Freedom is the first and last step
Can a human being undergo a deep, radical transformation?
4th Public Talk, Brockwood Park
September 05, 1976
We have been talking during these four discussions, dialogues about many things; things which are concerned with our daily, human living - the problems of fear, pleasure and the great burden of sorrow of human beings. And yesterday we talked about, went into together, time, the nature of time, the nature of love and death. I think this morning we ought to talk over together something that is of fundamental importance, which every human being should be involved in, because it concerns our life, our daily activity, how we waste our days and years - and what is it all about, and what is it all for?
We are born and we die, and during those years of pain, joy and pleasure and sorrow, the everlasting struggle and effort, what is it all about, what is it all for? I think this is a very important question one should ask oneself. It's very easy to reply, a rational explanation or a neurotic one, or a very intellectual, emotional romantic explanation. But if you put aside all those naturally, and obviously being rather superficial - however intellectual it may be, I think this is a very important question to ask, and to find an answer for oneself, not dependent on some priest, on some guru, on some philosophical concept or formula which do not answer the real question. They offer very obvious superficial, non-realistic theories; and so it seems to me very important to go into this question. What does it all mean - our existence? Has it any meaning at all as we live it - going to the office or the factory for the next forty years or fifty years, trying to climb the ladder of success, accumulate money, pleasure, experience, knowledge - and so at the end die? And some of the scientists say through knowledge we ascend - the ascent of man through knowledge. Is that so? We have an infinite amount of knowledge about many things - biologically, archaeologically, historically, and so on and so on and so on, but apparently knowledge has not changed man radically, deeply. We are more or less what we have been for a million years and more - struggle, conflict, pain, pleasure, and the everlasting battle of existence. Seeing all that in every country and in every climate, what is it all about?
To find that out, not asserting anything, not believing in anything, not having any ideal, but merely observing very deeply, it becomes necessary to find out, otherwise we lead a very mechanistic life. Our brains have become used to a mechanical way of life. Part of this brain must be mechanical and necessarily so, in the acquisition of knowledge and the expression of that knowledge, skilfully, in every way of life, in every action, outwardly, technologically. But this knowledge that one has acquired - and we can pile up knowledge more and more and more, but that does not answer the fundamental question: what is the meaning, the depth of our life?
One sees, one observes that there must be unity of mankind, because that is the only way we will survive physically, biologically, not divisions - the Europeans, the Americans, the Russians, the Hindus and so on, not divisions, the complete total unity of mankind. And politics and politicians are not going to solve that problem ever. On the contrary, they will maintain the division; it's very profitable. So, as that is an important and an essential necessity of existence that there must be unity of all mankind, and that cannot be brought about through legislation, through bureaucratic dogmas or rules and all the rest of it. So when you observe all this as a human being living in chaos in a world that has almost gone mad - the armaments, the selling of them for profit, killing people in the name of ideas and countries, for god, and all the rest of it. Observing, seeing all this all over the world, what is a human being to do and what for?
So I think it becomes very important to find out, to discover for oneself, if one is at all serious - and one must be serious in life, otherwise one does not really live at all; it's only the very, very serious man - which doesn't mean he has no laughter, no smile - but that seriousness which demands a total commitment to the whole issue of life. And religions have tried to offer the meaning to life - that is, organised, propagandistic, ritualistic religion. But, in spite of 2,000 years or 10,000 years, as in Asia, man has merely asserted certain principles, certain ideals, certain conclusions, but they are all verbal, superficial, non-realistic. So we are faced, then, when we look at all this, and realising that our brain is almost mechanical, caught in a groove, caught in a habit, caught in tradition, in the conditioning which education has given, cultivating only knowledge, information and so making the brain more and more and more mechanistic, one inevitably demands or asks - if one is, again, serious - what does life mean? What is it all about?
If we are to enquire into this very deeply, there must be great doubt. Doubt, scepticism is essential, because that brings a certain quality of freedom of mind, through negation of everything that man has put together. His religions, his rituals, his dogmas, his beliefs, his faith are all the movement of thought, and thought is a material process, as we've been talking about, which even the scientists accept. And thought has not solved the problems, thought has not been able to delve deeply into itself. Thought has merely, being itself a fragment, broken up all existence into fragmentations.
So there is the quality of this brain which is mechanistic - and necessarily so in certain areas, and psychologically, inwardly, in the very psychological structure of the human mind there is no freedom. It is conditioned, it is bound by belief, by so-called ideals, by faith; so when one doubts all that, sets all that aside, actually - not theoretically - factually, accurately, meticulously, puts aside all that, then what have you left?
