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Word Gems 

exploring self-realization, sacred personhood, and full humanity


Jiddu Krishnamurti
1895 - 1986

An excellent explanation in this lecture concerning thought as product of our cultural and experiential conditioning; which means that egoic thought is always old and cannot free us.



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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, University of California, Santa Cruz - 19 February 1969


This evening I would like to talk about several things which are all related, just as all human problems are also related. One cannot take one problem separately and try to solve it by itself; each problem contains all the other problems, if one knows how to go into it deeply and comprehensively.

I would, first of all, like to ask what is going to become of all of us, the young and the old, what will we make of our lives? Are we going to allow ourselves to be sucked into this maelstrom of accepted respectability with its social and economic morality, and become part of the so-called cultural society with all its problems, its confusion and contradiction, or are we going to make something entirely different of our life?

That is the problem which faces most people. One is educated, not to understand life as a whole, but to play a particular role in this totality of existence. We are so heavily conditioned from childhood to achieve something in this society, to be successful and to become a complete bourgeois; and the more sensitive intellectual generally revolts against such a pattern of existence. In his revolt, he does various things: either he becomes antisocial, anti-political, takes to drugs and pursues some narrow, sectarian, religious belief, following some guru, some teacher or philosopher, or he becomes an activist, a Communist, or he gives himself over entirely to some exotic religion like Buddhism or Hinduism. And by becoming a sociologist, a scientist, an artist, a writer or, if one has the capacity, a philosopher and, thereby, enclosing oneself in a circle, we think we have solved the problem. We then imagine we have understood the whole of life and we dictate to others what life should be according to our own particular tendency, our own particular idiosyncrasy, and from our own specialized knowledge.

When one observes what life is with its enormous complexity and intricacy, not only in the economic and social spheres, but also in the psychological sphere, one must ask oneself, if one is at all serious, what part one is to play in all this. What shall I do as a human being living in this world and not escaping into some fantasy existence or a monastery?

Seeing this whole pattern very clearly, what is one to do, what is one to make of one's life? This question is always there, whether we are well placed in the establishment or just about to enter into it. So, it seems to me, one must inevitably ask this question: What is the purpose of life and as a fairly healthy human being psychologically, who is not totally neurotic and who is alive and active, what part shall I play in all this? Which role or which part am I attracted to? And, if I am attracted to a particular fragment or section, then I must be aware of the danger in such an attraction, because we are back again in the same old division which breeds effort, contradiction and war. Can I then take part in the whole of life and not in just one particular segment of it? To take part in the whole of life obviously does not mean to have a complete knowledge of science, sociology, philosophy, mathematics, and so on; that would be impossible unless one were a genius...

The truly religious man, the man who really wants to find out what truth is, what life is - not from books, not from religious entertainers, not from philosophers who only stimulate intellectually - such a man will have nothing whatever to do with drugs, because he knows full well that they distort the mind, making it incapable of finding out what truth is.

Here in the Western world many people are resorting to drugs. There are the serious ones who have taken it experimentally for perhaps a couple of years, some of whom have come to see me. They have said: "We have had experiences which appear - from what we have read in books - to resemble the ultimate reality, to be a shadow of the real." And because they are serious people, as the speaker is, they have discussed this problem deeply; ultimately they have been forced to admit that the experience is very spurious, that it has nothing whatever to do with the ultimate reality, with all the beauty of that immensity.

Unless a mind is clear, wholesome and completely healthy, it cannot possibly be in the state of religious meditation which is absolutely essential to discover that thing which is beyond all thought, beyond all desire. Any form of psychological dependence, any kind of escape, through drink, through drugs, in an attempt to make the mind more sensitive merely dulls and distorts it.

When you discard all that - as one must if one is at all serious - you are faced with living inwardly alone. Then you are not depending on anything or anybody, on any drug, on any book, or on any belief. Only then is the mind unafraid, only then can you ask what is the purpose of life. And if you have come to that point, would you ask such a question? The purpose of life is to live - not in the utter chaos and confusion that we call living - but to live in an entirely different way, to live a life that is full, to live a life that is complete, to live that way today. That is the true meaning of life - to live, not heroically, but to live so complete inwardly, without fear, without struggle and without all the rest of the misery.

