of this is life in any meaningful sense. Life is what we sense, an underlying one-life of all things, when the “observer and observed” merge, when there is no gap in the observance.

Love: it is not pleasure, as such. Pleasure is part of the dualism of this world, the polar opposites. Pleasure is but the flip-side of pain, which comes with loss, or threat of loss, of any of our possessions, anything we cling to of which we demand “make me happy.” Love, real love, has no opposite, is part of the “singular pervasive reality of God,” the existential oneness of all creation, as we discussed in “The Wedding Song.”