Many people have gone that far - total negation - and that gives you a certain quality of freedom - total negation of everything that thought has constructed, projected, divided - religiously, economically, socially, and when you negate all that, because they have not answered, they have not solved any of our human, deep problems like sorrow, fear and death. So, is a mind capable - your mind - capable if you are at all serious, to put aside all that, and begin?
One is afraid to do that because one says to oneself, if I deny everything that thought, which is a mechanical process of time, measure, which is the response of memory and therefore a material process, and that material process brings more and more suffering, more and more agony, more and more anxiety, fear to mankind, when you see that, and when you realise the nature of thought and go beyond, negate it, then what is there? And to find out what is there we must begin with freedom, because freedom is the first and last step, both democratically, inwardly - otherwise man is merely a machine if there is no freedom - not to choose. We have said, we think rather that through choice we are free - because we can choose we are free. But choice exists only when the mind is confused. There's no choice when the mind is very clear. When you see things very clearly without any distortion, without any illusion then there is no choice. A mind that is choiceless is a free mind, and a mind that chooses and therefore establishes a series of conflicts, contradictions, such a mind is never free because it is in itself confused, divided, broken up.
So if one is willing to go so far then we can begin to find out what is the meaning of all this existence. As we said, during these talks and before, we are exploring together, we are sharing our explorations together, because there is no authority. Though the speaker sits on a platform because it is convenient, people can see, the platform doesn't give him any authority, and he doesn't accept any authority. So we are together and we mean together, exploring and finding out for ourselves together if there is any meaning to life at all, any depth to life at all - or merely a passing event in a long series of historical processes. So, to explore in any field there must be freedom, freedom to examine so that in that very examination there is no distortion. When there is distortion there is a motive behind that distortion, a motive to find an answer, a motive which you would like to have or which you think will solve our problems, a motive which may be based on past experience, past knowledge - and all knowledge is the past - and if there is any motive there must be distortion. So, can the mind, can our mind, which is our common mind because we have the same content in our consciousness, all human beings whether they live in the far east, middle east or far west, go through this process of fear, agony, torture, anxiety, fear and endless conflict - inwardly and outwardly. That's the common consciousness of mankind. So when you examine your own consciousness you are looking into the consciousness of man, and therefore it's not a personal individualistic examination. On the contrary, you are looking into the consciousness of the world - which is you - which is a fact when you go into it very deeply.
So a mind that is free, which is a tremendous demand, which demands that you as a human being are committed totally to the transformation of the content of consciousness - because the content makes the consciousness. And we are concerned with the transformation, with the total psychological revolution of this consciousness, and to explore it you need great energy. And that energy comes into being when there is no dissipation of energy. One dissipates through trying to overcome 'what is', to deny 'what is', to escape from 'what is', or analyse 'what is'. Because the analyser, as we said during all these many talks over many years, the analyser is the analysed. The analyser is not different from that which he analyses. When you're envious or angry or greedy - whatever it is - when you analyse the process of greed, the analyser is himself 'greed' - that which he analyses in not separate from him. And this is a fundamental reality.
So, we are asking what is the meaning and the significance of life, if there is any at all. If we say there is, you have already committed yourself to something, therefore you cannot examine, you have already started with distortion. Or, if you say, there is nothing, no meaning to life, that also is another form of distortion. So, one must be completely free of both - both the positive and the negative assertion.
So, as we said, this is part of meditation. This is the real beginning of meditation. The gurus that come over to this country from India, and are springing up all over the world like so many mushrooms, they have brought to this word a great many meanings. There is the transcendental meditation - and I wish they hadn't used that lovely word - which is the repetition of certain words and there are really in Sanskrit very, very few mantras, which we won't go into now. And the repetition of those words, given at a certain price on the market, give you, if you repeat every morning for twenty minutes, in the afternoon, twenty minutes, and another twenty minutes in the evening, they bring you a certain quality of quietness, constant repetition. You can just as well repeat 'Ave Maria' or 'Coca Cola' or any other mechanical repetition. (Laughter) It will certainly give you a certain quality of quietness, but this is mechanistic quietness because you have reduced the brain to constantly repeat, repeat, repeat - if you have tried it even for two minutes, how mechanical it becomes, it becomes quiet. But that's no more transcendental than anything else. And, thereby, we think we'll experience something that is beyond the material process of thought.
