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Learning is action

Second Discussion with Students at Claremont Colleges

Tuesday, November 12, 1968

Krishnamurti: Shall I talk a little bit first and then we can discuss – would that be all right? Would you approve of that?

Audience: Yes.

Krishnamurti: You know, we read a great deal, of what other people say. We have stored up other people’s knowledge. All our education, right throughout the world is concerned with the accumulation of knowledge, technological or information, and very few of us are capable of living a life without the extraneous influences of specialists, professors, doctors and so on. If one had to, or rather if there were no books at all – not that I am against knowledge – if there were no books at all, apart from technological knowledge, I wonder what each one of us would do. Personally, if I may be personal a little bit, I haven’t read a single book on psychology, philosophy, or studied Indian sacred literature – and there is a great deal of it, volumes and volumes of it – nor have I read any Western philosophy. I have read the bible off and on. I like the language, which is a beautiful language. And I have read it for the sake of the language, not the content of what it says, which is fairly primitive, and sometimes very sentimental. And so, if one has to take a voyage by oneself throughout this monstrous world – and it is pretty monstrous, pretty brutal – frightful things are happening – and there is no one to guide us, because they have all failed us – they can tell us information, give us accurate knowledge about things – but if one has to find out for oneself how to live, not according to any particular system or yoga, but one has to live as though there were no guides, no authorities to tell us what is right, what is wrong, and one has to find everything for oneself – and one has to – then perhaps we shall be able to live quite a different kind of life, not the routine life that one has, to accept in this modern world after one has been to the university – get a job, marry, children, and for the next 40 or 50 years, with an occasional holiday, go to the office every day of one’s life, or to the factory. What a bore it is. How terrible it must be for people who have to do this. I know they say responsibility, society, machinery must be kept going, the established order must go on, and so on and on and on. That is the life one is offered – that or the army, the navy, or you become a monk which again is a very carefully organised. There you are told to obey, take a vow of poverty, chastity, and there you are kept within the walls of some theoretical idealisation of life, which is utterly unreal.

So we have all this, the hippies on one hand, the religious orders and the religious dogmas, beliefs and rituals, and on the other the business world. And if one says to oneself, is this the way to live, is this all, and what it is it all about, just to go and earn a livelihood for the rest of one’s life, support a family, educate the children, who will themselves become the business people or whatever it is – is this all? What does it all mean? What is the point of being educated? What’s the point of going to a university, getting a degree and disappearing into this vast structure of faceless society? And if one does, what does it all mean, this living, which is a constant struggle, a battle, sorrow, fear, anxiety and so on – is that all? One knows that is what is happening in the world, so one wants to escape from it. So one invents gods, theories, or one enters into Zen, Buddhist monasteries to meditate, or one goes to India and becomes a hippy where there are a million hippies – much more hippies than any of you can possibly ever be. [Laughter] Because we, the Brahmins at one time, to which I belong, they were the greatest hippies in the world. You can’t give them anything, any of your hippydom because they have lived through all that.

So that is the world we live in – and is that all? And there are these clever, intellectual, people who will give you theories how to live, existentialism, this, that and a thousand theories. And one has, if one is at all a little bit alert and serious, one has seen all this – various sects, socialist, communist, Trotskyite, pro China, pro Mao, pro this, pro that, and one wants to commit oneself to some kind of belief and action so that one is at least sheltered in ideological walls – when you see all this, not merely as an observer but inwardly inside of all these structures, one is left empty-handed. The scientist on one hand, the theoretician, the Yogi, the Catholic, the protestant, and so on – all words and beliefs, which are the extension of our own fear, of our own desire to be secure. And when you look at all this, don’t we ask what is it all about? Why has a human being got to go through all this? – the torture, the anxiety, the fear, the loneliness, the utter, complete despair of this meaningless existence. And if one puts that question for oneself, what is it all about, and wants to penetrate deeply into it, which is a form of meditation, discarding all the tricks and the treacheries and the dishonesty of the human mind, then perhaps one can come upon something, which gives not meaning or significance to life but which is life itself. Then perhaps one can drink at a fountain – which is not poetical, or rhetorical but actually drink, whose waters are ever pure innocent. And that, it seems to me, is all important, because that gives a total perception of action – not fragmentary action, not a political action, religious action, a scientific action or a bureaucratic or personal individual – this fragmented action is what is destroying us. But perhaps if one can go into this question of meditation and enquire very deeply into it, then perhaps one comes, the mind comes upon something that’s timeless, that is not put together through imagination or thought, then one can live in this society with all its corruption, hypocrisy, brutality differently, with a great deal of love and clarity and beauty.

