home | what's new | other sitescontact | about



Word Gems 

exploring self-realization, sacred personhood, and full humanity


Jiddu Krishnamurti
1895 - 1986

Is real change possible? Can the mind transform itself, not in time but out of time? a revolution inwardly, immediately? Can thought be quiet at all? for only then is there actual transformation.




return to contents page 


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, Stanford University - 11 February 1969


It is becoming more and more difficult to live peacefully in this world without withdrawing into a monastery or some self-enclosing ideology. The world is in such disorder, and there have been so many theories and speculative suggestions on how to live and what to do. Philosophers have been at it for so long, spinning out their ideas of what man is and what he should do... one asks oneself whether it is at all possible for human beings to change.

... one hears it said that we should first change the world - that is, change the social structure with its economy - and that it must be a global change, a global revolution, not a change affecting only a part of the world. Then, it is said, there will be no need for the individual human being to set about changing at all: he will change naturally.


Editor's note: The totalitarians love this kind of talk, as it hides their cravings for world domination in sweet platitudes.


Circumstances will then bring about right occupation, leisure, right relationship, consideration, love, understanding and so on. So there are those who, reasoning thus, advocate changing the environment - and it must be global - so that man, who is the creature of his environment, will also change, naturally.


Editor's note: Environment will never fundamentally change what man is. Nothing at the surface of life can affect the soul.


We have this division, then, between the inner and the outer, the outer being the environment, the society. Bring about a deep revolution in the latter, they say, and this will result in changing the individual: the you and the me. This division has been maintained for thousands of years, the separation between what is called spirit, and that which is of the world, matter - the religious and the so-called worldly. And this division, in itself, is most destructive, because it breeds separateness and a series of conflicts: how the inner can adjust itself to the outer and the outer shape the inner. This has always been the problem. The whole Communist world [along with all totalitarians, even the religious ones] denies the inner; they say, "do not bother about it, it will look after itself when everything is perfectly and bureaucratically organised".

One observes also that man, with all his anxieties, violence, despair, fear, acquisitiveness, his incessant competitiveness, has produced a certain structure which we call society, with its morality and its violence. So, as a human being, one is responsible for whatever is happening in the world: the wars, the confusion, the conflict that is going on both within and without. Each one of us is responsible, but I doubt whether most of us feel that at all. Intellectually, verbally, perhaps, we may accept it; but do we feel actually responsible for the war that is going on in Vietnam or in the Middle East, for the starvation in the East, and all the misery, division and conflict? I doubt it. If we did, our whole educational system would be different. As we do not feel it, we obviously do not love our children. If we did, there would be no war at all tomorrow; we would see to it that a different culture, a different education, was brought about.


Editor's note: "Each one is responsible" because each shares in the common humanity, the dysfunctional ego, which is the cause of all evil.


So our question is whether a human being can be made to feel - not forcibly nor through sanctions and fear - that he must change completely. If he does not change, he will create a world (or, rather, perpetuate a world) in which there is misery, suffering, death and despair; and no amount of theory, theological speculation or bureaucratic sanctions are going to solve this problem. So what is one to do? Faced with all this confusion, strife, this antagonism, violence and brutality, what is a human being to do? How is he to act? I wonder if one asks this question seriously of oneself - not sentimentally, romantically, nor merely in an enthusiastic moment, but as a question constantly present in all its seriousness. And I wonder how we will answer?

We might declare that it is not possible to change so deeply, immediately and fundamentally, as to create a new society. But the moment you say it is not possible, then it is settled: you have blocked yourself. If one says it is possible, then one is confronted with the question of how to bring about the psychological revolution in oneself. So, what is one to do? Escape by subscribing to some sectarian belief or by running away into a monastery where you practice Zen Buddhism? By joining a new cult or sect which promises everything you want?

Seeing the extraordinary division of the world into nationalities and religions, the Hindus, the Buddhists, the Christians, the Catholics and the divisions of races with all their prejudices; seeing that our minds are so heavily conditioned by the propaganda of the church, of the sacred books, of the philosophers and the theoreticians - facing all that - one asks oneself, "What am I, a single human being in relationship with the world, to do - what can I do?"