So, there is this, that man seeks experience, he seeks experience other than the ordinary daily experience. We are bored or tired or fed up with all the experiences we have of life, and we hope to capture some experience which is not the product of thought. And to experience - the word means 'to go through', to go through with anything and end it, not remember it and carry it on. But we don't do that. To recognise an experience you must have already known it, otherwise it's not a new experience. So a mind that demands experience - please listen to this - other than the mere, physical, psychological everyday experience - that demands something far greater and above all this, what it will experience is its own projection, and therefore it is still mechanistic, still materialistic, which is the product of thought. So, when you do not demand any experience, when there is no distortion and therefore no illusion, and one has understood the whole meaning of desire, which we went into many times during these and other talks, which is sensation plus thought is desire with its image. And so desire is also a distortion in the process of examination. I hope you are following all this. Then only the mind, the whole structure of consciousness, being free, is capable of looking at itself, looking at itself without any distortion, as you see in a clear mirror your face. The mirror reflects exactly what your face is. There's no distortion - unless the mirror is distorted. So in that way the mind, which includes the brain and all the nervous organisms, the whole totality which is the mind, is now free - absolutely without any distorting movement. Distortion takes place when there is effort. Right? Effort implies 'me' and something I am going to achieve - division between me and that. That division invariably brings conflict as in the nationalities and so on. Wherever there is division there must be conflict. And so meditation comes only when there is the complete ending of conflict. Therefore every other form of meditation where there is effort, practice, control has no meaning. Right? Please don't accept what the speaker is saying but examining, we are examining together, sharing together, therefore it's very important not to accept a thing that is being said, but examining it.
Krishnamurti: Later on we'll ask questions, if you don't mind.
So, we have to go into the question of control, because we are going to go into the question of control, awareness and attention. All these are necessary to find out if there is a meaning to life, or no meaning at all. We are educated from childhood to control our feelings, you know, the whole process of control. In control there is the controller and the thing that is being controlled. Right? The controller thinks he is different from that which he desires to control. So he has already divided himself as the 'controller' and the 'controlled'. And hence there is always conflict. That is, one fragment of thought says to itself, I must control other fragments of thought. But thought which says, 'I must control other fragments' is itself a part of thought - a fragment of thought. So when you see all that the controller is the controlled. Right? I hope you see this. This is very important because when this is realised completely, deeply, not verbally, not theoretically, but actually, then conflict comes to an end. That is, there is no division in oneself. There is not the controller and the controlled different from the controller. The experiencer is the experience; they are not two different entities or movements. The thinker is the thought; there is no thinker if there is no thought. So when one realises this profoundly as a truth, as a law, then all effort comes to an end. And it's very important in the investigation with which we are concerned now, that this effort comes to an end. Because effort also is a distorting factor.
So, meditation can only come into being when there is no effort of any kind, and it is necessary to meditate to find out if there is any meaning to life at all, or if there is a meaning. And meditation is also laying the foundation of right conduct; right in the sense, accurate, not according to an ideal, not according to a pattern, not according to any formula - but action which takes place when there is complete observation of what is going on in oneself. From that, action takes place. So one must establish this through meditation and right relationship. Relationship between human beings, which means no conflict between human beings. The conflict exists only when there is division between the two images, which we have talked about a great deal. The image which you have and which she has about you and you have about her. The images make the division, which we have gone into, we won't go into it now because it would take too long.
And if there is to be meditation there must be no psychological fear whatsoever. Therefore the ending of sorrow - and what we talked about yesterday - compassion, and love. That's the basis, the foundation of meditation. Without that you can sit under a tree for the rest of your life, cross-legged, and you will still be sitting there under the tree for ever and ever. Or, you may breathe properly - you know all the tricks one plays - none of those is going to help.
You may remember a certain teacher, and to him came a disciple. And the disciple took a position - sitting properly, cross-legged, the so-called Indian lotus posture, and shut his eyes. And the teacher says, 'My friend, what are you doing?' He replied, 'I'm breathing properly, I'm sitting straight, and controlling my thoughts so that I can reach the highest consciousness'. So the teacher picks up two stones and keeps on rubbing them. And the disciple wakes up and looks at the Master, and says, 'Master, what are you doing?' The Master says, 'I'm rubbing two stones to make one of them into a mirror'. And the disciple says, 'Master, don't you know, you can never do that'. The Master says, 'I know that, but do you know you can sit like that for the next ten thousand years' - all the rest of it.