Now can we discuss?

[Pause]

Questioner: How shall we approach this idea of study? How should we approach this idea of studying, and especially from books?

Krishnamurti: What is learning? One studies from books in order to learn. Learn about some subject. But before we learn about something, what do we mean by learning? Isn’t that important to find out? Not what you learn – jump to mathematics or history or whatever it is – but isn’t it important to find out what learning is, what it means? Would you like to go into that? What is learning? What is the state of the mind that learns? Not what it is going to learn about; that is of secondary importance. What is the state of the mind that is capable of learning? Would you tell me please? This is a discussion.

Yes, sir?

Questioner: The state of the mind that is incapable of learning is that quietness of mind where no conflict is going on, when you are open, receptive.

Krishnamurti: That is, you are saying, learning can only take place when the mind is somewhat quiet, somewhat outside the field of conflict. When I – beg your pardon?

Questioner: Oh, I was going to say it seems to me that... [inaudible]

Krishnamurti: But, madame, madame, we are trying to find out what learning is, what is the state of the mind that learns. There are two things aren’t there, either, when one learns a language, you accumulate – verbs, the irregular verbs, and the accumulation of words, and all the sentence and all that – you learn, you accumulate. And then you say, ‘I know how to speak Italian,’ or French, because you have gathered a great deal of... great many words, syntax, verbs and so on, so on, then when you are familiar with it and so on you can speak. That is quite a different process, isn’t it? There has a been gradual accumulation, and from that accumulation which becomes almost unconscious, and from that you speak. That’s one form of learning – where there is accumulation and from that accumulation you act. Surely there is another form of learning which is much more important.

Questioner: Of surprise, perhaps?

Krishnamurti: Surprise. Are you saying curiosity?

Questioner: No.

Krishnamurti: Surprise then. Surprise about what?

Questioner: Shock. [Laughter]

Krishnamurti: Electric shock, or who is going to… [laughter]

Questioner: A surprise in the sense something unexpected happening, and you’re seeing it.

Questioner: Like a new insight or something.

Questioner: Perhaps a discovery within oneself of something that one had not previously been able to see.

Krishnamurti: That is, as that first gentleman said, you need a certain quality of receptivity, a quality of a mind that is quietly enquiring. Right? It doesn’t know, doesn’t say, well, this is so – it is learning. It is learning as it is doing. You know the word ‘disciple’. That word means, the root meaning of that word is ‘to learn’ – not to follow, not to imitate, not to conform, not to obey, but to learn; and to learn there must not only be a mind that is curious, alert, awake, and also as it is doing, acting, it is learning from that action. It is not having learnt I act, but learning is action. Does that mean anything?

I don’t know a thing about this microphone. So I undo it, as I would undo a watch, take everything out and learn as I am going along. And to me it seems that life is that way. I learn about life, which is such a vast field. I don’t come to it all prepared, and say, well, I am just going to add a little more to it – I come to it fresh, young, innocent, so that I learn. Which isn’t an accumulation. Then my mind is extraordinary alive, intense. There is no conclusion, there are no principles, no ideals. I am learning, and therefore that very learning brings about its own discipline.

So if I am learning about a subject, either I am learning it in order to accumulate knowledge, and act from that knowledge, which is also necessary, but also I am learning which sharpens my mind – not along one particular line or subject – sharpen the mind. And for the mind to be intensely aware one has to learn all the time. So one can never say, ‘I know.’ When you say, ‘I know,’ you are already dead. And that’s why the religious people are dead people, because they say, ‘We know.’ Truth isn’t something that can be known; it is a living thing, it’s a moving thing, it’s a dynamic thing. I have to learn about it. Is that fairly clear?

Questioner: Do you think we learn anything, in that sense, by listening to your words?

Krishnamurti: You don’t. Listening to my words do you learn anything? Or listening to the speaker’s words, you are looking at yourself, you are looking at your own mind, you are looking at your own way of thinking, why you think, how absurd, how this or that – you are watching.

I was saying this morning to somebody, that I have been talking since I was 15 [laughs]. As a boy, a little boy, not having learnt from any book. Do you understand? I have been to school and all that kind of rubbish, [laughter] but I haven’t really read anything, serious books I can’t – and yet I have been talking, talking, talking for, I don’t know, God knows how many years. If you talk or express from something you already accumulated then it is a deadly bore, but if you are learning all the time, looking, watching, not only at yourself but at the mountains, the trees, other people, the clouds, the sea, the wind, the birds, you learn an awful lot.

Questioner: What about meditation?

Krishnamurti: What about meditation – are you interested in it?

