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Word Gems 

exploring self-realization, sacred personhood, and full humanity


Jiddu Krishnamurti
1895 - 1986

Are you watching the self from within or without? If without, then you are not related to “what is.’ The thinker-ego is always outside. Instead, be choicelessly aware, from the inside.




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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, Stanford University - 13 February 1969


Of the many things we might talk over together, one of the most obvious and important is about why we do not change. We may change a little bit, here and there, in patches, but why do we not fundamentally change our whole way of behaviour, our way of life, our daily nature? Technologically the world about us is advancing with extraordinary speed, while inwardly we remain more or less the same as we have been for centuries upon centuries.

Caught as we are in this trap - and it is a dreadful trap - one wonders why we don't break through, why we remain heavy and stupid, empty, shallow-minded, superficial and rather dull. Is it because we do not know ourselves? Leaving aside the ideas of the various specialists, with their peculiar assertions and dogmas, we see that we have never really investigated ourselves, gone into ourselves deeply to find out what we actually are. Is that the reason why we do not change? Or is it that one has not got the energy? Or because we are bored - not only with ourselves but also with the world, a world which has very little to offer except motor cars, bigger bathrooms and all the rest of it?

So we are bored outwardly and, probably, also with ourselves because we are caught in the trap and don't know how to get out of it. It is also likely that we are very lazy. Furthermore, in knowing ourselves there is no profit, no reward at the end of it, whereas most of us are conditioned by the profit-motive.

These, then, may be some of the reasons why we do not change. We know what the trap is, we know what life is, and yet we go trudging along monotonously and wearily until we die. That seems to be our lot. And yet, is it so difficult to go into ourselves very deeply and transform ourselves? I wonder if one has ever looked at oneself, known oneself? From ancient times this has been reiterated over and over again: "Know thyself". In India it was postulated, the ancient Greeks repeated the advice, while modern philosophers are also attempting to say it, complicated only by their jargon and their theories.

Can one know oneself - not only at the conscious level but also at the deeper, secret levels of the mind? Without self-knowledge, surely, one has no basis for any real, serious action, no foundation upon which to build clearly. If one doesn't know oneself, one lives such a superficial life. You may be very clever, you may know all the books in the world and be able to quote from them, but if you do not know yourself, how can you go beyond the superficial? Is it possible to know oneself so completely that, in the very observation of that total self, there is a release? Perhaps we can go into this question together this afternoon, and, in so doing, we may also come upon what love is and what death is.

As human beings, I think we should be able to find out what death is while still living; and also what love is, because that is part of our life, our daily living. Can we inquire into ourselves without any fear or bias, without any formula or conclusion, to find out what we are? Such an inquiry demands freedom. One cannot inquire into oneself, or into the universe of which one is a part, unless there is freedom - freedom from hypotheses, theories and conclusions, freedom from bias.

Moreover, to inquire one needs a sharp mind, a mind that has been made sensitive. But the mind is not sensitive if there is any form of bias, thus rendering it incapable of any real inquiry into this whole structure of the self. So let us go into this question together, not only through verbal communication but also non-verbally, which is much more exciting and which demands a much greater energy of attention. When one is free to inquire, one has the energy. One has not got the energy, the drive, the necessary intensity, when one has already reached a conclusion, a formula. So, for the time being, can we put away all our formulas, conclusions and biases about ourselves - what we are, what we should and should not be and all the rest of it - put these aside and actually observe?

One can only observe oneself in relationship. We have no other means of seeing ourselves because (except for those who are completely neurotic) we are not isolated human beings: on the contrary, we are related to everything about us. And in that relationship, through observing one's reactions, thoughts and motives, one can see, non-verbally, what we are.

Now what is the instrument of observation, what is the thing that observes? About this we must also be very clear. Is it an observation from outside the window looking in, as at a shop window, or are you watching yourself from within and not from without?

If you watch yourself from the outside, then you are not related to "what is". I think one should be very clear about this. One can observe oneself looking over the wall, as it were, in which case such observation is rather superficial, unrelated, inconsequential and not responsible. When one analyses oneself, there is always the analyser and the thing analysed. The analyser is the one looking over the wall, judging, evaluating, controlling, suppressing and so on. But can one watch oneself intimately, actually as one is? That is, can one watch oneself without the thinker, the observer? - the observer who is always outside, who is the censor, the entity that evaluates, saying, "this is right", "this is wrong", "this should be", "this should not be" - all of which renders one's observation very limited and merely according to the social, environmental and cultural conditioning.

