An action with no past or future
What is life?
1st Public Talk, Madras
December 28, 1985
I would like to know why you are all here. I really mean it. With what intention, with what purpose, with what kind of imaginary or superstitious concepts that one has. And perhaps, if I may be so bold as to suggest it, you might have come with those ideas, with those formulas. And I am afraid you will be disappointed because - I hope you can hear, all right? I hope you all can hear. One has talked all over the world for a long time, seventy years, that's a long time, and one has naturally built up all kinds of fanciful, superstitious imaginary reputations, and those reputations, those images that one has created are really meaningless because what we are talking about is totally different from a lecture. A lecture is meant to inform, to instruct, to guide and so on. This is not a lecture. Please we must be very clear on that point. This is not a lecture. There is no intention on the part of the speaker to guide you, to help you - forgive me if I use that word - or to inform you about something you would like to be talked about, theoretical, superstitious, imaginary, a fixation, as it were. But we are going to deliberate together. That word has a very deep meaning, 'deliberate', which means weigh together, take counsel together, nourish each other, not physically, I hope, but psychologically, intellectually and penetrate as deeply as possible into one's own consciousness, into its own function, its own way of thinking, living. This is not a theoretical meeting, talking about various things that should be, or that has not been, but together, you and the speaker are taking counsels together, weighing things together. Please, this is not just a lot of words. The speaker really means what he says, whether you like it or not. He says we are going to take counsel together, weigh things together, not I weigh and then tell you about it, but rather that together you and the speaker take counsel together, weigh together. This is not propaganda because we are together investigating, asking, questioning, doubting.
The idea and the fact are two different things. The fact is one thing. The microphone is not an idea, it is a fact. So the fact is what we are going to discuss, not the idea of the fact. I hope all this is clear. All right? Shall I keep quiet as you are keeping quiet? This is a serious meeting, not just exchange of words. Something wrong sir? So from the very beginning we must be very clear that this is not a lecture, we are not talking about theories, what has happened to human beings through the long two and a half million years of evolution, but what we are, what we have become, and what is our future - not of mankind, what is the future of all of us? Right? Let's be clear on that point. We are going to deliberate, that is, take counsel together. Taking counsel together we nourish each other, both intellectually, non-verbally and psychologically. It is not something intellectual. What is this? Oh, for god's Sorry. I thought someone was putting his hand over my shoulder. It is not romantic, not superstitious, imaginary and so on. So we are together - you can't just sit there and say, yes, yes, or no, no. You are partaking, you are sharing, you are weighing, taking counsel together. Right? Is that understood between us?
And we are not doing any kind of propaganda, or inviting you to join a particular sect. And here I must add I am not your guru, you are not my followers. We are not setting up a new cult, a new society, a new ashrama, a new kind of concentration camp. If this is very clear between us, that you and the speaker together are going to take part in all the talks - if there are future talks, that depends on the physical condition of the body.
So we have existed on this earth, according to the scientists and archaeologists and so on, for over two million years, and here we are. What are we? Right? You ask yourself. I am not suggesting what you are. We are opening up the deep cave, the deep underlying causes, the reality that lies behind the cause. So we are going to go into that during the talks. I don't know how many there will be, but I can't assure you. They will tell you whether there will be talk tomorrow, or not. Or there will only be a talk, that is today, and Wednesday a Question and Answer meeting, and next Saturday the last meeting.
So together we are going to look at this world, that is ourselves. Right? Are you willing? Or are you frightened, hiding behind all kinds of absurd theories, all the psychological innuendoes, all the thing man has put together as they call it religion, the existing society. That is the degeneration that is gradually going on: pollution in all the cities, despoiling the air, and also corruption. This is what we are caught in. So what has gone wrong with us? Or is this a natural course? You understand my question? Do you really want to listen to all this rubbish? You must read about all this in newspapers, if they are honest, magazines, and of course all the gurus in the world have destroyed that thing which they have wanted.
So let us begin, but please bear in mind this is not a lecture. You haven't come to listen to me. You have come to listen to yourself, however complicated that self is, however superficial, however deep. We are going to go into all that. Perhaps not during one talk, but we will see at the end of the talk whether the speaker survives. That's what is behind it: asking you to sit quietly for two or three minutes after the speaker has gone, and the speaker will find out if he can continue tomorrow, or will he collapse at the end of it? It's up to you, because otherwise you as my listener, may say, 'Yes, yes, it sounds very good', or not at all good. It is not logical, or illogical and so on. Right?