Questioner: Yes.

Krishnamurti: Why? [Laughter]

Krishnamurti: Because you have been told that you must meditate? You know sir, it is a fashion now. [Laughter] Sorry to make you laugh. It’s the fashion now, which has been introduced from India, from the East, that you must meditate. And there have been these long-bearded gentleman from India and other parts of the world, talking about meditation. And they go to India to learn meditation or go to a Zen monastery to learn what mediation is, and there are all these, if I may use the word most humbly, racketeers. [Laughter] And Mr Huxley, perhaps whom you know or have heard of, used to be a great friend of mine, Aldous Huxley, he told me once an Indian came along from India and said he is going to teach Jet Meditation – Jet, you know, [laughs] get there very quickly. [Laughter]

So are you asking meditation, what meditation is, because you have heard somebody, or are you asking it because you want to find out what this whole significance of life is? Either you meditate to escape, or meditation is the way of living. Be clear what you want to do. If you want to escape from life then there are all kinds of methods, including meditation – drugs, drink, entertainment, religious or otherwise – every form of amusement. Or you want to... you meditate to find out how to live, which seems to me the most, rational, sane, normal way. So if you say, let us talk over what meditation is so that I can, one can live in beauty, in harmony, in peace, in great deal of love, and all the rest of it, then it’s worth it. But if you say well, teach me a set of words, which in India it is called mantra, which will give me some kind of fanciful visions and all the rest of it, then I am afraid you have come to the wrong person. Because I know that game too. One has played with that long ago – repetition of word. The Christians have used that repetition, and you can repeat a word, like ‘Coca-cola’ a thousand times and you will have the same excitement. [Laughter] No, sir.

So please be very clear, what is it you want?

Questioner: You say that a mantra takes you away, that it is an escape. Do you think that people use drugs as an escape, or do you think that people use drugs because they want to become closer, because there is no other way?

Krishnamurti: All right. That’s a good question. The questioner asks, is mantra, you know, the repetition of certain Sanskrit word, is it an escape. Is drug taking an escape, or it might bring you closer to reality. Do you want to discuss that?

You know, Sanskrit, perhaps some of you may know it perhaps more than I do, is a marvellous language, it is an extraordinary language; its tonality, it has got a peculiar vitality in that language. And when you repeat certain words of that language, it does create a certain quality. A stupid mind – I am not saying yours is a stupid mind – a stupid mind can repeat the Sanskrit word – ‘Rama,’ ‘Krishna,’ whatever they repeat – and yet be terribly still stupid. Or it can take a drug and think it is very close to things.

Questioner: Yes.

Krishnamurti: You want to find out, how to – not how to meditate, because the moment you ask how then you have a formula, then you have a system, a method. If you follow a method, a system, you might be purely mechanical thing. Then it is not meditation. So you have to banish the idea completely out of your mind, out of your heart, that by following a system you are going to come to something. To be aware of the dangers of a system is to be disciplined. You understand that? To see a system implies conformity to a pattern – which the society is tying to make you conform to the established order of things. Whether it is right or wrong, stupid or sane, to conform to a method is the deadliest form of making the mind stupid. So, to realise that, to realise to follow a system of any kind, put forward by any yogi or by any saint is deadly. And to realise that, to observe it, to see the whole of it, is discipline itself. So that is the first thing.

So meditation is learning; and to learn about oneself, not about the world, because there are plenty of books that will tell you about the world, the external world, what it is made up of, the atom, and so on, so on – dozens of books that will give you information about the world, but there isn’t one book that will give information about yourself. And if they do, it’s according to Freud, Jung and Adler, or this or that latest psychologist, according to their conditioning.

So, I have to learn about myself, and nobody is going to teach me. Right? I have to learn about myself. I can learn about myself only in relationship – right? – not by sitting by myself in a cave or sitting in a darkened room meditating. I can learn myself in relationship and in action. My relationship to my neighbour, to my wife, to my children, to my – you know, relationship – to trees, to birds, to the animals I kill in order to eat – I learn. Therefore I observe myself. I cannot learn about myself if I condemn what I find. Right? Are you following? Does this interest you all this? I find I am angry; what’s the good of condemning it? I learn, so I say, ‘Why am I angry?’ I don’t say it is right or wrong; I must find out. So I have no formula, so the mind is becoming extraordinarily alert. There is no neuroticism. So I am learning. I learn why my mind wanders off, chatters, comes to conclusions, why prejudices. So, as it begins to learn about itself through action, through relationship, the words it uses, the gestures, the postures, the food you eat, from that as you begin to learn, your mind then becomes extraordinarily sharp, clear. And from there you find, if you go into it more deeply, the mind becomes extraordinarily quiet. It is not made quiet; it’s not twisted to be quiet, drilled to be quiet. And as it becomes quiet, completely silent, then out of that silence you live, out of that silence you have relationship.

