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Word Gems 

exploring self-realization, sacred personhood, and full humanity


Jiddu Krishnamurti
1895 - 1986

We are hardly aware of our inward psychological structure and its dangers, much less so than physical dangers. Our thinking is the result of conditioning by society, and we adopt habits to gain a measure of security.




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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 2, Brockwood Park, England - 07 September 1969

I THINK ONE of our major problems is to be sufficiently sensitive, not only to one's own idiosyncrasies, fallacies and troubles, but also to be sensitive to others. Living in this mechanical world - the job, success, competition, ambition, social status and prestige - such living makes for insensitivity to the psychological dangers. One is aware of the danger of physical insecurity - not having enough money, proper health, clothes and shelter and so on. About all that, one is fairly sensitive, and naturally so. But we are hardly aware of our inward psychological structure; one feels that one lacks the finesse, sensitivity and intelligence necessary to deal with the inward problems.

Why is it that we are not as aware of the psychological dangers as we are of the physical ones? We are well aware of the outward dangers - the precipice, poison, snakes, wild animals, or the dangers of war, the destructive nature of it. Why is it that we are not completely aware, inwardly, of the psychological dangers such as nationalism, the conflict within oneself, the danger of ideologies, concepts and formulas, the danger of accepting authority of any kind, the danger of this constant battle between human beings, however closely they may be related?

If some of us are aware of those dangers how do we deal with them? Either we escape from them, suppress them, try to forget them, or leave it to time to resolve them. We do all this because we do not know what to do. Or, if we have read a great deal, we try to apply what others have said. So there is never a direct contact with the problem. It is always through trying to overcome these psychological dangers, or suppressing them, trying to force ourselves to understand them, it is never a direct communion with the issue. And, of course, the whole modern structure of psychology, the psychologists and analysts they tell us what we are. They ask us to study the animal so that we will understand ourselves better. Obviously we are the result of the animal, but we have to understand ourselves not through the animal or through Freud or Jung or any other specialist, but by actually seeing what we are - understanding it, not through some other person's eyes but with our own eyes, with our own heart, our own mind. And when we do that, all sense of following another, all sense of authority, comes to an end. I think that is very important. Then we do something directly, for its own sake, not because somebody else tells us. And I think that is the beginning of what it means to love.

So, can we be aware of, or become sensitive to the psychological dangers we have so carefully cultivated? When we do become aware of them, how are we to deal with them? Are they to be dissolved through analysis, through introspection? Do we understand the dangers of the psychoanalytical process, whether done by a professional or by oneself? Do the dangers disappear, does time dissolve them? Or are they dissolved by escaping, by suppression, transmutation, or by ignoring them through boredom?

As the person to be analysed is conditioned, so also is the analyser, whether it be a professional or not - conditioned by his background, by his particular idiosyncrasies and his knowledge of what Jung or Freud or some other modern expert has to say about it. If the professional cannot help us to dissolve completely the psychological danger in which we live, then what are we to do? If analysis is not the way, because that involves time and if you analysed yourself very carefully, step by step, your analysis must be so free, without any prejudice or bias, each experiment, each testing must be so complete that the next analysis does not carry over the knowledge of the past; otherwise you are using that which is dead to try to understand that which is living. All this involves time and if one has to analyse everything every day, one has neither the time nor the energy. One might be able to do it towards the end of one's life, but by then life is finished.

One might try to understand oneself through one's dreams. Probably most of us dream a great deal, and it is said that unless we dream, we may go mad, and that dreaming is a necessary part of existence. But one must question this understanding of oneself through dreams. They, again, need interpretation; and who is to interpret them - the professional, or yourself? Such interpretation must be done very carefully and correctly. Are you capable of that?

