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First Public Talk in New York

Monday, September 26, 1966

First Talk in New York, 1966

It is always rather difficult to communicate. Words must be used, and each word has a certain definite meaning, but we should bear in mind that the word is not the thing; the word does not convey the total significance. If we semantically stick to words, then I'm afraid that we shall not be able to proceed much further. To communicate really deeply needs not only attention but also a certain quality of affection – which doesn't mean that we must accept what is said or that we must not be critical. We must not only be alert intellectually, but we must avoid the pitfall of words. To really communicate with another about anything, there should also be a certain quality of direct affection, a certain quality of exchange, with full capacity to investigate, to examine. Then only can communication take place. Perhaps there will be a communication with each other here because we are going to deal with many subjects, many problems, during these talks. We are going to go into them fairly deeply. To understand what the speaker is saying, there must be a certain quality of attention in listening.

Very few of us listen because we ourselves have so many ideas, so many opinions, so many conclusions and beliefs, which actually prevent the act of listening. To listen to another is one of the most difficult things to do. We are so ready with our own opinions, our own conclusions. We are likely to interpret, agreeing or disagreeing, taking sides, or saying, « I don't agree, » and quickly brushing aside what is being said. All that, it seems to me, prevents the act of actually listening. Only when there is a listening which is not merely intellectual is it possible to commune with each other. Any clever person can listen to a certain argument, to a certain exposition of ideas; but to listen with the mind and the heart, with one's total being, requires a great deal of attention. To attend implies not only knowing one's own beliefs, concepts, conclusions, what one wants, and so on, but also putting those aside for the time being and listening.

We have to talk over a great many things because life has so many problems; we are all so confused. Very few have any belief in anything, or faith. There is war; there is insecurity, great anxiety, fear, despair, the agony of daily existence, and the utter boredom and loneliness of it. Beyond all this are the problems of death and love. We are caught in this tremendous confusion. We must understand the totality of it, not the fragment which is very clear, which we want to achieve, not the special conclusion which we think is right, or an opinion, or a belief.

We must take the whole content of existence, the whole history of man: his suffering, his loneliness, his anxiety, the utter hopelessness, meaninglessness of life. If we can do that, not take any particular fragment which may, for the time being, appeal to us or give us pleasure, but rather, as it were, see the whole map – not partially, not fragmentarily – then perhaps we shall be able to bring about a radical revolution in the psyche. That's the main crisis of our life, though there are vast changes going on in the world of science, of mathematics, and all the rest. Technologically there is tremendous change going on, but in the psyche of the human being there is very little change. The crisis is not in the outward technological advancement, but rather in the way we think, the way we live, and the way we feel. That is where a revolution must take place. This revolution cannot be according to any particular pattern because no revolution, psychologically, is possible if there is merely the imitation of a particular ideology. To me, all ideologies are idiotic; they have no meaning. What has meaning is what is, not, what should be. And, to understand what is, there must be freedom to look, not only outwardly, but also inwardly.

Really, there is no division as the outer and the inner. It's a process, a unitary movement; and the moment we understand the outer, we are also understanding the inner. Unfortunately we have divided, broken up life into fragments: the outer, the inner, the good and the bad, and so on. As we have divided the world into nationalities, with all their miseries and wars, we have also divided our own existence into inward and outward. I think that is the worst thing we can do: break up our existence into various fragments. That's where contradiction lies, and most of us are caught in this contradiction, and hence in conflict.

With all the complications, the confusions, the misery, the enormous human effort that has gone to build a society which is getting more and more complex, is it possible, living in this world, to be totally free of all confusion, and therefore of all contradiction, and hence to be free of fear? A mind that is afraid obviously has no peace. Only when the mind is completely and totally free of fear can it observe, can it investigate.

One of our major problems is violence, not only outwardly, but also inwardly. Violence is not merely physical violence, but the whole structure of the psyche is based on violence. This constant effort, this constant adjustment to a pattern, the constant pursuit of pleasure and therefore the avoidance of anything which gives pain, discarding the capacity to look, to observe what is – all these are part of violence. Aggression, competition, the constant comparison between what is and what should be, imitation – all are surely forms of violence. Because man, since historical times, has chosen war as a way of life, our daily existence is a war, in ourselves as well as outwardly: we are always in conflict with ourselves and with others. Is it possible for the mind to be totally free of this violence? We need peace, outwardly as well as inwardly, and peace is not possible if there is not freedom, freedom from this total aggressive attitude toward life.