So we have this very real problem: how to observe - not as an outside observer who has already come to certain conclusions about himself - but merely to observe. To be choicelessly aware, without a directive, without deciding what one should or should not do, but merely to observe what is actually going on. To do that there must be freedom from every form of conclusion and commitment. So, to observe non-verbally, to observe without the barrier of an outsider who is looking in, there must be freedom from all fear and all sense of correction. If one has such an instrument, then one can proceed to find out. But, because one has already banished all the things that make for a centre from which an observer looks at the observed, what is there to find out?

One wants to look at oneself with clear eyes, with unspotted eyes, without the interference of the conventional, respectable social morality - which is no morality at all. When one has put aside the conclusion and the formula, fear, any desire to be other than what one is, then what is there? What we are is a series of conclusions. What we are is actually a series of experiences based on pleasure and pain, memories, the past. We are the past; there is nothing new in us. When one thus observes oneself freely - and to be free, one has to have set aside all these things - what is one actually?

I wonder if you have ever put that question to yourself? What is one's relationship with this whole business of what is called living? And what is living, as it is? One can, of course, readily see what it actually is: an everlasting struggle, a battlefield which we call living, conflict - not only with another but also within ourselves - pain, fleeting moments of great joy, fear, despair and a series of frustrations; the contradictions in ourselves both at the conscious and the deeper levels; a state of non-relationship; great sorrow - which is generally self-pity - loneliness and boredom. Then the escape from all this into religious beliefs: your God and my God. That is our life as it actually is. Going to the office for forty years - you know, so proud about all this; aggressive, competitive, brutal. That is our life and we call that living. And we don't know how to change it. We are eager to change the superficial structure of society - a new bureaucracy instead of the old one, and so on. However, the outward change has meaning only when there is deep inward revolution: then the outer and the inner are the same movement not two separate movements.


Editor's note: I wonder if this is what the Gospel Of Thomas means with the purported words of Jesus, "The kingdom is within you, and it is outside of you"? Also, in the "metaparadigm" article, we discussed that real change comes - naturally, effortlessly - when the focus of our life changes.


Do we look to another to help us out of it? There have been teachers, gurus, saviours - oh, an innumerable number of these - but here we still are. So one loses, or has lost, all faith in another. And I hope you have. This doesn't mean that one becomes cynical, bitter and hard, but that one sees the actual fact that, inwardly, no one can help us. Recognising all this, the actuality of life as we live it everyday, the torture and the aching misery of it, why doesn't one apply oneself completely and utterly to the understanding of it all and break through it? What is education for if we do not do this? What is the good of your becoming Ph.D.'s and all the rest of it, if all this is not fundamentally changed?

We must now ask what is the nature of the energy that is required to break out of this trap, this vicious circle in which one is caught. What provides the necessary drive? Obviously it cannot be verbal, nor can it stem from the assertions or conclusions of another. The nature of this energy is freedom - the demand to be free. By freedom we do not mean doing what you like, licentiousness, revolt, undisciplined activity and so on. Freedom is not lack of discipline: on the contrary, freedom demands great discipline. Please note here that while the word "discipline" is an ugly word for most people, it actually means to learn. That is the root meaning of the word: to learn, not to conform; not to imitate but to learn; not to obey but to find out. Learning or finding out, in itself, brings its own discipline. Therefore discipline, which is to learn, is a constant movement and not mere conformity to some pattern. When one understands that - not verbally but actually, sees the truth of it, feeling it in your very bones then you will have the energy to break through this conditioning of fear, this anxiety, these aching sorrows.

In the understanding of this whole psychological structure of ourselves, there are these two vital questions: what is living - which we have tried to find out - and also what are love and death. For that is part of our living, and the sanctity of living lies in the discovery of what love is and what death is. Such sanctity comes only of living in the now - not having lived or living in the future - and in that we can perhaps discover what love is and what death is. Then again, without knowing what love and death are, we cannot know what living is.