If one questions the necessity of dreaming, a totally different avenue may open up. During the day there are all these strains and stresses, the ugly quarrels, the nagging, the fears, the bullying of others and so on - there is this constant and conscious everyday struggle. Why should these struggles continue when one goes to sleep? Sleep may have a totally different meaning altogether. I think it has. Why cannot the brain, which has been so active throughout the day, protecting itself, thinking and planning, rest completely quiet when it goes to sleep, so that when it wakes up the next morning it is rejuvenated, fresh and unburdened? I do not know if you have experimented with this - not according to the experts, but for yourself. If you have gone into it sufficiently deeply, I am sure you will have found that a brain that is so quiet, so relaxed, so extraordinarily alert and orderly, arrives at a different state altogether. I think sleep has great significance in this way. But if sleep is a constant process of thought, of movement and reaction of the brain, then that sleep is a disturbance, and in that there is no rest.

So is it possible not to dream at all, knowing that unless there is order in our daily existence, we must dream, as that is a way of receiving intimations from the unconscious. So can the brain be so awake during the day - so free to observe and examine all its own reactions, its conditioning, its fears, motives, anxieties, guilts, neither suppressing nor avoiding anything - so awake that there is order? It is extraordinarily interesting if you go into all this yourself, not letting somebody else do it for you. You see, unless there is order, the brain is disturbed - which means a neurotic state, because a disorderly life is a neurotic state. And the more disorderly it is, the more the dreams and tensions go on. The brain demands order because in order there is security. Any animal constantly shaken and disturbed will feel very insecure and go mad also.

So the brain demands order - not order according to a design or blueprint, or what society calls order. What society regards as order is actually disorder. The brain needs order to be completely secure. It must be secure, not in the sense that it must resist, guard or isolate itself; but it is only secure, orderly, when there is tremendous understanding. Otherwise, when you go to sleep, there is a great deal of disturbance, with the brain continuing to try to put things in order.

Dreams, analyses, time, do not solve our psychological dangers and problems. Time is postponement, time is involved as the distance between the fact and the idea of 'what should be' - I will eventually become good - all this involves time. When thought creates time, it brings about disorder. Time is actually a form of laziness. But, in the face of physical danger, you don't have time or use time, saying, 'I will act later: you act immediately.

So time, analysis, dreams, suppression, sublimation, or any form of escape from, or conflict with the problem, does not solve it. Then what is one to do? I don't know if you have faced the problem by facing the issue, that is, through negation? Because we have said, analysis is not the way, we have understood what is implied in it, not because somebody has said so, but we have examined it, experimented with it and observed it; then we have put it aside. Through negation of what is considered the positive, we can then face the fact. Now, are we prepared to put aside this whole technique of analysis and introspection completely? In that question a great deal is involved, especially as most of us live in the past - we are the past. What happened yesterday shapes the present and so tomorrow. Every day we are being reborn in the shadow of yesterday; in asking whether the mind can be made fresh it is essential to view this whole question of analysis with clarity, and find out for ourselves where memory (which is the past) and the action of memory is necessary; also where it is totally unnecessary and dangerous.

Supposing you insulted me yesterday, why should I carry that burden today? Or you may have flattered me; why should I let it influence me today? Why cannot I finish with it immediately, whilst you are insulting or flattering me? That would mean that I would have to be extraordinarily awake and sensitive as you talked, alert to both your insult and your flattery. As most of us live in the past our whole brain is the result of the past, of time, of conditioning. With this we are continually responding and reacting: that there is a God, or there is no God, we belong to this sect or that, we are Communists, or Socialists, a Catholic or a non-Catholic, and so on. So the past, modified, yields the present and the future. Without memory, you would not be able to leave this tent, knowing neither your name nor where you belonged; you cannot live in a state of amnesia. So great watchfulness, that is, great sensitivity and therefore great intelligence is necessary to see where memory is essential and where it is dangerous.

The discarding of all these accepted norms and patterns of existence - that you must analyse, that you must follow, that you must obey, be ambitious, greedy, envious, be moral according to the edicts of society (and therefore actually immoral) - such discarding can only come about through the understanding of them. If you do not reject them, you are not free; and if you do reject them - that is, if you are capable of rejecting them - it cannot be through mere revolt; that would have no meaning. How, then, is the mind to be aware of itself and its dangers, and, being so aware, what will it do? Having put aside analysis, the sense of time, suppression and all that, how will it deal with the thing of which it is aware? I hope I have made the problem clear. What is the state of the mind when it has put aside all these things, like analysis, time, the understanding of memory, the futility of suppression or escape and the fallacy of ideologies? Surely it has become extraordinarily sensitive, hasn't it? - not only to the outer but also to the inner. Being highly sensitive and intelligent, how is it going to deal with the fact that it is jealous, or angry, or whatever it is? Not through analysis, all that is out. What will it do, how will it act? And the action must be tested, it must show in form as well as in essence, which means the form must change, because the essence is also changing.

So what is the state of the mind that is aware of its own sorrow - let us use that word for the moment - and how will it deal with it? Can there be any sensitivity if there is a space between the thing that is observed and the observer? Am I sensitive to my wife, or to my neighbour, or to the community, if there is an isolating movement within me, a movement of resistance, of opinion? There would be no relationship and therefore no sensitivity. But, having discarded the fairly obvious things, such as analysis and so on, my mind has become extraordinarily sensitive and therefore it is no longer divided in itself as the observer and the observed.

But the mind is always testing: when there is no separation between the observer and the observed, then there is no conflict; therefore there is immediate action. The mind is aware that it is jealous, gossipy, stupid, envious - those are its reactions, responses. Being sensitive, it has immediate and intimate contact with that feeling, with that reaction, so there is immediate action. Which means there is no jealousy and the mind is going to test it. Such a mind, then, is a constant movement, a constant watchfulness, and therefore it is capable of immediate action when necessary.

Questioner: Sir, there is a part of the mind which is moving mechanically and which runs along in spite of awareness of what it is doing. I am aware of certain things going on - emotions and reactions, memories of the past, and so on. But they don't get completely resolved, there is still the sense of separation because the mind is mechanical, it is a habit.

Krishnamurti: How is one to be free of a habit - not any particular habit, but habit in general? That is, how is one to be free of the habit of smoking, for example, and the whole machinery of habit in which one lives, the routine?

Questioner: You were speaking of sleep just now, and dreaming in sleep. Surely during the daytime we are also dreaming in a way. Below the surface our minds are dreaming all the time. This is the type of habit I mean.

Krishnamurti: Yes - a habit: the habit of daydreaming, of smoking, of thinking according to a certain formula, the habit of pleasure - we all know what habit means. I was born an Indian, I am going to be an Indian and think as an Indian - that is my habit, the tradition. Can we go into that?

Questioner: Are not some habits very deeply inherited from our primitive ancestors?

Krishnamurti: Obviously. The habit of violence is inherited from the animal. We have the habit of obeying and so on.

Questioner: Would you call an instinct a habit?

Krishnamurti: Maybe. The instinct to kill! You see a little insect and you don't like it, so you tread on it. The instinct to own a property and say, 'It's mine, I'm going to build a wall round it'. The instinct that she is my wife and nobody must touch her or look at her, 'my family', 'my country', 'my God'. First of all we must ask whether there are good habits and bad habits, or is there only habit?

Questioner: Are there not good hygienic habits? (laughter)

Questioner: Is love a habit?

Krishnamurti: We shall go into that presently. Is habit right or good in itself, whether hygienic, sexual, instinctual or acquired? We cultivate habits. I've learned how to clean my teeth, and do it very carefully for two or three days, then I get into the habit of it and forget it, because it has become a routine. We are questioning whether habit has any value at all.

Questioner: Cleaning and such things perhaps leave us freer?

Questioner: Why not call them necessities?

Krishnamurti: Habit leaves us free to have other habits! Why do we have habits at all? is it to have more time for other things? That's what that lady said. Will it give you freedom from habit if you have certain habits? This is a serious question, don't laugh it off. I cultivate certain habits in the hope that I shall have more time to do what is necessary. Does it give me freedom?

Questioner: Habit comes about by conditioning, so therefore you won't be free.

Krishnamurti: That's just it, Sir. Therefore we are questioning the whole value of habit. Habit makes the mind dull, insensitive and sleepy. By doing the same things over and over again, day after day - like those people who go on repeating certain words or mantras day after day - obviously the mind is made dull and stupid and quiet.

Questioner: I think that is not the same as cleaning one's teeth. (laughter) Why should we be so aware of that?