It is possible only when you know what is impossible; you must, therefore, see whether you can change immediately, say, with regard to anger, hate and jealousy, so that you are no longer jealous, which is, of course, envious; envy being a comparison between yourself and another. Now, is it possible to change so completely that envy doesn't touch you at all? This is only possible when you are aware of the envy without this division of the observer and the observed, so that you are envy, you are that: not you and envy as something separate from you.

Therefore, when you see this whole thing completely, there is no possibility of doing anything about it; and when there is this complete state of envy, in which there is no division and no conflict, then it is no longer envy; it is something entirely different.

One can then ask: What is love? Is love pleasure? Is love desire? Is love the product of thought, as pleasure is and fear is? Can love be cultivated and will love come about through time? And, if I don't know what love is, can I come upon it?

Love is obviously not sentimentality or emotionalism, so they can be brushed aside immediately, because sentimentality and emotionalism are romantic, and love is not romanticism. Now pleasure and fear are the movement of thought and for most of us pleasure is the greatest thing in life; sexual pleasure and the memory of it, the thought of having had that pleasure, thinking about it over and over again and wanting it tomorrow - the morality of society is based on pleasure. So, if pleasure is not love, then what is love? Please follow this, because you have to answer these questions; you can't just wait for the speaker or somebody else to tell you. This is a fundamental, human question that must be answered by each one of us, not by some guru or philosopher who says this is love, that is not love.

Love is not jealousy or envy, is it? You are all very silent! Can you love and at the same time be greedy, ambitious, competitive? Can you love when you kill not only animals but also other human beings? Through the negation of what love is not - it is not jealousy, envy, hate, the self-centred activity of the "me" and the "you", the ugly competition, the brutality and the violence of everyday life - you will know what love is. When you put all these things aside, not intellectually but actually, with your heart, with your mind, with your... I was going to say guts, because obviously all this is not love, then you will come upon love. When you know love, when you have love, then you are free to do what is right; and whatever you do is righteous.

But to come to that state, to have that sense of beauty and compassion which love brings, there must also be the death of yesterday. The death of yesterday means to die to everything inwardly, to all ambition and everything that psychologically one has accumulated. After all, when death comes, that's what is going to happen anyway; you are going to leave your family, your house, your goods, your valuables, all the things you possess. You are going to leave all the books from which you have derived so much knowledge, as well as the books you wanted to write and have not written, and the pictures you wanted to paint. When you die to all that, then the mind is completely new, fresh and innocent. I suppose you will say it is impossible.

When you say it is impossible, then you begin to invent theories; there must be a life after death; according to the Christians there is resurrection, while the whole of Asia believes in reincarnation. The Hindus maintain that it is impossible to die to everything while one still has life and health and beauty; so, fearing death, they give hope by inventing this wonderful thing called reincarnation, which means that the next life will be better. However, the "better" has a string attached to it; to be better in my next life, I must be good in this one, therefore I must behave myself. I must live righteously; I must not hurt another; there must be no anxiety, no violence. But unfortunately these believers in reincarnation do not live that way; on the contrary, they are aggressive, as full of violence as everyone else, so their belief is as worthless as the dead yesterdays.

The important thing is what you are now, and not whether you believe or don't believe, whether your experiences are psychedelic or merely ordinary. What matters is to live at the height of virtue (I know you don't like that word). Those two words "virtue" and "righteousness" have been terribly abused, every priest uses them, every moralist or idealist employs them. But virtue is entirely different from something which is practised as virtue and therein lies its beauty; if you try to practise it, then it is no longer virtue. Virtue is not of time, so it cannot be practised and behaviour is not dependent on environment; environmental behaviour is all right in its way but it has no virtue. Virtue means to love, to have no fear, to live at the highest level of existence, which is to die to everything, inwardly, to die to the past, so that the mind is clear and innocent. And it is only such a mind that can come upon this extraordinary immensity which is not your own invention, nor that of some philosopher or guru.

Questioner: Will you please explain the difference between thought and insight?

Krishnamurti: Do you mean by "insight" understanding? To see something very clearly, to have no confusion, no choice? I want to understand in what way you are using that word "insight". Is that correct, Sir?

Questioner: Yes.

Krishnamurti: What is thinking? Please, let's go into this! When I ask you that question "What is thinking?", what takes place in your mind?

Questioner: Thought.