What are we, as human beings, who have lived on this earth for such a long period of time, why are we as we are? You have understood my question? Right? Have you understood my question?
Krishnamurti: Yes, sir?
Q: He says he hasn’t understood.
K: It is very simple, sir. I am using ordinary English, not professional English. I will say once more. We are sharing all this together. You are not merely listening to the speaker, we are taking counsel together, we are deliberating. That word is really a very good word, to deliberate, it means take counsel together, to weigh things together, not your prejudice, not your opinions, not your conclusions, but the whole process of thinking, what it has made man into and so on. Right? If you don't understand it, I'm sorry I am not going back to it. We are talking ordinary English.
So what has happened to us, to each one of us? That is, we have lived on this earth as human beings for a very, very long time, which is called evolution. And during that evolution of experience, knowledge, thinking, all the things that man has put together, including his superstitions, his gods, his various empires, and when you come down to the actual fact, what has happened to each one of us? Don't you want to know? Or are we frightened to know? Which is it? Gosh, what's the matter? Not a response.
Q: We want to inquire.
K: You want to enjoy yourself.
K: I don't understand what you are talking about. And you are the rest of the world; what you suffer, what you go through, daily boredom, the pettiness of one's life: the struggle, the pain, the anxiety, the sorrow, the negligence, the carelessness, indifference. And this is shared by all humanity. Right? Everybody goes through this, your guru - if you have one, I hope you haven't got any - your guru, if he is at all awake, if he is at all sane and rational, he goes through all this. The kings and the ministers go through all this. Pain, anxiety, uncertainty, sorrow, death, hoping for something in the future. This is what all human beings, wherever you go, however civilised one is, or not, every human being goes through this. Right? Are you doubting that fact? Do you doubt that, that every human being throughout the world goes through all this? And this makes up our consciousness. Right? Are we understanding each other? Are we working together? Are we investigating together? Or am I guiding you, helping you? I am not. Please be assured of one fact: I don't want to help you, I am not your guide or your helper. Then you will ask, why am I sitting here. You are sitting here probably out of curiosity, out of what you have heard, or read a few lines in a book, or you have been told, go and listen to the chap, you will find out. So please be clear, the speaker is not guiding you, he is not helping you. He won't help you because you have been helped. All through the ages you have been helped - saviours, gurus, mahatmas, you know the whole list of them. They are all too willing to help you, with their ashramas, with their foundations, including this. And you have been helped. If you have any trouble you trot off to a guru, or to a temple asking for help, which is called prayer. And you have been helped, you have been guided, politically, religiously, psychiatrically, and at the end of it all we are what we are.
So the speaker says - please take this seriously - he is not guiding you, he is not helping you. On the contrary, together we are walking the same path, together we are sharing, nourishing. I am using the word 'nourishing' both intellectually, psychologically - we can't feed each other, there are too many people.
So, bearing that in mind all the time, that you and the speaker together are looking at this whole problem, not just my sorrow or your sorrow, your anxiety, uncertainty. It is shared by every human being on earth. And your consciousness is the consciousness of mankind. Right? You may not agree, but investigate, even intellectually, logically, not emotionally - then you are lost. Logically, sanely, looking at it, not with prejudice, opinions, but look at it. You suffer and so does the man in Russia. You are uncertain, so is the man in China. Right? So your consciousness is shared by all humanity, so you are humanity. Right? You are humanity, not Mr Smith, Mr Rao, or something like or other. If that is shown to you, not accepted but showing it logically, investigating together, sharing together, then what shall we do? You understand my question? Seeing all this, how humanity has been divided into nations, into sects, into religions - my guru is better than your guru - and so on. This division, this separation exists all over the world. That's one of the major causes of war - nationalities. Right? But you will go on with your nationalism, with your Hinduism, with your tradition in spite of what the speaker is saying. Right? Right, sir? You all agree, I am glad, that we will carry on as before. Right? You're a rummy crowd.
So, if one actually when one actually realises this fact, that you are entire humanity, not physically, but psychologically, then you invariably must ask the question, what am I to do. Right? Don't wait for me to tell you. We are sharing together. We are taking counsel together. This is not a lecture. I must repeat this because you are used to lectures. Somebody pouring forth for your information. So what shall we, if we see the rational, sane fact, that we are entire humanity. Right? Of course you won't see this because to you it is very important to have individuality: I am separate from you. Of course you are separate from me physically, you are a woman, I am a man, or I am taller, that you are shorter, and all the rest of it. Apart from biological division, consciousness, our consciousness which is the 'I' with all its memories, experiences, with its longing and all the rest of it, that consciousness is shared by every human being. Right? You won't agree to all this. It doesn't matter, I'll go on; if you'd like listen, do, but it doesn't matter if you listen or don't listen. Like the birds, they go on singing, like a storm full of wind, rain and thunder and great beauty of light.