When one puts that question to oneself, one must also ask, "What is action?" We ask "What am I to do and in relationship to what?" Must we deal with only a segment, a fragment of this total existence? Commit ourselves to only one part of this whole total existence, this whole life, and act according to that fragment as a specialist? Seeing this whole life - the life of human sorrow, the human confusion, the utter lack of relationship, the self-isolating process of thought, the violence, the brutality of our life with all the fears, anxieties, tears, death and utter lack of compassion - seeing all this shall I and shall you deal with the whole of that, or with only a part of it? To deal with the whole of that, to be totally involved, we must be aware of ourselves as we are - not as we should like to be; aware of our minds, aware that we are violent, brutal, acquisitive human beings, and ask whether that can be transformed immediately.

The ideological state, which is non-violence, freedom, love, doesn't exist: that's just an idea. What exists is what is. Can "what is" be transformed? - but not by becoming "what should be". We are conditioned to pursue the "what should be", the ideal, and it seems to me such a waste of time to pursue the ideal, the perfect, the extraordinary state that one imagines. When you pursue the ideal, the "what should be", it is a waste of energy, an escape from "what is". So, can the mind, which has been so heavily conditioned to accept the ideal, discard it completely and face "what is"? Because when we discard that which is false, we have the energy of the truth of "what is". That is, man's nature, inherited from the animal, is aggressive, violent, angry, full of hate and jealousy, whereas the ideal is to be non-violent. This ideal, in turn, is put away at a great distance. And, if we are at all serious, we spend our time and energy in trying to become non-violent. One can observe in oneself how heavily conditioned one is. There is this conflict between "what is" and "what should be", as there is always conflict when there is any form of division or separateness. There is conflict in our relationships because each one is isolating himself in his activities.

So, how is a mind that has been so heavily conditioned and which is now faced with "what is" - which is violence, hatred, anger and all the rest of it - how is that mind to be transformed? That, really, is the basic question affecting every one of us, psychologically. And how is this sense of separateness to end so that we can have real relationship? For it is only when there is no division that there will be no conflict.

We see that in endeavouring to transform that which is, man has invented an outside agency. Knowing that he is violent, brutal, angry and jealous, and that it will take too long to become perfect, he does not know what to do. So he invents an outside agency full of authority: God, an ideal, a guru, a teacher and so on - someone who will tell him what to do so that he can live in great peace, without conflict. But, when one discards all authority - and one must, because authority implies fear - when one discards the guru, the teacher, the outside agency, one is left alone with oneself.


Editor's note: Authority implies fear because we allow various forms of Dear Leaders into our lives for safety and security reasons.


And that is a most fearsome thing: to be alone with oneself, without becoming neurotic or having all kinds of emotional upsets. When one has discarded all authority - thus becoming a teacher and disciple to oneself and not to another - then where is one? When you have no ideals and have nobody to guide you - because all the people who have tried to guide have led man astray, leaving him still unhappy, still confused, anxious and frightened - when you have come that far, where are you? When one discards the guru, the teacher, the authority, the ideal - when you actually do not depend on somebody psychologically - then what is one to do? Is there anything one can do? ...

There is this question of fear, which is surely one of the most complex and confusing issues in our life. However much one may explain the causes of fear, describe the structure of fear, we must know that the word is never the thing, the description never the thing described. And not to be caught by the word or by the description, but to actually come into contact with that which we call fear, or with that which we call violence, means really to have direct relationship with what is. So one has to go into this question of the relationship between the observer and the thing observed. Take fear: is the observer different from the thing he observes? When the observer is the observed, then relationship is direct and possesses an extraordinary vital quality which demands action. But when there is a division between the observer and the thing observed, then there is conflict. All our relationships with other human beings - whether intimate or not - are based on division and separateness. The husband has an image of the wife and the wife an image of the husband. These images have been put together over many years through pleasure and pain, through irritation and all the rest of it - you know, the relationship between a husband and wife. So the relationship between the husband and the wife is actually the relationship between the two images. Even sexually - except in the act - the image plays an important part.

So when one observes oneself, one sees that one is constantly building images in relationship and therefore creating division. Hence there is actually no relationship at all. Although one may say one loves the family or the wife, it is the image, and therefore there is no actual relationship. Relationship means not only physical contact but also a state in which there is no division psychologically. Now when one understands that - not verbally but actually - then what is the relationship between the observer who says, "I'm afraid", and the thing called fear itself? Are they two different things? This brings us to the question as to whether fear can be wiped away through analysis. Does all this interest you?