What is death, of which most of us are so frightened? Can a living human being, sane, rational, healthy and not morbid, find out what dying means? - and here we do not mean when one is old and decrepit, diseased and on the point of slipping away unknowingly. Does this question have any interest at all? Not so much to the older generation, perhaps, as we have had most of our time, but it is a question that really applies to everybody - the young, the middle-aged, the aged and the dying. Just as we tried to find out what living is - and which, not being this battlefield, this conflict, this misery, becomes therefore something extraordinarily sacred (if I may use that word without your attempting to belittle it) - in the same way, to find out what death is.

I wonder what your reaction is to this question. Either you are afraid, or you have theories, or you believe: believe in the life hereafter - reincarnation for example, which the whole of the East believes in. They believe in reincarnation, but they don't behave in this life; only it is a very comfortable theory in that you will have another chance. But putting that aside altogether, to understand the now, one must understand the past. You cannot say, "I'm going to live in the now" - it has no meaning because the now is the passage-way of the past to the future. When you say to yourself, "I'm going to live in the present", the "you" who is going to live is the result of the past. You may draw a circle around yourself, saying, "this is the now or the present", but the entity that is living in the now is the result of the past: he is entirely the past. To live now, in the present - not ideologically, not from a conclusion nor as an assertion - but actually to live completely in the present, means that one must be unconditioned and free.

Asking oneself what it means to die, what death is, is not a neurotic question: on the contrary, it shows that one is very healthy, sane and balanced, otherwise one wouldn't ask the question. It means that one is no longer frightened to find out. Obviously the body goes, the organism collapses through constant wear and tear. It can be made to last a little longer if one lives fairly sanely, without too much pressure, strain or excitement. Or the doctors and the scientists may invent a pill or something that will give you another forty or fifty years - although I do not see the point of living another fifty years in this trap. In asking what dying is, one must also ask what it means to actually live - if one can so live - without all the travail: that is, to end the way of living as we know it. Because that is what is going to happen when one dies: the end of everything.

The soul, or the Atman the Hindus call it, is just a word. One doesn't know if there is a soul, a permanent "something". Is there anything permanent in us, or do we only wish there were something permanent? When one observes oneself, there is nothing permanent: everything is in movement, in a state of flux. And when one dies, one dies to everything that one has known: the family, the children, the job, the books that one wanted to write or has written, the experiences, all the accumulations that one has piled up, and the responsibilities. There is the ending, psychologically as well as physically, of all that is known. That is death. I think most of us would agree to that.

Now, can one die every day to everything that one knows - except, of course, the technological knowledge, the direction where your home is, and so on; that is, to end, psychologically, every day, so that the mind remains fresh, young and innocent? That is death. And to come to that there must be no shadow of fear. To give up without any argument, without any resistance. That is dying. Have you ever tried it? To give up without a murmur, without restraint, without resistance, the thing that gives you most pleasure (the things that are painful, of course, one wants to give up in any case). Actually to let go. Try it. Then, if you do it, you will see that the mind becomes extraordinarily alert, alive and sensitive, free and unburdened. Old age then takes on quite a different meaning, not something to be dreaded.

One also has to find out for oneself what love is. That word is one of the most loaded of words; everybody uses it and its usage ranges from the most cunning to the most simple. But what is it actually? What is the state of the heart and the mind that loves? Is love pleasure? Please do ask these questions of yourself. Is love desire? If it is pleasure, then with it must go pain. If pleasure and pain are associated with love, then it is obviously not love. As you will recall, we saw that pleasure is the product of thought. Thinking about the sexual experience that you had - chewing it over, the building of the image - is to sustain the pleasure of that experience. Thought engenders pleasure and it also breeds fear; fear of tomorrow, fear of the past, thinking about what one did, thinking about the physical pain that one has experienced and fearing a recurrence. So thought breeds pleasure, fear and pain and are these to be called love? But that is all we know. That is what we call love. I love my wife and when that wife, on whom I depend for sex, for cooking my meals and running the family, when she turns and looks at another. I am angry furious and jealous - and this is called love. Then man invents the love of a God - a God who doesn't demand anything, who doesn't turn his back on you. You have him in your pocket and are sure he is there protecting you in your jealousies, in your anxieties, leading you on to even greater cruelty.