So if one actually - not theoretically or intellectually - realises, that is, to realise something, like a cobra is poisonous. A rattle snake is poisonous, so don't go near it. It is not mere conclusion, it is your death if you go near it. So physically we are conditioned to a snake. Right. So you are conditioned, shaped, moulded in the idea that you are separate human being. You have a separate soul, the Christian idea, and if you realise that you are humanity, not whether you question it, you are. If you look at it carefully, go into it deliberately, not avoid it, you will see you suffer, the other man suffers, he quarrels with his wife, and children and all the rest of that daily life. So what shall one do? Right? What will you do? What's your action? Not conclusion. You understand, sir? Because a conclusion is not a fact. You may derive from a fact a conclusion, but the conclusion is not the fact. Bene?
I am in the midst of a sea of people who don't seem to react to all this. Your whole religions are based on individuality, all your prayers, your worship, your... It doesn't matter, I'll go on.
So what shall one do? What am I to do, living in this society, the society that is so corrupt, what shall I do? Whatever I do, will it affect the society? You understand? Will it affect my neighbour, will it affect the man, not in the moon, but the man in Russia? So I have to ask who created this society. Right? Are you at all thinking together, or not? Oh my god, what am I to do if you don't react, if you don't smell something? So we are asking, who created this society which is so immoral, so corrupt, all over the world, which is destroying man, which is degenerating - right? - which is polluting the whole world, what shall I do, or not do, to affect this society? Do you understand my question? So I ask myself, am I different from the society? Right? Who created this society which we live in? Right? Are you asking that question yourself, or are you just listening to me? Are you asking that question? What's your answer, if you are really using your brain, not just nodding your head? What's your answer? Not some gods.
Q: Something that’s...
K: I am talking for a while, if you don't mind, a little later. You don't mind? When there is a question and answer meeting, if there is one, you can put all kinds of questions to me. So who created this society? My father, your father, my grandmother and your grandmother. Right? They all helped to build up this corrupt society in which we live. So we are the creators of this society, the builders of this society, through our ambition, our fears, the desire for security in my relationship, in my job, power, position. Right? We all want that. Right? Am I saying the truth or something imaginary? So we are the builders of this society. Society is not different from me, from us, because we are ambitious, we are greedy, we are frightened, we want position, power, privileges. Right? We want all this, and god too, occasionally. So god is our creation too. You may not agree. Don't agree, let's investigate it, share it. The western world is captured by that particular religion, and they are making havoc out of it. No, sorry, I mustn't say that. They are making god and money go together. The least trouble you have, you want somebody to help you, emotionally, or sexually, or psychologically. There are always temples, mosques and churches and a convenient priest there. I am not being cynical, I am just showing you the facts.
So what shall I do, knowing that I am the rest of humanity, not Mr K? You understand my question? What am I, as a human being, who is the rest of mankind - I don't ask whither mankind, where mankind is going because I am mankind. I wonder if you see the importance of this. I wonder if you see the depth of it, the beauty of it, the immensity of it, the responsibility of it. I am afraid you don't. Because if you really saw, felt utterly responsible for your brother, utterly responsible for your neighbour - not that you won't interfere with him or hit him on the head, or tell him what to do - you are the neighbour, you are your brother's keeper. I don't know if you see all this.
Then what shall I do? I am not asking your help. I am not asking through prayers for that almighty to guide me - if there is an almighty. I am asking this question, putting this question to myself, as you must, and I hope you do. What shall I do, knowing that I am the rest of mankind? I am mankind. I may be a woman, or a man, short, tall, brown, or whatever colour, colour is not important. What is important is, is what is inside the skull.
So what shall I do? Whatever I do, will it affect the society, which is me. You understand? Society is me. I have separated myself from society, but the fact is society has been put together by man. And man in his desire to have security, permanent security, through property, through convictions, through formulas and so on, so on, so on - he has done everything. Right? He has built churches, he has built mosques, he has built temples, not only in this country, but they are taking them to America unfortunately.
So what shall I do? I am not separate from society, I am not separate from the rest of humanity, so whatever I do has immense meaning and responsibility. Right? Immense. So what is my responsibility? Right? What's your answer? Don't sit there and look at me. My first response to that is, what do we mean by action? Right? I want to do something, not only as a human being, I want to affect the society, I want to change the society, I want to stop this degeneration that is going on. You know what is going on in the world. I won't go into all that. So what action shall I take?