Audience: Yes.

Krishnamurti: Because if it doesn't, I'll get up and go and you can go. To me this is dreadfully serious. I'm not a philosopher, not a lecturer, nor am I representing some ancient philosophy from India - God forbid! (Laughter)

... one is faced with the problem of whether the mind can actually be free of fear forever, and whether fear can be got rid of through analysis - through analysing oneself day after day, or going to the professional to be analysed, perhaps for the next ten years, paying out large sums if you have the money. Or is there a different way, a different approach to this problem, so that fear can end without analysis? Because in analysis there is always the observer and the thing observed; that is, the analyser and the thing analysed. And the analyser must be extraordinarily awake, unconditioned, without bias or distortion in order to analyse; if he is at all twisted in any way, then whatever he analyses will also be biased, twisted. So that is one problem in analysis. The other is that it will take a great deal of time, gradually and slowly, bit by bit, to remove all the causes of fear - by then one would be dead (Laughter).

In the meantime one lives in darkness, miserable, neurotic, creating mischief in the world. And, even after you have discovered the cause (or causes) of fear, will it have any value? Can fear disappear when I know what I am afraid of? Is the intellectual search for the cause able to dissipate fear? All these problems are involved in analysis because, as we admit, there is this division between the analyser and the thing analysed. Therefore analysis is not the way - obviously not - because one has seen the way and why not, one has seen the falseness of it, that it takes time and one has no time. Psychologically speaking there is no tomorrow: we have invented it. And so, when you see the falseness of analysis, when you see the truth that the observer is actually the observed, then analysis comes to an end.

You are faced with this fact that you are fear - not an observer who is afraid of fear. You are the observer and the observed; the analyser and the thing analysed. You know, when you see a tree, when you have actually looked at a tree - not verbally but actually - then you see that between you and the tree there is not only physical space but also psychological space. That space is created by the image you have of the tree, as "the oak", or whatever it is. So there is a separation between the observer and the observed, which is the tree. Can this separateness or space disappear? - not that you become the tree, that would be too absurd and have no meaning - but when the space between the observer and the tree disappears, then you see the tree entirely differently. I do not know if you have ever tried it.

Questioner: What exactly do you mean by the space between you and the tree disappears?

Krishnamurti: Just a minute, Sir, let me finish, and then you can ask me questions afterwards. I hope you will. Analysis implies this space, and therefore there is no direct contact or relationship between the analyser and the analysed. And it is only when there is immediate contact with the thing called fear, that there is totally different action. Look, Sir, when you observe another - your wife, friend, husband - is that observation based on your accumulated knowledge of the person concerned? If so, that knowledge makes for separateness, it divides: hence there is conflict and therefore no relationship. So, can you look at another - now of course you can look at the speaker because he is going away and has no direct relationship with you - but can you look without that space at your wife, your children, your neighbour or your politician? If you can do that, then you will see things entirely, differently.

You know, I have been told by those who are fairly serious and who have taken certain drugs - not for amusement, excitement or visions, but who have taken them to see what actually takes place - they have told me that the space between those who have taken it and the vase of flowers on the table disappears, and that therefore, they see the flower, the colour, most intensely, and that there is a quality in that intensity which never existed before. We are not advocating - at least I am not - that you should take drugs, but, as we were saying, as long as there is space in relationship - whether between the analyser and the analysed, the observer and the observed, or the experiencer and the thing experienced - there must be conflict and there must be pain.

So, when this thing is really understood - not as an idea, not as a verbal exchange but actually felt - you will see that violence, which was experienced before as between the observer and the thing observed, that feeling of anger and hatred, undergoes a tremendous change: it is not what it was, a constant conflict from childhood to death, an everlasting battlefield in relationship, whether in the office or in the family. Being in conflict without being able to resolve it, fear comes into being. Fear also exists where there is pleasure. We are ever in pursuit of pleasure: that is what we want, greater and greater pleasure. And when we pursue pleasure, inevitably there must be pain and fear.