We all know that there is violence, that there is tremendous hate in the world, war, destruction, competition, each one pursuing his own particular form of pleasure. All that is a way of life which breeds contradiction and violence. We know this intellectually; we have thought about it; statistically we can examine it; intellectually we can rationalize the whole thing and say, « Well, that's inevitable; that is the history of man for the last two million years and more, and we'll go on that way. » Is it possible to bring about a total revolution in the psyche, in oneself, not as an individual? The individual is the local entity: the American, the Indian, the Russian. He can do very little. But we are not local entities; we are human beings. There is no barrier as an Indian, an American, a Russian, a communist, and so on if we regard the whole process of existence as that of a human being, which you and I are, and if we can bring about a revolution there, not in the individual. After all, if you go beyond nationalities, the absurdities of organized religion and superficial culture, as human beings we all suffer; we go through tortures of anxiety. There is sorrow; there is the everlasting search for the good, the noble, and what is generally called God. We are all afraid. If we can bring about a change in the human psyche, then the individual will act quite differently. This implies that there is no division between the conscious and the unconscious. I know it is the fashion to study a great deal about the unconscious. Really there is no such thing. We'll discuss all this later. I'm just outlining what we are going to talk over together during the next five talks.

Is it possible for the human being to totally empty the past so that he is made new and looks at life entirely differently? What we call the unconscious – whether it is fifty years past or two million years past, the racial residue, the tradition, the motives, the hidden pursuits, the pleasures – all this is not the unconscious. It is always in the consciousness. There is only consciousness, although you may not be aware of the total content of that consciousness. All consciousness is limitation, and we are caught in it. We move in this consciousness from one field to another field, calling them by different names; but it is still the conscious. The game we play, as the unconscious, the conscious, the past, the future, and all the rest, is within that field. If we are very aware of our own process of thinking, feeling, acting, we can observe for ourselves how we deceive ourselves, move from one field, from one corner to another. This consciousness is always limited because in this consciousness there is always the observer. Wherever there is the observer, the censor, the watcher, he creates limitation within that consciousness.

Any change or revolution brought about by will, by pleasure, by an avoidance or an escape, by pressure, by strain, by convenience is still within that limit, within that consciousness, and therefore it is always limited, always breeding conflict. If we observe this, not through books, not through psychologists and analysts, but actually, factually, as it takes place in ourselves as human beings, then the question will inevitably arise whether it is possible to be conscious where it is necessary to be conscious – going to the office and similar activities – and to be free of it where consciousness is a limitation. It is not that we go into a trance or amnesia, or some mystical nonsense; but, unless there is freedom from this enclosing consciousness, this time-binding consciousness, we shall not have peace. Peace is not dependent on politicians, on the army; they have too much vested interest. It is not dependent on the priests, nor on any belief. All religions, except one or two perhaps, Buddhism and Hinduism, have always talked peace and entered into war. That's the way of our lives. I feel that if there is no freedom from this limitation of consciousness as time-binding, with its observer as the center, man will go on endlessly suffering.

Is it possible to empty the whole of consciousness, the whole of the mind, with all its tricks and vanities, its deceptions, pursuits and moralities and all that, based essentially on pleasure? Is it possible to be totally free of it all, to empty the mind so that it can look and act and live totally differently? I say that it is possible, but not out of vanity or some superstitious, mystical nonsense. It is possible only when there is a realization that the observer, the center, is the observed.

It requires a great deal of understanding to come to this. It isn't a matter of your sentimentally agreeing or disagreeing. Do you know what understanding means? Surely, understanding is not intellectual, not saying, « I understand your words, the meaning of your words. » That's not understanding, nor is it an emotional agreement, a sentimental affair. There is understanding of any problem, of any issue, when the mind is totally quiet, not induced quietness, not disciplined quietness, but when the mind is completely still. Then there is understanding. Actually this takes place when we have a problem of any kind. We have thought a great deal about it, investigated, examined back and forth, and there is no answer. We more or less push it aside, and the mind becomes quiet with regard to that problem. Suddenly, we have an answer. This happens to many people; it is nothing unusual. Understanding can only come when there is direct perception, not a reasoned conclusion.