So before I put that question, or in putting that question, I must enquire what is action. You tell me, what is action? To act. To act according to a formula is no action at all - right? - because you repeat and that repetition is part of our security. And that repetition gives a certain sense of well being - we are stable, we are firm. So is action based on certain memories, certain knowledge, certain past experiences and so on? What is action? What is it to act? Not, I will act, or I have acted - to act now. You understand my question? No? You are all very well educated, aren't you, BAs, MAs, engineers, PhDs, blah blah and MAD and so on. You are all well educated, and probably you have never put this question to yourself: what shall I do, realising I am the entire humanity, and the responsibility of it, the greatness of it. So I say we are asking what is action? To act, not in the future, that is not action, not, I have acted, which is the past. So what is action which has no past or the future? Go into it, this is a tremendously important question. If you base your action on the past it is no action, it is a repetition, modified, a little changed but it is still repetition. Right? God, where are you educated?
So is there an action - please I am asking this question most seriously - is there an action which is not dependent on the past or conforming to a future pattern? You understand? Or - this is a little more difficult because - or there is no action at all. We will have to go into it much more slowly. Do you want to listen to all this blah? Or do you want to sit still and meditate? I don't know what you call meditation. That is one of those words that is bandied about all over the place. You go to a little village in California and they talk about meditation. I say, 'What do you mean by that word?' They don't know but we are going to meditate. I won't go into that now.
So action which is not dependent on time. You understand this? No, careful, sir, don't agree with what is being said for heaven's sake. Is there an action without the motive, self-interest, without gaining reward? You understand my question? All this implies time. Right? I will be rewarded for my good work, I will be rewarded if I pray for a refrigerator - why not, that is as good as god, more real than god, more actual than god. So is there an action - this requires real using your brain, not your emotions - which is not based on self-interest, a conclusion towards which you are working? So you have to investigate what is time. You understand me? Because we function in time. Am I boring you? Would you kindly tell me if I am boring you.
Q: No, sir.
K: I know, I know. The invariable answer. You are not. But am I actually boring you? So you have to look into the nature of time. Right? What is time? Not according to the sunrise, sunset, that has its own pattern, a new moon in the tender sky, and the full moon, which I saw the other day rising out of the sea. It is a marvellous sight. Sunrise and the evening star, all that is part of time. And there is time also from a small child, a baby, to grow up into a man, that requires a lot of time - twenty years, thirty years, ninety years. And that also means time. We live with time; you have to get up in the morning at a certain time, cook and all the rest of it. So we live, function, act within the limits of time. To us time is extraordinarily important. There was a meeting here at five thirty, and you have to make all kinds of arrangements to get here at five thirty. So did the speaker. So we live in time. Not the time of the scientists, which is too complicated - I won't go into that. We live by time but also there is physical time and there is psychological time. Right? That is, I am, I will be. I am jealous, uncertain, ambitious, wanting to fulfil, climb the ladder and all the rest of it; to climb the ladder you need time, step by step to get to the top. Right? So there is psychological time and physical time. Is this clear? Don't agree, please. You are not agreeing with me, this is a fact. You are not used to this kind of thinking, that is your trouble. You don't want to share anything with anybody.
So are we bound to time? You understand? I am greedy, but give me a little time, I will be non-greedy; give me a little time to be non-violent. Right? So we use time as a means of reward and punishment. Right? I wonder if you see all this. Do you read newspapers? There they inform you about everything that is happening according to their editor, and you absorb all that is being said in the newspaper. But here you are not absorbing, you are actually thinking. And if you don't want to think get up and go home - much better. But if you want to think, find out, you have not only to use your brain, which is extraordinarily active, if you want money you work like hell to get it. If you want a position, power, good lord, look at them all working their hands off. And if you want to find out if there is an action which is timeless - you understand my question - which is not based on time as past, present and the future. So what is time, apart from physical time? Time includes the past. Right? All the knowledge which the scientists have acquired, step by step, experience by experience, trying without failing - you follow? - adding more and more and more to what already they know. Right? Do you understand something I'm saying? Good.