So our question this afternoon is whether the human mind can transform itself, not in time but out of time. That is, whether there can be a great psychological revolution inwardly without the idea of time. Thought, after all, is time, isn't it? Thought, which is the response of memory, knowledge, experience, is from the past. One can observe this for oneself as an actuality, not as a theory. Thought thinks about that of which it is afraid, or about that which has given pleasure, and the thinking about the pleasure and the pain lies within the field of time. Obviously. One experiences pleasure when one sees the sunset, or through various other forms of excitement and enjoyment, and so on. Thought thinks about that which has given excitement, enjoyment. Please do watch this: you can see it for yourself, it is so simple. Thinking about it gives continuity to that which one has enjoyed. Yesterday there was that lovely sunset. Instead of finishing with that sunset, which was over yesterday, we continue thinking about it, and the very activity of thought in regard to that incident breeds time. That is, I am hoping I shall have that pleasure again tomorrow. So thought breeds both pleasure and pain. Then, from this, arises a much deeper question: whether thought can be quiet at all. For it is only then that there is actual transformation.

Now do you care to ask any questions?

Questioner: You spoke about being responsible, but I may not be responsible for my thought. Any change I want to make must be made with thoughts and perhaps I'm not responsible for my thoughts. I cannot determine what I think.

Krishnamurti: Sir, what do we mean by that word "responsible"? And is that feeling of responsibility the product of thought?

Questioner: No, and at the same time, yes.

Krishnamurti: Look, Sir, is love the result of thought?

Questioner: No.

Krishnamurti: Ah, wait! Go slowly Sir (Laughter). Then, if you say no, what place has thought when you love?

Questioner: This would presuppose my understanding love.

Krishnamurti: Ah, wait, Sir! - that is why I asked if love was pleasure. If it is pleasure then it is a product of thought. Then pleasure can be cultivated indefinitely - which is what we are doing. But love cannot be cultivated. Therefore love is not the product of thought. And when there is love, what is responsibility? Please go slowly. When responsibility is based on thought and pleasure, then there is duty involved in it, and all the rest of it. But when love is not pleasure - and one has to go into this very, very carefully - then has love (if I may use that word), has love responsibility in the accepted sense of that word? I love my family, therefore I am responsible for my family. Is that love based on pleasure? If it is, then that word responsibility takes on quite a different meaning: then the family is mine, I possess it, I depend on it I must look after it. Then I am jealous, for wherever there is dependency, there is fear and jealousy. So we use this word "love" when we say, "I love my family, I'm responsible for it; but when you observe a little more closely, you find children being trained to kill, being educated in that peculiar way so that they are always able to earn a livelihood, get a job, as though that was the end of life. So is all that responsibility?

Questioner: We can't really have will, because what we will is determined by our conditioning.

Krishnamurti: Sir, what is will? Please see that these questions need a great deal of explanation, and everybody is getting bored or has to go away. We had better stop.

Audience: They just have to leave - they are not bored. Family responsibilities!

Krishnamurti: You are not responsible for the people leaving? (Laughter) Right! You see, Sirs, we have exercised will: I must, I must not; I should, I should not. You have exercised will to succeed, to achieve power, position, prestige. You have exercised will to dominate. Will has played a great part in our lives. And, as you say, that is the result of the society, the environment, the culture in which we live. But the culture in which we live is, in turn, made by human beings, and so we must ask whether will has any place at all? Because will implies conflict, struggle, the contradiction: "I am this and I must be that. And to become that, I must exercise will. We are asking if there is not a different way of acting altogether, without will?

Questioner: If you don't use will, must you not then exercise thought?

Krishnamurti: Look, I'll show you something. When you see danger, is there the exercise of thought or will? There is immediate action. That action may be the result of past thought. When you see a precipice, a snake, a dangerous thing, you act instantly. That action may be the result of past conditioning. Right? You have been told that it is dangerous to approach a snake, and that has become memory, conditioning, and you act. Now when you see the danger of nationality - which breeds war, the nations with their separate governments, separate armies and all the rest of these terrible divisions which are going on in the world - when you see the actual danger of nationality - see it, that is, not intellectually or verbally but actually see the danger of it, the destructive nature of it - is there an action of will? Does perception - the seeing of something as false or as true - does that demand thought? Is goodness the result of thought - or beauty, or love? And can thought ever be new? - because love must be new, love cannot be something that goes on day after day between the family and in the family, as a sort of private possession. Thought, on the other hand, is always old. So, can we, without the exercise of will, see things so clearly that there is no confusion and that there is therefore complete action?