All this is called "love", but is it? Obviously not, because love is not something that is the product of thought. Love cannot be cultivated. Love cannot be bought through pleasure. How can an aggressive, ambitious, competitive man love? And if he wants to find out what it is - actually and not theoretically - he has to end his ambition, his greed, his hate of another, putting aside completely all that which is not love. But, you see, we play with all these things and then talk about love. We are really not very serious people, and because we are not serious, our life is what it is. So, without dying there is no love, for love is always new and not a routine matter of sex and pleasure.


Editor's note: Love is not sex, as such. By implication we learn that love, true love, cannot be known at the surface of life with all of its change and frenetic activity, but only within the domain of the unchanging soul. See more discussion on this in the "Gospel Of Thomas" article.


For most of us, throughout the world, sex has become an extraordinary problem, or, rather, a problem in which we delight. Do you never wonder why this is so? It would seem as though it has just been discovered for the first time, being featured in every magazine and all the rest of it. Why has it become such a persistent and continuing problem with which the word "love" is associated? Probably the clever ones will put up many arguments as to why man gets so excited about this one thing. But, leav- ing aside all the experts and the intellectual gurus, can one see why one is so caught up in this thing?

You will have to answer this question; you cannot just brush it aside, because it is a part of our life, part of this thing called life which has become such a battle and such a misery. Why has sex become a problem? Or should we rather ask why it is apparently the only thing left to man in which he is free? Therein he loses himself totally: at that moment he is no longer all the miseries, all the memories, the tortures, the competition, the aggression, the violence and the battling. He simply is not there. So, because he is absent, it has become important; then there is no longer the division between "me" and "you", "we" and "they". Such division comes to an end, and at that moment perhaps you find great freedom. Probably it has become so extraordinarily important just because it is the only thing we have left in which we can find such freedom. In everything else, we are not free. Intellectually, emotionally and physically, we are constrained and restricted second-hand people, thoroughly moulded by our technological society. So, with no freedom except in sex, sex has become important and, because of that, a problem. We are not saying you should not have sex - that would be absurd. But can we cease to be slaves, second-hand human beings endlessly repeating what we have been told about things that actually do not matter very much, endlessly living in an ideological world - that is, living with formulas and therefore not actually living at all? Then, when one is free all round, both intellectually and in one's heart, perhaps this problem won't be so serious.

Observing all this, from the beginning to the end and noting that we do not change at all, one must ask why one has not got the energy to change. We have the tremendous and extraordinary energy required to go to the moon but not enough, apparently, to change ourselves. And yet I assure you that it is one of the easiest things to do, and that it becomes easy when you know how to look. When you can actually see "what is", without trying to change it, suppress it, go beyond it or escape from it, then you will see that "what is, undergoes a tremendous change. That is, when the mind is completely silent in observation, then there is radical change. And the watching of all this, the observing of it deeply in oneself, brings us to one more question, which is: What is meditation? - because a mind which is not meditative cannot understand this whole structure and chain of our life. Perhaps we can discuss tomorrow the state of the mind which is religious, not belonging to some stupid organization but remaining free and therefore religious; that is, the state of the mind which is in the act of meditation. This is not an invitation for you to come tomorrow (Laughter).

Perhaps, if you care to, we will now have some questions,

Questioner: Why does each one of us have the "I" structure? What is its origin?

Krishnamurti: The questioner asks why there is a separate "me". Why is there this peculiar entity that thinks it is so very different from the other entities? Why is there this "me" with all its problems, and the "you" with all your problems - which is also the "me"? The "me" is not different from the "you" because you have the same problems, only you clothe them in different words, using different ways of expressing them. But it is still the "me", expressing itself differently. I, born in India and educated abroad, and you here and educated here, with your problems; and if I have problems, what is the difference between you and me? - not physically, of course: you may have a bigger bank account, a bigger house and a nice car. You may have more abundance of things than the other, but, apart from a better superficial education and the chance of expressing it, a better job and all that, is there any basic difference? If there is no difference, why all this fuss about it - you and me, they and I, we and they, the black and the white, the yellow and the brown - why? There is great pleasure in being separate, all the vanity of it: I am original, unique, marvellous, and you say exactly the same thing, only putting it in a minor key. This vanity that each of us is so extraordinarily unique, gives great pleasure.