Our question then is: How is a man, a human being – not American, not English, nor Chinese – how is a human being to create a new society? He can only create that when there is a total revolution in himself as a human being, when he has no fear at all because he understands the nature of fear, what the structure of fear is, and the meaning of fear. He comes directly into contact with it, not as a thing to be avoided, but as a thing to be understood. Is that possible? Is it possible to understand the whole structure of thought, which is always functioning round a center? Is it possible to understand the whole machinery of thinking, which is the result of memory, since thought is the reaction of memory, and hence the limitation of consciousness? Is it possible to totally not think, to totally function without memory as it now functions?

This brings us to a point: What is the function of idea – idea being the prototype, the formula, the ideal, the concept? Has it any function at all? For us idea is very important, and we act, we function on idea, on concepts, on formulas. A belief is a formula. All our activity is from ideas, or based on ideas, and hence there is a contradiction between act and the idea. I have an idea, an ideal, a belief, and I act according to that, or approximate my action to that. Action can never be the idea. The idea is unreal; the action is real. The idea of a nation, the idea of a certain dogma, such as belief in God, and all other ideas are purely ideological. Is it possible to act without the idea?

Please, this requires a great deal of inquiry because, as long as there is conflict in any form, there must be pain and sorrow, and there must be conflict just as long as there is contradiction. The nature of contradiction is essentially the idea and the fact, the what is. If there is no idea at all, no belief, no dogma, no tomorrow, which is always the ideal, then I can look at what is actually – not translate it in terms of tomorrow, but see actually what is. To understand what is, one need not have ideas. All that one has to do is to observe.

That brings us to the next point, which is: What is observing? What is seeing? I wonder if we ever see, observe, or do we see with the word, with a conclusion, with a name, and therefore they become barriers to seeing? If you say, « Well, he's an Indian from India with all his mystical ideas, or romantic ideas, » and so on, you're not actually seeing. It is only possible to see when thought doesn't function. If you are listening, expecting something, I don't know what, the expectation is preventing you from listening; the idea, the concept, the knowledge prevents you from observing. If you look at a flower, a tree, a cloud, or a bird, whatever it is, immediately your reaction is to give it a name; you like it or dislike it; you have categorized it, put it away as a memory, and you have stopped looking.

Is it possible to look, to see, without all the mentation taking place? Mentation is always thought as an idea, as memory; and there is no direct perception. I do not know if you have observed your friend, your wife, or your husband, just looking. You look at another or listen to another with all the memories of misfortunes, insults, and all the rest. You actually are not listening or seeing. This process of nonobservance is called relationship. [Laughter] Please don't laugh it away, because all this is very serious. This isn't a philosophical lecture which you listen to, and then go home and carry on. Only to the very serious man is there living, is there life. One cannot, with all this appalling confusion, misery, just laugh it away, or go to a cinema and forget all about the beastly stuff. It requires extraordinary, earnest, attentive seriousness, and seriousness is not a reaction. All reactions are limitations, but when one observes, listens, looks, one begins to understand whether it is at all possible for man to be totally free of his conditioning. We are all conditioned: by the food, the clothes, the climate, the culture, the society in which we live. Is it possible to be free of that conditioning, not in some distant future, but instantly? That's why I asked whether it is possible to free the mind totally, empty it completely, so that it is something new. If this does not take place, we are committed to sorrow; we are committed to everlasting fear.

Is it possible to free the mind of the past, totally, and if it is, how can one empty it? In certain fields, past knowledge is essential. One must know where one is going. One can't forget and put aside all the technological knowledge which man has acquired through centuries, but I am talking about the psyche, which has accumulated so many concepts, ideas, experiences, and is caught within this consciousness with the observer as its center.