Questioner: Complete action may be aesthetically pleasing.

Krishnamurti: I don't know what you mean by "complete action". Why do we say aesthetically beautiful, while at other times it may also be very dangerous? What do we mean by "complete action"? Sir, take a very simple thing: when there is comparative action - that is, comparing which course of action is better - then there is measurement and good comes to an end. Right? No? When there is comparison, the good comes to an end. And, to be good - note that we are not using that word in the bourgeois sense - to be good completely means giving complete attention; when your whole body - eyes, ears, heart, everything - is given to attention. Sir, when you love, there is no less or more. That is complete action.

Questioner: Can I change my ideas or thought when, for example, every day when I go to the office they expect me to be ambitious, greedy and fearful. They put pressure on me to be that way and they show me that indeed I am petty, greedy, ambitious and fearful. Can I change if I see that this is not what I wish to be?

Krishnamurti: Can I, belonging to a structure that demands that I be afraid, aggressive, acquisitive, can I go to the office without being ambitious? If I am not ambitious, if I am not greedy, completely - that is, actually and completely non-greedy, not just verbally - then nothing is going to make me greedy, because I have seen the truth and the falseness of greed. When I have seen that clearly, cannot I go to the office and not be destroyed? It is only when I am partially greedy (Laughter) that I am caught. That is why one has to be complete - that is, completely attentive, so that in that attention there is a goodness which is not comparative, not measurable. When the mind is not greedy, no structure is going to make it greedy.

Questioner: How do I maintain attention in a painful situation, when instinctively my wish is to block out that painful incident?

Krishnamurti: First of all, I do not want to block out anything. Neither pleasure nor pain. I want to understand it, look at it, go into it. To block out something is to resist; and where there is resistance, there is fear. The brain, the mind, has been conditioned to resist. So, can the mind see the truth that any resistance is a form of fear? Which means I must give attention to what is called resistance, be completely attentive to resistance: which is to block out, escape, take a drink, take drugs; any form of escape or resistance - be completely alert to it.

Questioner: How long can you do that, Sir?

Krishnamurti: It is not a question of duration, of time, of how long. Do you see? - you are still thinking in terms of how long.

Questioner: My conditioning.

Krishnamurti: Well, watch it, Madame, please do watch it. You flatter me or insult me: pleasurable or painful. I want the pleasurable and discard or resist the painful. But if I am attentive, I will be aware when the insult or the flattery is offered; I will see the thing very clearly. Then it is finished, isn't it? Next time you flatter me or insult me, it will not affect me. It's not a question of maintaining attention. When you desire to maintain attention, then you are maintaining inattention. Right? Do please go into it a little bit. An attentive mind does not ask, "How long will I be attentive?" (Laughter). It is only the inattentive mind that has known what it is to be attentive, which says, "Can I be attentive all the time?" So, what one has to be attentive to is inattention. Right? To be aware of inattention, not how to maintain attention. Just to be aware that I am inattentive, that I say things that I don't mean, that I am dishonest; just to be attentive. Inattention breeds mischief, not attention. So, when the mind is aware of inattention, it is already attentive - you do not have to do any more.

Questioner: How can you tell when you have true perception of what you should do, when one line of action is going to hurt someone and yet will benefit others?

Krishnamurti: When you see something clearly as being true - and clarity is always true - there is no other action but the action of clarity. Whether it hurts or doesn't hurt is irrelevant. Look, nationality is poison: it has bred, and will continue to breed, wars and hatred. Now to be non-nationalistic will hurt a whole group of people: the military, the politician, the priest, all the flag-wavers of the world. And yet I know it is the most dreadful thing, I see it as poison. What am I to do? I myself will not touch it. In myself I have wiped out all nationality completely. But the military will say, "You are hurting us". When one sees that is false and what is true, and acts, then there is no question of hurting or pleasing anybody. If you see that organized religion is not religion, then what will you do? Go to church to please people? It might hurt my mother if I don't. Sir, what is important is not what hurts and what pleases, but to see what is true. And then that truth will operate, not you.



Editor's last word:

The question was asked, "What exactly do you mean by the space between you and the tree disappears?" and we wish K had answered it directly at that moment. However, he said that division is caused by the images we create for other persons or things. How to remove the images? - by confronting our fears, seeing through them, going to the source of fear.