Editor's note: see the article on the temporary developmental-stage nature of the ego.


Are we unique? You have sorrow and so has the other; you are as confused as the other; uncertain, anxious, aggressive, brutal, suspicious, guilty as is the other. So when we free ourselves from this basic division of the "I" and "you", the "we" and "they", is there then any division at all? Is not the observer then the observed, which is you? In that there is vast compassion. It is only when I have built a wall around myself and you have built a wall around yourself, leading to resistance, that the whole misery begins. The social structure, too, encourages this "me" and this "you". Can we not be free of this division in our thoughts and in our society, which our own vanity has cultivated? Then, if you have gone that far, you will probably find out what love is.

Questioner: Would you say something about the effort that sometimes gets in the way when one tries to be aware?

Krishnamurti: What is effort? Why should we make effort? I know it is the accepted tradition that you must make an effort, otherwise you will be a nobody, just a God-knows-what. So, at all costs, make an effort: that is the conditioning, the tradition, the accepted norm. Now, Sir, what is effort and why do we have to make an effort? This is a very important question. Is there any effort when there is no contradiction? Please follow this. When the "me" is "you" - which really requires a tremendous depth of feeling and understanding: you cannot just state that the "me" is "you", as it would have no meaning - when they are one in relationship and thus without contradiction, what need is there for effort? There is no effort. There is effort only when there is a psychological contradiction, that is: the "what is" over and against the what should be", the opposite - which is the contradiction. The "what is" trying to become the "what should be", violence trying to become non-violent - in this lies the contradiction and therefore the effort, the endeavour to become something which is not. So, basically, effort implies contradiction: I am this but I will be that; I am a failure but, by Jove, I'm going to become a success; I am angry but I will cease being angry, and so on. A series of corridors of opposites and, hence, conflict.

Speaking psychologically, is there an opposite? Or is there always only "what is"? Because the mind does not know how to deal with "what is", it invents the opposite, the "what should be". If it knew how to deal with "what is", there would be no conflict. If the mind could cease measuring itself against the hero, the perfect, the glorious and all that, it would be what it is. Then, free of all comparison, free of the opposite, the "what is" becomes something entirely different. In that there is no effort involved at all. Effort means distortion and effort is a part of will, which distorts. But to us will and effort are our bread and butter; we are brought up on it: you must be better than that boy in the examination - all that. And in being brought up like that lies great mischief and misery. So, to see "what is" and to be aware of that without any choice, frees the mind from the contradiction of the opposites.


Editor's note: concerning "effort" see the Russell-Tolle discussion of "relax into the resistance."


Questioner: You said yesterday that if one could get rid of the circle round the family, that an extraordinary thing would happen. I would like very much to understand that.

Krishnamurti: First of all, is one aware - not verbally - that there is a wall around oneself? Each one of us has a wall round himself: a wall of resistance, of fear and anxiety. The "me" built around myself, thus making the wall; this "me" in the family, each member of which is also surrounded by his own wall. Then the whole family with a wall around itself and similarly, with the community and the society. Now is one aware of this? Do we not feel that living in this world, it is necessary, otherwise the "me" will be destroyed and so will the family? So we maintain the wall as the most sacred thing. Now if one is aware of it, what happens? If one removes altogether this wall round oneself, round the family, does the family end? What then happens to the competition between the "me", the family, and the rest of the world? We know very well what takes place when there is a wall - then we have resistance, conflict, everlasting battle and pain, because any separative movement, any self-centred activity, does breed conflict and pain. When there is an awareness of the whole nature and structure of this circle, this wall, and an understanding of how it has come into being - that is, the immediate realization of the whole thing - then what happens? When we remove the division between the "me" and the "you", the "we" and the "they", what happens? Only then and not before, can one perhaps use the word "love". And love is that most extraordinary thing that takes place when there is no "me" with its circle or wall.

Questioner: When I try to observe myself, why do I find myself observing from the outside, as it were?