Having put this question, what is the answer? It is the right question, not an irrelevant question. When one puts the right question, there is the right answer; but it requires a great deal of integrity to put the right question. We have put the right question: Is it possible for man, who has lived for so many centuries and millions of years, who has pursued a path of violence, who has accepted war as a way of life, in daily life as well as on the battlefield, who is everlastingly seeking peace and denying it – is it possible for man to transform himself completely so that he lives totally differently?

Having put the question, who will answer it? Will you look to someone to answer it, some guru, some priest, some psychologist, or are you waiting for the speaker to answer it? If you put the question rightly, the answer is in the question, but very few of us have put that question. We have accepted the norm of life, and to change that requires a great deal of energy. We are committed to certain dogmas, certain beliefs, certain activities as the way of life. We are committed, and we are frightened to change it, not knowing what it will breed.

Can we, realizing the implications of all this, can we honestly put that question? Surely, how we put it matters also. We can put it, ask ourselves intellectually, out of curiosity, out of a moment which we can spare from the daily routine, but that will not answer it. What will answer that question depends on the mind: how earnest it is, how lazy it is, or how indifferent it is to the whole structure and the misery of existence.

Having put that question, we are going to find out. We are going to talk over together, during these five more talks that are to come, how to discover the answer for ourselves, not depending on anyone. There is no authority; there is no guru, no priest who will answer this; and to come to the point where we are not dependent on anyone psychologically is the first, and probably the last, step. Then, when the mind has freed itself from all its diseases, it can find out if there is a reality which is not put together by thought; it can find out if there is such a thing as God. Man has searched, sought after, and hunted that being, and we have to answer that question. Also we have to answer the question of what death is. A society, a human being that does not understand what death is will not know what life is, nor what love is. Merely to accept or deny something which is not of thought is rather immature, but if we would go into it, we must lay the foundation of virtue, which has nothing to do with social morality. We must understand the nature of pleasure, not deny pleasure or accept pleasure, but understand its nature, its structure. And obviously there must be freedom from fear, and hence a mind that is completely free from discontent and wanting more experience. Then only, it seems to me, is it possible to find out if there is something beyond the human fear which has created God.

Questioner: Would you please repeat that very important question the way you asked it?

Krishnamurti: I'm afraid I couldn't do that, could I? That means going all over it again. I will perhaps another day.

Questioner: What is the state of the mind, body, and brain which is energy, the state in which self is not?

Krishnamurti: It is very easy to ask questions, but who is going to answer them? Please do take seriously what I'm saying. Who is going to answer? To put the right question demands a great deal of intelligence. I'm not saying that you're not intelligent, but it requires a great deal of understanding. If you ask a question to confirm your own ideas, if you're asking for confirmation, you're not really asking a question. If you're asking the question to clarify your own confusion, will you ask a question if you know you're confused? Because, out of your confusion you may ask a question, and you will listen to the reply only according to your confusion; therefore, it's not an answer. Or, you ask a question because you can't look, you can't understand, and therefore you want someone's help. The moment you seek help from another psychologically, you're lost. Then you set up the whole structure of hierarchical thinking: the gurus, the priests, the analysts, and all that. To ask a right question is one of the most difficult things, and the moment you have asked the right question, there is the answer – you don't have to ask it even. [Laughter] No, please, this is really serious.

Questioner: Are you setting as the goal of human experience the contemplation of infinity and perfection?

Krishnamurti: I'm afraid I'm not, sir.

Questioner: What do you mean when you talk about the mind being quiet, but not an induced quiet?

Krishnamurti: Sir, I can discipline the mind to be quiet, force it, control it, because I have an idea that the mind should be quiet, because out of that quietness I hope to achieve something, or gain something, or realize something, or experience something. All that is induced quietness; therefore, it's sterile. But quietness is something entirely different, which we can't go into now because it requires a great deal of examination and understanding. That silence comes naturally when there is understanding, when there is no effort.

Questioner: What relation has the observer, my observer, to other observers, to other people?

