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Word Gems 

exploring self-realization, sacred personhood, and full humanity


Jiddu Krishnamurti
1895 - 1986

If the mind, as some say, is an inner cosmos, with a depth and infinitude rivaling that of the outer, then, why does the mind so often feel small and overwhelmed with "the chattering" in the head?




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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, New Delhi - 17 December 1970

I think before we go into the rather complex subject of death, we ought to consider what time is, and in relation to time we should also examine what space is, because they are interrelated. No problem, however complex it is, is isolated. Every problem is related to other problems, so we cannot possibly separate one problem, one issue, and discard the others. In understanding it completely, going to the very end of it with reason, logic, sanity, objectivity, we will be able to solve all other problems.

When one considers what is happening in the world and also in this country - the confusion, the deterioration, the corruption, the division, the great suffering - it behoves that all of us should change, should bring about a different world, should create a totally different social structure, not only here in India, but in the world, because we are part of the world. And in seeing the utter chaos, the great confusion and misery, it seems to me, we must not take politics by itself or the economic situation of a particular culture, or separate all this from science, but take the whole movement of life, whether it is in the laboratory or in the field of economics, or in the so-called religious field. It should all be taken as a whole, and that is our problem - not to fragment it, not to divide it, but to take the whole movement of life as a unit and deal with it. And in this movement of life there is time, space, love and death.

We are apt to separate death from life and life from love, as though it was something apart from time. So to understand what death is one must also understand the question of time and love and that is what we are going to do this evening. We must together examine, understand, communicate, talk it over, share together, which means that you must be equally intense, passionate, try to find out and not depend on the speaker. When we are considering this problem, which is very complex and needs all our attention and naturally our passion - because without passion you cannot possibly understand anything - and as we said, passion comes out of the flame of sorrow, and without understanding the meaning, the depth of sorrow, one will not have the energy, the vitality, the passion to investigate and find out for ourselves what love is and what death is.

We are going first to consider what time is. There is the time by the watch, but is there any other time at all? Time involves process, the gradual becoming, the changing "what is" into what should be. The traditional approach to change involves time, does it not? I am this and I must change to that, or become that - and that involves time, gradualness. And is there such a thing as psychological becoming, psychological evolution at all? Time involves the whole process of thought. Thought is time, and as we pointed out the other day, thought breeds, sustains fear.

To understand that extraordinary thing called death, the ending, of which we are so frightened, we must really comprehend for ourselves what time is, why thought has invented time apart from chronological time. Is there a psychological inward becoming, transforming, changing? If you are a part of time, a sequence, a process, then you will have to accept time as a means of achievement. And what then is change, is psychological change? We are not talking about the biological evolution.

As we pointed out earlier, from the bullock cart to the jet plane there is a tremendous evolutionary process, a vast accumulated knowledge, and to accumulate knowledge involves time. Apart from that, is there a process, a gradualness, a continuity of change or is there a psychological revolution in which time does not exist at all?

The moment you admit process, gradualness, you will have to have time, as on that all our traditions are based - the practice, the method, the becoming and not becoming. The whole of that structure involves time, promising at the end of it you will have enlightenment, understanding. Can there be understanding through time at all, or is it a perception which is immediate and is therefore immediate change?

Is it possible to break the chain of continuity, the movement from "what is" to what should be? Or is there a total mutation of "what is", not involving time? To find that out one must totally discard all the traditional approach, which is through gradualness, through practice, through sustained effort, because all that involves conflict. Please do understand this very simple factor: where there is conflict there is division, the division between the thinker and the thought, between the observer and the thing he wishes to observe, which is the observed. In that division there must inevitably be conflict because there are other factors involved in it, there are other pressures, other happenings which change what was cause into effect and the effect becomes the cause. Do you follow? So all that involves time.

When you go to your guru - if you have one - he will tell you what to do, which involves time, and you accept it, because you are so greedy, you want to find something which through time you hope to find. You accept and you are caught in this field of time which is bondage. Now we are investigating this fact that where there is psychological time there is a movement from "what is" to what should be, which involves conflict, and where there is conflict, the mind must be distorted, and a mind that is distorted can never find what is true. That is a simple fact.