Krishnamurti: Go slowly, Sir, step by step, don't rush at it! What takes place? I ask you a question. I ask you where you live or what's your name. Your answer is immediate isn't it? Why?

Questioner: Because you are dealing with something in the past.

Krishnamurti: Please, don't complicate the thing, just look at it! We'll complicate it presently but, first of all, just look at it. (Laughter). I ask you your name, your address, where you live and so on. The answer is immediate because you are familiar with it, you don't have to think about it. Probably you thought about it at first, but you've been brought up since childhood to know your name. There is no thought process involved in that. Now, next time I ask you something a little more difficult and there is a time-lag between the question and your answer. What takes place in that interval? Go slowly, don't answer me but find out for yourself. All right, I'll ask you a question: What is the distance from here to the moon, to Mars or to New York? In that interval what takes place?

Questioner: Searching.

Krishnamurti: You're searching, aren't you? Searching where?

Questioner: My memory.

Krishnamurti: You're searching your memory, that is, somebody has told you or you have read about it, so you are looking in your "cupboard". (Laughter). And then you come up with the answer. To the first question there was an immediate answer, but you are uncertain about the second question, so you take more time. In that interval you are thinking, probing, investigating and eventually you find the right answer. Now, if you are asked a very complex question like "What is God?"...

Questioner: 1. God is love. Questioner: 2. God is everything. Questioner: 3. The answer isn't in my memory.

Krishnamurti: Just listen! "God is love, God is everything..."

Questioner: God is the big furniture remover. (Laughter)

Krishnamurti: And so on. Now watch it, just look what's happened. You never said we don't know which is the right answer. Please, follow this! It is very important. Not knowing, you believe! Look what has happened, thought has betrayed you. First, a familiar question, then a more difficult one, and finally a question to which the mind says I've been conditioned to believe in God, so I have an answer. And if you were a Communist you would say, "What are you talking about? Don't be silly, there's no such thing as God. It's a bourgeois belief invented by the priests!" (Laughter).

Now, we are talking about thought. First of all, to find out if there is or there is not God (and we must find out, otherwise we are not total human beings), to find that out, all belief, that is, all conditioning brought about by human thought, which arises out of fear must come to an end. We then see what thinking is: thinking is the response of memory, which is your accumulated knowledge, experience and background, and when you are asked a question, certain vibrations are set up, and, from that memory, you respond. That is thought.

Please, watch it in yourself! And thought is always old, obviously, because it responds from the past, therefore thought can never be free. (Pause). You don't go along with that, do you? (Laughter) "Freedom of thought". Please, look at it very carefully, don't laugh it off! We worship thought, don't we? Thought is the greatest thing in life, the intellectuals adore it, but when you look very closely at the whole process of thought - however reasonable, however logical - it is still the response of memory which is always old, so thought itself is old and can never bring about freedom. Please don't accept what the speaker says about anything!

So, thought then brings confusion. The question was: What is the difference between thought and insight which, we agreed, was the same as understanding, seeing things very clearly, without any confusion. When you see something very clearly - we are talking psychologically - then there is no choice; there is only choice when there is confusion. We say there is freedom to choose which really means there is freedom to be confused, because if you are not confused, if you see something instantly and very clearly, then where is the need to choose? And when there is no choice, there is clarity.


Editor's note: see more discussion on this unmediated and unconditioned "insight" on the "creativity" page.


Clarity, insight or understanding are only possible when thought is in abeyance, when the mind is still. Then only can you see very clearly, then you can say you have really understood what we are talking about, then you have direct perception, because your mind is no longer confused. Confusion implies choice and choice is the product of thought. Shall I do this or that - the "me" and the "not-me", the "you" and the "not you", "we" and "they", and so on, all that is implied by thought. And out of this arises confusion and from that confusion we choose; we choose our political leaders, our gurus, and so many other things, but when there is clarity, then there is direct perception. And to be clear, the mind must be completely quiet, completely still, then there is real understanding and therefore that understanding is action. It isn't the other way around.

Questioner: How do people become neurotic?

Krishnamurti: How do I know they are neurotic? Please, this is a very serious question, so do listen! How do I know they are neurotic? Am I also neurotic because I recognise that they are neurotic?

Questioner: Yes.

Krishnamurti: Don't say "yes" so quickly! Just look at it, listen to it! Neurotic, what does that mean? A little odd, not clear, confused, slightly off balance? And unfortunately most of us are slightly off balance. No? You aren't quite sure! (Laughter). Aren't you off balance if you are a Christian, a Hindu, a Buddhist or a Communist? Aren't you neurotic when you enclose yourself with your problems, build a wall around yourself because you think you are much better than somebody else? Aren't you off balance when your life is full of resistance - the "me" and "you", the "we" and "they" and all the other divisions? Aren't you neurotic in the office when you want to go one better than the other fellow? So, how does one become neurotic? Does society make you neurotic? That is the simplest explanation - my father, my mother, my neighbour, the government, the army, everybody makes me neurotic. They are all responsible for my being off balance. And when I go to the analyst for help, poor chap, he's also neurotic like me. (Laughter). Please, don't laugh! This is exactly what is happening in the world. Now why do I become neurotic? Everything in the world as it exists now, the society, the family, the parents, the children - they have no love. Do you think there would be wars if they had love? Do you think there would be governments that consider it is perfectly all right for you to be killed? Such a society would never exist if your mother and father really loved you, cared for you, looked after you and taught you how to be kind to people, how to live and how to love. These are the outer pressures and demands that bring about this neurotic society; there are also the inner compulsions and urges within ourselves, our innate violence inherited from the past, which help to make up this neurosis, this imbalance. So this is the fact - most of us are slightly off balance, or more, and it's no use blaming anybody. The fact is that one is not balanced psychologically, mentally, or sexually; in every way we are off balance. Now the important thing is to become aware of it, to know that one is not balanced, not how to become balanced. A neurotic mind cannot become balanced, but if it has not gone to the extremes of neurosis, if it has still retained some balance, it can watch itself. One can then become aware of what one does, of what one says, of what one thinks, how one moves, how one sits, how one eats, watching all the time but not correcting. And if you watch in such a manner, without any choice, then out of that deep watching will come a balanced, sane, human being; then you will no longer be neurotic. A balanced mind is a mind that is wise, not made up of judgments and opinions.

Questioner: Where does thought end and silence begin?

Krishnamurti: Have you ever noticed a gap between two thoughts? Or are you thinking all the time without an interval? Do you understand the question?

Questioner: No.

Krishnamurti: Is there an interval between two thoughts? Is the question clear?

Questioner: Yes.

Krishnamurti: Or is this the first time you have been asked such a question! I want to find out, Sir, what silence is. Is silence the cessation of noise? Is it like the peace which exists between two wars? Or is it the interval between two thoughts? Or has it nothing whatever to do with any of this? If silence is the cessation of thought, the cessation of noise, then it is fairly easy to suppress noise, that is, noise being chatter - you stop chattering. Is that silence?

Or is silence a state of mind that is no longer confused, no longer afraid. So where does silence begin? Does it begin when thought ends? Have you ever tried to end thought?

Questioner: When the mind radically changes speed, it is a quiet mind.

Krishnamurti: Yes, Sir, but have you ever tried stopping thought?

Questioner: How do you do it?

Krishnamurti: I don't know, but have you ever tried it? First of all, who is the entity who is trying to stop it?

Questioner: The thinker.

Krishnamurti: It's another thought, isn't it? Thought is trying to stop itself, so there is a battle between the thinker and the thought. Please, watch this conflict very carefully. Thought says, "I must stop thinking because then I shall experience a marvellous state", or whatever the motive may be, so you try to suppress thought. Now the entity that is trying to suppress thought is still part of thought, isn't it? One thought is trying to suppress another thought, so there is conflict, a battle is going on. When I see this as a fact - see it totally, understand it completely, have an insight into it, in the sense that gentleman used the word - then the mind is quiet. This comes about naturally and easily when the mind is quiet to watch, to look, to see.

Questioner: When self-centred activity ceases, what motivates action?

Krishnamurti: Find out first what happens when self-centred activity comes to an end, then you won't ask the question, then you will see the beauty of action in itself, then you won't need a motive, because motive is part of self-centred activity; when that self-centred activity is not, action has no motive and is therefore true, righteous and free.



Editor's last word:

"Not knowing, you believe!" - a great explanation on how thought not only is the product of the past but so easily steps over the line into fear-based cultism.

Also, very noteworthy, trying very hard to stop thinking is just one thought trying to suppress another thought. And, if all thought is "old," the produce of the past, then to be creative we need to stop thinking.