Yes, sir?

Questioner: Are you saying that to get really involved with things that are going on around you, the beautiful, joyous things that happen in life, you obviously have to have a certain detachment so that you can know what is really... how involved you should be or how... you have to have attention, so between being involved and being detached...

Krishnamurti: No, sir. We are all involved. Right? As long as we live, we are involved with everything. I mean, the European is involved in Vietnam, not only the Americans – every human being living in the world is involved in war, is responsible for war, each one of us, whether he is a Hindu, Christian or American or Russian or Englishman or German, everyone is responsible for any war. And we are involved, it’s not I am involved, I detach myself from it, and live at a different level, live in a detached world, but I learn, I find out what this involvement means.

Questioner: But to do that don’t you have to be...

Questioner: No, you have to go further into it, not come out of it.

Krishnamurti: That’s right.

Questioner: But to do that, to even reason that way don’t you have to be detached to even come to that conclusion?

Krishnamurti: Sir, we are using the word ‘detached’ and ‘conclusion’ differently. Wait. Detached – what am I detached from? To be detached, what does it mean? Detachment only can exist when I am attached. Right? I am attached to a conclusion, I am attached to my country, to my God, to my family – attached, bound. Then when the family becomes painful, then when the nation becomes little bit crooked, then I say I must detach myself from it. Look at it impersonally. First I am attached and then try to detach. I say don’t do that; find out why you are attached. And in understanding why you are attached obviously you are free from attachment. But, if you say, ‘I must be detached,’ then there is a conflict between attachment and detachment – this dualistic conflict arises. Am I making myself clear or is this absurd? [Laughter]

Questioner: Are you saying that you watch yourself when you are not being yourself? When you are not being open, when you are angry or when you are tense you are watching yourself.

Krishnamurti: Look, what do we mean by watching yourself?

Questioner: Observing.

Krishnamurti: What do you mean by that? When you are observing, do you ever observe? We think we observe but do we ever observe? Have you ever observed a tree, a bird, a cloud, a mountain? Have you observed it? Or you observe it through the image that you have about it. The image being your knowledge, your experience. You say, ‘That’s a beautiful mountain because I am been up there, I know the path, I know what it…’ – so you look at something through the image that you have about it, don’t you? No? Can you observe – please listen to it – can you observe without the image, without the word, and therefore without knowledge, which means without thought? Have you ever tried it?

Questioner: People will ask, you know, how do I do that?

Krishnamurti: Ah! I will show you. First let us realise that we never observe. We observe things through our imagination, through our image, through our knowledge – obviously. I look at my father; I have an image about him already. So I never am directly in relationship with the father or with the wife, with the husband, and so on. Right? So can I look at something without the image? That’s a very complex thing, it’s not just… One has to go into it. Can I look – please let’s begin with a very, simple objective thing like a tree – can I look at that tree without thought, and yet not be vague, daydreaming, in a state of amnesia? Can I look at that tree without any word? See it, do it, and you will find out. Then what takes place? Then you realise what a slave the mind is to word – right? – to word, to a conclusion, to what you say you know – it is a slave to that, it is bound to that. So can one be free of the word? Now, to find that out you have to observe, haven’t you? You have to learn. Which means that when you are learning, the very act of learning is the discipline to learn. You are following all this?

Questioner: Doesn’t that lead to more words?

Krishnamurti: No. Does that mean more words. Obviously not. We are talking of freedom from the word. Look, I call myself a communist – suppose if I did – I am not, but if I did you would look at me with the image which you have about communists. So you would reject me. So the word is much more important than the human being. And can you look at me, though I say I am a communist or a socialist or a whatever it is, can you look at me without the word. If you can and I can, then human beings in relationship. What is separating us is the word.

Questioner: Then you have the word ‘human’.

Krishnamurti: No, no. No, no. Please. No, no. I am merely using that word to convey the meaning. I am not concerned with the word. You can call me... use any word, human or inhuman or whatever you like. The word is not the thing.

Is it time to go? It is just one minute past twelve. Do you want me to go on?

Questioner: Yes.

Questioner: Sir, normally we close the assembly at twelve o’clock, so I think a good many would have to leave.

Krishnamurti: All right, sir, I’d better stop. Is that right? Yes.

Second Discussion with Students at Claremont Colleges

Tuesday, November 12, 1968

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