So, when you have really, deeply established a way of life, which in itself is not an end. That's only the beginning of it. Then we can proceed to find out whether the mind, which is the totality - the brain and all the rest - which is the entire consciousness, is quiet, without any distortion, because it's necessary to be quiet. Because it is only when the mind is quiet, still, you can hear properly. We never hear anything completely; we never listen to anything totally. While you are listening there is already a distortion taking place - what you hear, either you agree or disagree, or you compare what you hear with what you already know, or your mind is chattering. So it is never actually listening either to your wife, to your husband - anything, because you are already crowded. So it is necessary for the mind to be quiet to listen to any conversation, like now. To listen to any person, to a bird, to the wind, the mind must naturally be quiet to listen to the beauty of a bird singing. So the mind must be quiet to find out, to investigate, to look, to observe if life has any meaning at all, or if there is something most profound - which we are doing now, I hope together. That is your mind after laying down the foundation of behaviour, conduct, order in this confusion of existence, naturally the mind becomes quiet. Now in that quietness is there an observer who says, 'I am quiet'? You understand my question? When you are happy, walking along a street, or in the woods, or sitting in the sun, you know, quietly happy, when you say, 'Am I happy?', then that happiness has gone. Right? Have you not noticed, it is a very simple fact. The moment you are conscious of something which gives you happiness, that happiness disappears. So when you say, 'Am I silent, is my mind silent?', it is no longer silent. Right?
There are different kinds of silence: the silence between two words, the silence between two notes of the piano, the silence between two noises, the silence between two thoughts - an interval between two thoughts - the silence after a long battle with oneself - the weariness; the silence between two wars, which you call peace. So, all those are silences which are the product of noise - between two noises, between two thoughts, between two notes, between two wranglings. That is not silence; there is silence which is not produced or cultivated, so that there is no 'me' to observe that silence, there is only silence, quietness. Then we can ask that question in that silence if there any meaning or not at all. You really don't ask that question in that silence but we have started with that question; we have not answered that question; we must find an answer to that question. We have prepared the field or rather the mind, that is capable now of finding out. Have we gone together so far? A little bit at least?
Where do you find the answer? You understand my question? We put a question which is: has life any meaning? We have said various religions have offered a substitute, a symbol. A symbol, a myth is not actual, it's a romantic thing. But when we have started with that question we must find out who is going to answer that question. Am I going to answer it, that is, as a human being - answer that question - or, in that very silence the answer is? You understand my question? Am I making myself somewhat clear?
That is, when there is no distortion - and distortion exists only when there is motive, distortion exists when there is effort, distortion exists where there is a demand for experience, distortion exists when there is division between the observer and the observed, the thinker and the thought and so on - all those are distorting factors. When there is no distortion and therefore no wastage of energy, now in that silence there is this energy, which has been dissipated, but now that dissipation has ceased. So in that silence there is great energy. Right? Is that actual with each of us - or we are still floundering somewhere in the middle? You understand my question? Because there must be that energy, that vitality, that strength to see words! Because the word is not the thing, the description is not the described. So is there anything beyond this energy and silence? Is this energy a mechanical thing - because mechanical thought has tremendous energy - to go to the moon, to create the instrument to go to the moon. There must be a great deal of energy to put all that together, a million parts together. That demands great co-operation of three hundred thousand people to put that thing together. That is, that energy is derived from knowledge, experience, memory, response of thought. And thought in its activity has its own energy which is mechanistic, which is a material process. Now that energy is totally different from the energy which we are talking about. I wonder if you're aware of what we're talking about? Am I mesmerising all of you? (Laughter)
You see, the speaker is very serious about all this. He has spent fifty years and more in this, and as most minds are caught in grooves, deep or shallow, one is constantly watching if the brain forms a groove and feels secure in that groove and remains in that groove. We are asking the same thing of each one of us. And when one stays in a groove - belief, dogmas, religions - whatever the groove be, however beautiful, however pleasant, however comforting, then that mind becomes mechanical, repetitive, so it loses its depth, its beauty. So we are asking: is the silence mechanistic - a product of thought which says, 'There must be something beyond me - and therefore to find that out I must be silent, I must control myself, I must subjugate everything to find out' - which is still the movement of thought. Right? So we must find out the difference between concentration, awareness and attention, because these three we are concerned with.
Concentration implies, to focus ones energy in a particular direction, excluding all other directions. Right? I concentrate on a page, on a word. The word near or the word very far away, to concentrate on that demands your energy applied to that one particular thing, therefore you are excluding all other things; you are building a wall - resistance. That is concentration.