So time is the past, time is the present, time is the future. This is the cycle in which we are caught. I remember my experience, what a lovely time I had - that's memory. Then that day which was so horrible, I remember that. So my brain is full of memories of the past, the present and the future. So the future is what I am now. Right? Right, sirs? Don't agree, sir, please for god's sake don't agree. If you don't see, it doesn't matter, but since you have taken all the trouble to come here it's a waste of money and your energy if you don't listen, if you don't capture the real inward story of all this, you are wasting your time, your energy, your money. So time is the past, the present and the future. The scientists would say something else, I have discussed this matter with them, they want all kinds of complicated manoeuvres to bring about their own conclusions.
Now, the past is time - all the memories, all the knowledge, all the experience, all the pain, the anxiety, the loneliness, the despair, the uncertainty - all that is the past. And that is acting in the present. Right? Modified, changed slightly, but all the past is acting now. What you thought ten years ago, slightly modified, is still going on. You believe in god, so that belief gives you a certain security, and tomorrow you will still believe in god whether it is illusory or fanciful or nonsensical. So the past modifying itself in the present becomes the future. Right, clear? Very simple. So the future is now. No? Because what you are, you will be tomorrow unless you radically bring about a mutation. You understand what I am saying? You are all asleep. Would you like to go to bed? Probably you have never thought about all this, you have never gone into it, you have never taken the trouble to investigate, you have never given time, a little time during the day to say, my god, what is all this about, what is all this living, what is the meaning of this nonsensical way of living? So if you could give ten minutes now, giving your attention, giving your heart to find out. Not mere intellectual, verbal action but give your whole being, your heart to it. You will find out very quickly for yourself. Then no god, no priest, no country, no power, position and all that disappear completely, they are meaningless.
So the future is now. You understand me? Because I am this now. I am greedy, envious, I have several enemies - not I, suppose I have - enemies, it is my country, it is my god, my guru is better than your guru, and all the rest of that nonsense. So if you can put all that aside - opinions, judgements, evaluations and face the fact that you are after two million years what you are now: frightened, lonely, depressed, anxious, uncertain. That's what you are now, today. Tomorrow you will be exactly the same, slight modification, but you will be exactly the same. So the future is now. I don't know if you see this.
So the question then arises: what is change? Do you understand? If I am greedy now, or anger, I have been envious, jealous, I have got a great many hurts, if there is no radical mutation now I will be exactly the same tomorrow. It is logical, sane, therefore I ask myself, what is change? You understand? Is there such thing as change? You understand all this, at least some of you? We use the word 'transform', which means change forms: I am this but I am going to change into that, which is still the same pattern. Right? So, is there a
(Recording skips here)
some imagination, some fantastic otherness across the sea? What does that love that word 'love' mean to you? Have you ever asked that question? Love of god, love of pictures, love of literature, I love my wife, which may be rather doubtful. I love literature and so on. What does that word mean to each one of us? Would you like to wait to answer, take time? Or shall I proceed with it? You understand? Would you like to answer that question, what is love, or would you want me, the speaker, to go into it. It's much easier for the speaker to go into it! It is an important question, very, what is love? How will you find out? How will you find out for yourself the truth of the matter, not all the romantic values, you know all that stuff, I don't have to So what is it that is love, which is not emotion, which is not sexual response, which is not an imaginative - you know, all that stuff. So what is love to you?
K: Silence. Is that love? Silence. When you hit your wife, or tease her, or do something to her, are you silent? Anything goes in this country. Right? All the saints, all the gurus, all the latest miracle workers, and all that - you absorb everything. Right? Somebody writes a book, and you say, 'Yes, I agree with that'. Somebody comes along and contradicts that and you say, 'Yes, I also agree with that'. And you have banished from this country Buddha. Or you say, 'Yes, he is one of us'. So your brain is capable of absorbing rubbish, agreeing with something that appears to be true. Don't you do all this, actually, if you face the fact? Don't you? Your brain is capable of absorbing anything that goes in the name of religion. Pure rubbish. and something most extraordinarily true. And this melange, this mix up, that's your life. Right?
So, I have to stop. So what is love? I have to stop now. We will have to go into this either Wednesday, or tomorrow, or next Saturday. Right? Is that all right? You don't mind?
K: You'd love that? Why? Don't be funny, sir. Why do you want it tomorrow? It is convenient for you, is it?
Q: Tomorrow is convenient.
K: Tomorrow is Sunday, is that right? And so it is convenient for you. Suppose it is not convenient for me? (Laughter) You people, you are not serious. Anything goes. You see now? So sir, we had better stop and Mr Narayan will announce whether I talk tomorrow or Wednesday. Is that all right sirs?
Q: Yes, let him announce. We will wait for an announcement from him.
K: Goodbye sirs.