Krishnamurti: Have you ever observed a cloud? If you have watched it, you will see that there is not only the physical separation from it, with distance and time, but also that inwardly there is a division. That is to say, your mind is so occupied with other things that you do not give real attention to it; you know all the words one uses, "how beautiful", how lovely", but all these verbal statements act as a barrier which prevents you from really looking at the cloud. Right? Now can one look at that cloud non-verbally, that is, without the image that one has about clouds? Since it is an objective thing over there, perhaps one may do it fairly easily, but can one look at oneself non-verbally? This means to remove the barriers of criticism, judgment and condemnation and just observe. With a mind free of condemnation and judgment and all the rest of it, then surely the space between you and the thing observed disappears: then you are not there, looking over the wall. You are that. And when you are that, there comes a difficulty. Before, you observed it as something separate from yourself, whereas now you observe it without that separation. But any movement you make with regard to that must still be a movement from the outside. But if you look at it without any movement - that is, look at it in complete silence - then that which is observed out of silence is not the same as it was when you looked at it over the wall.

Questioner: (inaudible).

Krishnamurti: A man who is poor and has to work ten hours a day is obviously conditioned, and although he may change slightly, there is no inward revolution because he is stamped by the society in which he lives. Now what is that man to do? Is that your question, Sir?

Questioner: What am I to do in relation to that man?

Krishnamurti: You ask what your relationship is to that man. May I put it differently? What is the relationship between you and me? I have talked, as I have done most of my life, and the day after tomorrow I go away. Now what is our relationship? Have we any relationship? You will obviously have an image of the speaker: what he said or didn't say, whether you agreed or disagreed, and so on. Is there any relationship at all? And is there actually any relationship between a man who is alive, alert, active, inwardly aflame and the man who says, "Please leave me alone, for God's sake, I am caught in the trap of society and cannot change". One's relationship to such a man can be either affectionate or compassionate - not patronizing. If one is alive and aware of all these things that are happening inside and outside, one does change oneself. And it is always the intelligent minority which, in turn, changes the structure of society and the world. Then, perhaps, there may be a chance for another.

Questioner: This inward psychological revolution that you have talked about: it hasn't taken place in me or in any of my friends, nor, as far as I can see, in many people in history. When I try to look at "what is" and when I see "what is", it still doesn't happen. Yet you seem to hold out hope that it can happen and this hope of yours seems to me, therefore, to be in contradiction to "what is".

Krishnamurti: I hope I am not offering anybody any hope (Laughter). That would be a most terrible thing. If you are looking for hope - from me or from another - then you are avoiding the despair which is what actually is. Do please follow this. Can you look at that despair, which is what actually is - not the hope which is merely a supposition, something you wish for - but actually look at the fear and despair? Can you look at it without hope and without condemnation? Can you see it actually as it is, be directly in contact with it? This means looking at it non-verbally, without any fear, without any distortion. Can you do it? If you can look at "what is" absolutely without any distortion, you will see that the whole thing undergoes a tremendous change: it is no longer despair, it is something entirely different. But, unfortunately, most of us are conditioned and we are always hoping for the ideal, which is an escape. Putting away all escapes, all hopes - not in bitterness or with cynicism but because you see that there is only this fear and despair - then you are left free to look. And when the mind is free, is there despair?

Questioner: Is sex always an escape?

Krishnamurti: I wouldn't know. (Laughter) Is it to you? You see, that's just it: it becomes an escape when it is the only thing wherein you feel free of your daily misery, effort and contradiction; and so it becomes a door through which you can escape. And if you do so escape, that very escape breeds fear. But if you are aware that it is an escape, then everything changes.



Editor's last word:

"Is there anything permanent in us, or do we only wish there were something permanent? When one observes oneself, there is nothing permanent: everything is in movement, in a state of flux." 

This question is discussed in the article on the "Gospel Of Thomas." See under the heading "the light within will reveal itself in its children who will offer evidence of the nature of this light."

In another writing, K revealed that he did not believe in post-mortem survival of the human spirit. This seems strange to me as he is a teacher, one pointing the way, of an apprehension of the inner silence - which is a perception of timelessness, of eternity. I think we can observe a sense of permanence within ourselves.