Then there is awareness, which is fairly simple if you don't give a lot of complications to it. To be aware. To be aware of the marquee, its shape, the people sitting round you, the colour of their dress - to be aware of all this. But that awareness then begins to choose. To choose that colour better than the other colour, to choose what it would like, what it would not like. So, to be aware without choice - you understand? - just to observe the total thing without any choice. I hope you are doing this as we are talking.
And there is attention. Attention implies there is no centre from which you are attending. When there is a centre from which you are attending, that's merely an extension of the centre. Right? The centre is me or you, and if you are aware from that centre that attention is limited. Right? But there is an attention which has no centre; the centre exists when there is choice in awareness. Right? Are you following all this?
You understand? Concentration, awareness, awareness with choice. When there is choice there is always 'me' - my experience, my knowledge - me, separate from you. That 'me' chooses; where there is choice there is 'me' and therefore it is still limited. Now we are talking about attention in which there is no centre at all. Therefore if you do it now as you are sitting there, you will see when there is no centre your attention is vast, there is no boundary. And this is necessary because it is necessary so that the mind is now without choice, completely attentive. Completely. With your nerves, with everything - it is completely attentive, and therefore no centre. There is no 'me', who says, 'I am attentive'. Now, in that attention, there is silence, silence which contains this energy which is no longer dissipated.
Then let's proceed from there. To proceed from here must be either actual or verbal. You understand? Either your mind is moving, not in time - I won't go into that - is capable of a different kind of movement, and when you describe that movement it's either verbal or actual. If you're caught in the verbal description then you're lost. Right? Then you're playing with words, arguments and all the rest. But if it is actual, real, that which is going on, then that question is still unanswered: is there a meaning to life, or none at all? Which is, to put it differently, is there anything sacred in life? Sacred in the sense - holy. The word 'whole' means health, sanity and a quality of sacredness; that's the word 'whole'. The word 'whole' means that: health, sanity and holy. Now, is the mind, your mind, healthy? That is, both your body and your mind completely healthy, so that there is no neurotic movement. Right? Even though your body may not be healthy, if it interferes then that illness distorts the mind, the activity of mind, then it's impossible. Right? But even though you can be not completely healthy, you can know you're not healthy, be aware of it, know its limitation and therefore leave it there. You follow?
So, we are now asking if the whole of the mind is whole - healthy, sane and holy? Is your mind like that? Please, this requires tremendous enquiry - you understand? - into oneself, so that there is no false note in it, no hypocrisy, never going beyond actually 'what is'. That requires great attention, great energy to look at yourself. Not to analyse yourself, but to observe what is going on. So, it is only such a mind that can find the answer. It's only such a mind that discovers - you have to at least unfortunately I describe it and therefore it becomes something unreal - there is something beyond all this travail, all this misery if you are capable, if you give your whole energy, time, capacity to this; otherwise one leads a very shallow, meaningless life - and the inevitable death coming after.
So the whole of this is meditation, from the beginning to the end. The beginning is to understand oneself, not according to any philosopher, any psychologist or any analyst, but for yourself. Yourself is mankind, the rest of the world. When you look at yourself you are looking at every human being in the world. And then you have to see what your consciousness is - your consciousness is its content - the misery, the confusion, the anxiety, the fears, the attachments, the property, the wife - you follow? - all that is your consciousness, which is the consciousness of every human being. It may have frills around it, but in its essence it is the same. From there you can go into the question of fear. Psychological fear must be totally ended. We went into that, and also we went into pleasure; we talked about sorrow and the ending of sorrow. The ending of sorrow - then only there is love, compassion. Otherwise there is no compassion. That is the solid earth upon which your feet are firmly established, rooted - so that there is no deception. Then effort. Where there is effort there must be distortion. So can one live a life, a daily life, without a single effort? Find out what it means. It is possible to live without a single effort. That comes only when you understand contradictions in yourself. Observe the contradiction in oneself, not try to change it, not try to alter the contradiction, just to observe. The very observation is its own ending of the contradiction. You understand? When there is a total observation in which is total attention then any contradiction in yourself comes to an end. You can test it out actually everyday for yourself. So one can live a life in which there is no conflict. Then only the real, deeper meditation begins, and then you have that energy of silence, in which there is no illusion, and that is, as we said at the beginning, the first step is the last step, which is freedom.