If I want to see very clearly, I must have an eyesight that is clear, unclouded without any distortion; and there is distortion when there is effort, and effort means time. This is not logic, it may sound logical, reasonable, healthy, sane, but it is not logic; it is direct perception of what is false, because, after all, the function of the brain is to perceive clearly, to see what is false, and when you see this whole traditional approach of gradual becoming as a process, when you see that it is totally false, then your mind has clarity.

Now, can the mind see directly the falseness of this idea of gradualness, see it, as you see this microphone, see clearly, so that the mind will never touch it at all? That is, in the seeing of the danger of an animal, of a serpent, of a dangerous, savage beast, the very seeing of it is instant action. Do you follow all this?

So perception involves a mind that is not caught in the bondage of time. Do please understand this. Once you understand this fact, your whole structure of thought changes.

Perception and understanding do not involve time at all. What is involved is seeing clearly, and to see clearly you must have space, space not only outwardly but inward space. That means space in the mind. You know when a man is chattering, he is filled with knowledge, knowledge being the past, apart from the technological knowledge which is necessary. When the mind is crowded with the knowledge of the events of yesterday, the pain of yesterday, the various remembrances of yesterday when the mind is crowded, there is no space, and where there is no space, there is conflict.

You know, one of the factors of violence in the world is overpopulation, like in a crowded city when every street is full of people there is no space, and man needs space outwardly. Scientists have made experiments - I have been told by a friend - on rats, on mice. When many of them had been put in a very small space, then they fight each other, the mother destroys the baby, there is complete disorientation. And that is what is happening in the world, that is what is happening in every large town, overcrowded, over-populated ; and one of the factors is this lack of space outwardly. And the other factor is when the mind and the brain also are burdened with so many memories, so many experiences, which is knowledge, there is no space at all.

So you need space so that conflict ends inwardly, and we ask why is there not space at all? Have you ever watched your own mind objectively, looked at it, how restless, chattering, remembering, how crowded and confused it is? How does this happen? Why is the mind never empty, therefore full of space and the beauty of space?


Editor's note: This is an interesting question. If the mind, as some say, rightly, I think, is an inner cosmos, with a depth and infinitude rivaling that of the outer cosmos, then, why does the mind so often feel small and overwhelmed with "the chattering" in the head? This is very interesting. 


You know when you look from a hilltop you see the whole horizon, the vast sky, the beauty of it and the stillness of it. Why has the mind no space at all? You are asking this question, I am not asking you to ask it. You know isolation creates the space [that is, a space filled with 'me,' filled with resistance against all others]. Isolation is a form of resistance, and where there is resistance, there is a limited space. I resist a new idea, a new way of living, I resist any disparagement of tradition, I resist my beliefs. So within that resistance, within that wall, there is a very small limited space. Have you not noticed it? And this resistance is part of will - "I must do this, I should not do that, I want this."

Will is the factor of resistance, and will is part of thought which says there must be an achievement, there must be change, I must become something.

So the factor of not having space is this isolating process of thought as the "me". The activity of thought as the "me" creates a very small space [because its filled with resistance] within a very limited area and this small area is time-binding, and because it is a small area it must chatter [that is, it must be preoccupied with 'me' because 'me' fills the space], it must act, it must move, tremble.

Any activity of resistance, which is the action of will, must limit and isolate the space in which the "me", the "I", the self-centred action is going on. Do you see this? Therefore there is a duality, the "me" and the "not-me", what is beyond the wall of resistance and what is inside the wall which is the "me". And there is the will in the sense of assertion, dominance, ambition to be, the desire for power, position, prestige, which each one wants. Not only the politician, but also you want it, otherwise you wouldn't elect the politician. So if you see that - not intellectually, not verbally or logically - see how the mind is limited, small, enclosed in an action of a very small area, and as long as that area is very limited, there must be conflict, and therefore, there is no space.

So, can there be action without will? Traditionally you are brought up on the action of will - "I must, I must not" - and therefore, the "must" and "must not", the "do" and the "don't" is a form of resistance [in the form of 'me' versus 'not me'], and therefore, the action is born of will and therefore limited. Now look at it. You have a habit of smoking, if you smoke. If you resist it, say "I will not smoke", then there is conflict. Can you drop it, the habit, without any resistance? And you will only drop it if you understand the whole nature and machinery of habit-forming, which we won't go into now. That is not the point involved.