Krishnamurti: What do we mean by that word relationship? Are we ever related to anyone, or is the relationship between two images which we have created about each other? I have an image about you, and you have an image about me. I have an image about you as my wife or husband, or whatever it is, and you an image about me also. The relationship is between these two images and nothing else. To have relationship with another is only possible when there is no image. When I can look at you and you can look at me without the image of memory, of insults, and all the rest, then there is a relationship, but the very nature of the observer is the image, isn't it? My image observes your image, if it is possible to observe it, and this is called relationship, but it is between two images, a relationship which is nonexistent because both are images. To be related means to be in contact. Contact must be something direct, not between two images. It requires a great deal of attention, an awareness, to look at another without the image which I have about that person, the image being my memories of that person – how he has insulted me, pleased me, given me pleasure, this or that. Only when there are no images between the two is there a relationship.

Questioner: Could you comment on the present use of LSD . . .

Krishnamurti: Ah! [Laughter]

Questioner: . . . for creating that state of imageless relationship?

Krishnamurti: LSD is the newest drug to produce certain effects. In ancient India there existed another of these drugs called soma. The name doesn't matter. Man has tried everything to bring about right relationship between man and man – drugs, escapes, monasteries, dozens and dozens of ideals which one hopes will unify man: the communist ideal, this ideal or that ideal. Now there is this drug. Can an outside agency bring about right relationship, which is imageless relationship? You know we have tried, not chemicals, but a belief as a drug. People in the West have had a belief in Christ, the Buddhists in the Buddha, and so on. They all hoped that their belief would bring people together, but it has not; on the contrary, by their exclusive belief they have created more mischief. As far as I'm concerned, no outside agency, such as a drug, can bring about right relationship. You cannot, through drugs, love another. If you could, then everything would be solved. Why do we give much more importance to a drug than to a belief, to a dogma, to the one savior who is going to bring right relationship? Why emphasize a drug or a belief? Both are detrimental to right relationship. What brings about right relationship is to be totally aware of all one's activities, one's thoughts, one's feelings, and to observe choicelessly what's going on in all relationships. Then out of that comes a relationship which is not based on an idea.

Questioner: You spoke of the relationship of an observer of one human being with that of another, saying that they were both images.

Would that not also hold true in yourself in the alienation of the observer from the rest of the psyche?

Krishnamurti: Of course, surely.

Questioner: I believe that you said that a quiet mind is a natural state, that I don't have to induce it.

Krishnamurti: Is a quiet mind a natural thing? Does it come easily? Obviously not. We want little pills to achieve everything. I said it is a natural outcome when there is the right foundation.

Questioner: You spoke of consciousness being limited Do you mean that this quiet mind is not limited?

Krishnamurti: I'm afraid one has to go into this question of whether it is possible for a mind to be quiet from different facets, different angles. Is it possible for the mind to be quiet? Must it be everlastingly chattering? To understand that, one has to go into the question of thought, and whether the mind, in which is contained the brain, can be quiet though it has its reactions. I'll go into all that later.

Questioner: It's very hard to be honest, and I have the strangest feeling that the only reason we're gathered here in this room is because you are here. I think that's rather sad. Before we come again, if we come again, I think we ought to be a little bit clearer about your role, because we come with a motive; we didn't come here spontaneously.

Krishnamurti: I wonder why you attend any gathering of this kind, any meeting at all. Is it out of curiosity, because you've heard of someone's reputation, and you say, « Well, let's go, » or are you serious in wanting to find out? That, of course, depends on you; no one can answer that.

Questioner: I would like to know about the people who go into samadhi in India, or in America. Isn't that the true aspect of the expression of the inner soul of man, and therefore very important in his surroundings?

Krishnamurti: The gentleman wants to know what the Hindus mean by the word samadhi. I'm afraid you'll have to look it up in a book to find out, sir. I am not belittling the questioner, but what matters most? Is it more important to find out what samadhi is, a trance, or whatever it may mean, or to find out for oneself the misery in which one lives, the confusion, the endless conflict within oneself, and to find out whether it can be ended? If it can be ended, then you will find out for yourself, whatever that word may mean, and then it won't matter at all. We're always wandering off from the central issue. The central issue is so colossal, so enormous, so confusing that we'd rather not face it. But unfortunately we have to see it; we have to look at it; and, by looking at it very closely, without any image, perhaps the mind can be free from this contagion of life, with its misery.

First Public Talk in New York

Monday, September 26, 1966

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