Krishnamurti: Why should we have a habit about anything? If cleaning my teeth has become a habit, then I am not paying attention and it may do my teeth a great deal of damage. Take one's sexual habit - it is routine. And that we call love. Is love a habit? We cultivate habits because we want to be secure. We stick to the same food and the same neighbours; we are sure of them. I am sure of my husband, my wife, my children. They are habits. So I see to it that I am surrounded by complete security.

Habit is an avoidance of any questioning, of any further investigation, exploration, of putting things to the test. Can the mind be awake and not form habits? Do please investigate, find out, and be awake when you are cleaning your teeth - and therefore highly hygienic (laughter). See that the mind doesn't go to sleep or get dull through habit.

Questioner: Playing a cello, the more a musician has learnt to play by habit the less he has to concentrate on the mechanical aspect. He can develop artistic expression.

Krishnamurti: We were talking about this to a musician the other day; he said that to fall into a habit is the very last thing to do; one is learning all the time and therefore habit has no place.

Questioner: I think there is a different intelligence; we cannot call the playing of an instrument a habit. It is like driving a car: after a time the automatic nervous system deals automatically with the threat of possible danger. A form of intelligence is operating.

Krishnamurti: That's just it. So don't let us talk about good habits and bad habits at all, but question whether the mind, which has been so conditioned in habits, can uncondition itself from all habit - habit being the tradition, having an opinion and sticking to it, insisting it is right, believing or not believing in God, calling oneself a Catholic, or a Hindu, or a Buddhist. Have an opinion, but if it's wrong, change it immediately. But why should one have opinions about anything?

Questioner: But, Sir, you have feelings and you express opinions based upon experience in your life.

Krishnamurti: I don't think I'm expressing opinions, I am just stating facts. It is not an opinion to call this a microphone.

Questioner: You can call it something else.

Krishnamurti: No, I am not calling it something else. I am jealous - full stop. It is not an opinion, it is a fact. I am angry; it is not a conclusion - it is so. I am angry. I am violent. But when I begin to explain what violence is and what you must do about it - that it should be tackled in this way or that - all that is opinion and conclusion. But in facing the fact that one is violent, there is no explaining and no need for opinion. I am brown - there it is; but to say that I shouldn't be brown or that I wish I were a little lighter, because that might be more popular and all the rest of it - that is silly.

Can we now pursue this to the very end? Can the mind be aware of the habit, whatever it is, and end it instantly, not taking months or years over it? That is only possible when your whole being is aware of that fact, not just a part of your being, not just superficial conscious awareness but being aware of that particular habit - say smoking - with the totality of your being. It means being totally aware of every- thing that is involved in that habit - the occupation of your hands, your resistance, your pleasure, the poisoning of the body by drugs and the body demanding more of it and so on; or those people who are constantly frowning or doing something or other with their hands or face. So that the immediate perception is the immediate action and the ending of it. But if you say, 'Well, I will take time', you are already finished. The sharpness, the intelligence, the sensitivity of the mind is in the action and the testing of that action.

Questioner: What do you mean by the testing of that action?

Krishnamurti: Find out - test it. If I smoke, I want to find out all about it, go into it completely. And if I know at the end of it whether to drop it or not to drop it - I have tested it. So habit in any form makes the mind dull, whether it is the habit of pleasure, or the avoidance of pain as a habit. That means, to be on one's toes all the time, watching. It means to learn; learning is not habit, it is a constant process. Habit forms when you have accumulated through learning, which is knowledge; you say, I have knowledge, I know. It is only the stupid man who says, 'I know'. If there is constant learning, how can there be habit? How can habit exist at all?



Editor's last word:

Habit, if serving some useful purpose, is generally viewed as a good thing. But K, schooled in the primacy of awareness, sees it differently.

Habit is just one more aspect of the brain’s conditioning, making it “dull, insensitive, and sleepy.” The fact that we might engage in some beneficial utilitarian activity while under the influence of auto-pilot is no compensation, says K.

See the article on "habit" for further discussion.

“Wise living consists perhaps less in acquiring good habits than in acquiring as few habits as possible.” Eric Hoffer