So when there is space in which time [that is, time to become something new] does not exist at all, which is time in the sense psychologically, then there is no conflict whatsoever, but out of that space you can act without the action of resistance and will. You see, one must find out a new way of living, a new way of acting, and the old traditional way does not lead to a new action. It is a repetitive action, and to find and to act in a totally different way, one must have this quality of mind in which there is complete freedom of space. So time is thought and time is sorrow.

Now with that understanding let us find out what death is. Or shall we talk first what love is? Because, if you do not know what love is, you do not know what death is. What is love, Sir? Is love pleasure, is love desire, is love associated with sex, what is this thing that we call love? Is it part of hate? In it is there jealousy, anxiety? Can a man who is ambitious, seeking power, position, can he ever know what love is? When you say "I love my family, husband, wife or the girl or the boy", what does it mean? And without finding out for yourself really deeply what that word means, how can you ever find out the meaning and depth of death? Is love a matter of time, something to be cultivated, something to be practised? Do you think it is to be practised, something your guru will tell you what to do, at the end of which will achieve love? Is it the result of thought, time, a process?

And why have human beings throughout the world given such tremendous significance to sex, which they call love? Have you noticed in your own life why sex has become such an all-consuming and important thing, why? Well, Sirs, do answer it.

To find out, you have to ask why your life, the daily living with all its conflict, suffering, the agony, the everyday brutality, why your daily life has become mechanical? Isn't your life very mechanical - going to the office every day, following the tradition every day, establishing certain patterns of activity and going on with them for the rest of your life? God or no God or higher self, lower self - you know all that. You know it would be a marvellous thing if you said to yourself "I will never repeat anything I do not know" that you yourself have not completely understood - not repeat what somebody has said, not the Gita, the Koran, the Bible, or your favourite sacred book. Because that has become a habit, a routine. Do find out what happens if you say to yourself "I will never repeat a word that I have not myself understood, that I have not heard from another."

So when you observe you will see that your life has become extraordinarily mechanical. Do you see that? There is nothing to be ashamed about. It is a fact whether you like it or not, sex is the only thing that you have, which, is free, which soon becomes also a habit; and all this thing you call love, love of God, devotion to your guru, to your idol, the hero, is it love? The truth of that beauty will be found only when you have completely dropped everything that is mechanical.

Have we time to go into this question of death now? We have talked for fifty minutes. Shall we go into it now? What is death of which we are so dreadfully frightened? What is it? Simply put: coming to an end. I have lived for forty, fifty, twenty, eight years, I have accumulated so much, so many things, so much money, I have indulged in certain activities, ugly and beautiful, I have gathered so much experience, I have cultivated virtue, I have identified myself with my family. And I cry when I leave, not knowing what is going to happen to me. I am afraid of my own loneliness.

And you want to find out if this ends, is there something after, that is, this movement of life, which is not living at all - this endless battle which you call life, living, struggle - and will that continue next life? Or you say to yourself "this is permanent, there is something permanent in me, the Atman, the super-ego, whatever you like to call it, there is something permanent". Please listen to this carefully, because that is part of your tradition, not only here, but right through the world, this tradition that there is a permanent something inside you which will take shape next life. So is there anything permanent? Thought has put all this together, hasn't it, thought saying "I am frightened, I am anxious, I love, I am full of fear, I may lose my job, I want a bigger house, more furniture, more applause, I must have power, position, prestige"? All that is the product of thought, it is created by thought, of everyday activity, the image which thought has put together.

Now is there anything permanent? The moment you think about there being a permanent thing like the Atman - whatever you like to call it - the moment you think about it, it is already the product of thought. And thought is not permanent. Thought is old, it is never free, thought is never new, because thought is the response of memory and that's all you have - memory, words, the recognition, the association, the identification, that is all you are.

Editor's note: I would have to disagree with K on this. A sense of something permanent within us does not have to be the product of thought. I would say that when we gather the energies, which process K defines as 'meditation,' we also perceive this new state of 'no time' and 'no space' as something outside the mundane and of another dimension. K does not believe in, or professes to have no experience of, an afterlife, which is strange given his devotion to the timeless world; to say nothing of the scientific evidence of the afterlife.

Do face it, look at it, you are your furniture, you are your bank account, you are your memories, your pleasures, your hurts, your anxieties, you are all that, and you don't know how to solve it, how to be free of it. Therefore you begin to say there must be some permanent thing which is beyond all this, that must be there. And so thought, thinking about it creates the permanent, the Atman, and what it thinks about, it can produce and thought is of that.

If there is something real, something which is beyond time, time must never touch it. That is, thought can never touch it. So when you state one of your traditions, one of your beliefs - your belief in reincarnation, which is karma, past life, future life, and all the rest of it, if you really believe in reincarnation - it means that you must behave now. You must be righteous now, not tomorrow. You must have rectitude now not next life, which means that you have to pay tremendous attention to what you are doing now. Because if you don't, and yet you believe in that, you are going to pay for it. And it is just a comforting idea - this everlasting talking about what will happen in next life - is there something permanent?' Will I continue in next reincarnation?

So you are not religious, you are just verbalizing in order to have some comfort, because you don't know how to meet death. See all the deceptions, all the hypocrisies you live through because of fear. See the falseness of all your ways, which is time that says "I will believe in next life, I will be good, I will cultivate virtue, I will be less brutal, less violent." All that involves time. You are frightened of this thing called death, the ending of the things that you have called living - the living which is your anxiety, your fears, your furniture, your petty little things that you have collected as the Hindu, the Sikh, the Muslim, the Christian. That is what you have collected, words, words, because in that you seek shelter and comfort. You do not know how to face this enormous, thing called death, which is the ending of the things known - not something unknown, because one is never frightened of the unknown. You don't know what the unknown is.

Editor's note: For K, a belief in an afterlife is just an empty thought-form, one more belief-system, grounded in fear. As such, he defines death as a giving up of thoughts rooted in the fear of 'coming to an end.'

What you are really frightened of is the ending of the known. Do look at it, please. It is your life, not the speaker's - your customs, your habits, the traditions, the accumulation of your memories, the so-called love of the family. You really do not love the family, you do not love your children.. If you did love them with your heart and with your brain, then you would have a different kind of education, you would not offer them what you are offering now.

What are you offering for the young generation, what have you to offer them, have you ever considered what you, the older generation, have to offer the younger? Your beliefs? And they watch how hypocritical you are. Your office, going day after day, routine - is that what you are offering to the younger generation? Business, politics, army, your social morality which is utterly immoral, is that what you are offering to them? And any intelligent boy, any student watching all this says "I won't touch it". You understand, Sir?

So what you are frightened of [what death really is, according to K] is the ending of your memories - words, the word "God", the word "Atman", words like reality, of which you know absolutely nothing, because you merely repeat what somebody has written in some book, and you think that book is sacred because people have said it is sacred. But if you say "I will never say a word which I do not know, I will never repeat something which I have not lived", it means the ending of everything that you know - death is that - the ending. When you end, there can be a new thing. When there is a continuity of time as the "me", as "my habits, my agonies, my despairs", which I call living and want that to continue, then there is fear of death. But I know if the mind is aware that it can end the anxiety - not how, there is no "how", then you will know what it means to die every day, so that every day is a new day. The mind then is completely fresh.

So love has no time. It is not to be cultivated; pleasure can be, and that is what you are doing, and the ending of pleasure is your fear. And, therefore, your highest form of pleasure is not only sexual but also the highest is to imagine that there is something, God, to which you are devoted. Do you understand? So to find out the beauty of love and death, you have to die every day to every memory that you have. Try it, do it, die to the memory of your pleasure. Take one pleasure that you have had, drop it instantly. That is what death is going to do.

Editor's note: K has taken a good principle too far. When we die, when the moral body dies, we retain all of our memories, they do not go away.

You are not going to argue with death.

Editor's note: We can 'argue' with death, because there is no death, but only continuity of consciousness. K has defined 'death' to conform to his own belief that there is no survival of consciousness. All this acknowledged, there is still an element of truth to what he says here, in that, we are to die to the slavery of the ego's alliance with the past, the oppression of thought which is linked to "what happened" and a salvation in the future where we can escape a present sense of 'not being enough'. All this is valid, but K goes to far.

You cannot say "But leave me some few remembrances, Please". So you can die every day. You will know what the beauty of that thing is, because out of that ending there is a newness, totally, entirely different. But you cannot possibly come upon it unless you know what it means to live without a breath of effort.



Editor's last word: