Have you ever asked yourself what knowledge is?
Is there a learning that’s not restricted to a particular point of view?
1st K School - Students Discussion, Rishi Valley
December 10, 1981
Krishnamurti: What would you like to talk about?
Questioner: I would like to ask you a question.
K: Yes, sir.
Q: I have been staying in the school for over eight years now. I’ve listened to some of your earlier talks, and you have said that the complete development of the individual is the most important thing but I don’t think the school is providing the ideal atmosphere for such a thing to happen.
K: The school has not provided it.
Narayan: ...the school has not provided the ambience for this development.
K: The school has not provided the proper education, proper development of the human mind. That is the question, isn't it? Any other question?
Q: Sir, you say knowledge is limited, where do you draw the line and say this is the limit of knowledge?
K: Any more question? The school has not provided the proper, not only ambience, environment, but also has not helped each human being, each one of you, to cultivate the whole of your being. Right, Sir? And the other question is: where does one draw the line between knowledge and the freedom from knowledge? Right?
K: Any more question?
Q: Sir, why do we place so much importance to words?
K: Why do we give so much importance to words. By Jove! Anything else?
Q: Is there a passion which does not die after some time?
K: All right, I have got it. Is there a passion which doesn't wither away after a while? Right. I'll answer all those questions presently.
May I ask you a question? (Laughter) Are you all happy here?
Q: Yes, sir.
K: Just a minute, just a minute, just a minute (laughs), don't be so eager. Are you all happy? Wait a minute, I'll tell you what I mean by happiness. Do you look at the birds?
Q: Yes, sir.
K: Do you look at all the trees, the plants, the flowers, those hills which are the oldest hills in the world, one of the oldest? Do you look at the moon in the evening? Do you? Not quite! Do you look at the evening star when there is no other star in the sky? Do you? Or you are only concerned with books? Would you answer that question? Are you only concerned with the books that your teacher, your educator puts before you? Or do you look at all this world - a most extraordinary world it is, the beauty of the skies in the evening? Do you? Does each one of you look at it? Or you are too occupied with your books, with your worries, with your play, with your amusement? I am asking a question. Would the older boys be good enough to answer that question? And girls?
Q: Most of us are preoccupied with books.
K: What, sir?
N: He says many of the senior boys are preoccupied.
K: Yes, preoccupied with books. So you neglect all this. And you call that happiness? You call that being happy when you are only concerned with books? Have you ever considered what happens to your brain when you are only concerned with books? Have you? Have you ever given thought to the state of your brain, mind, your capacity to observe when you are only concerned with what is printed in a book? Don't your teachers tell you to look at the birds, to look at trees?
Q: We do look at them but we don’t do anything further about it, for a moment you may say it’s beautiful and then we go back to our books.
K: So books have become very important, why?
Q: There seems to be no other way, we have to pass examinations.
K: So you are only concerned with examinations.
Q: I have to get a job when I grow big.
K: You have to get a job and so you have to pass examinations. And do you know how many people are after that one job that you want? You understand my question? I pass from this school to college, university, and I pass some kind of examination with a few alphabets after my name, do you know how many people are at it? For one job there are about ten thousand people for one job. Right? Are you aware of this? Yes sir?
Q: What would we do if we don’t pass examinations?
K: I didn't say you shouldn't pass examinations. I said are you aware of it. Are you aware that after you have passed your examinations - BA, MA, PhD, whatever it is - there are so many other people after that job, after any job. Are you aware of this? Are you? Yes?
Q: Sir, in order to compete, your performance in the examinations counts a lot.
N: In order to compete against them you have to do well and perform well in exams.
K: I am asking a different question, lady. I am asking, are you aware, after you have passed your exams, that when you seek one job, your particular job, your particular work, there are thousands after that work - are you aware of it? What do you say? Yes, sir? Do you know how dangerous it is, that you may not get the job you want? So what are you going to do? You live here, if you are lucky you go to college, then after that university, then you search for a job - your uncle, or your father, or some kind of distant relative pulls wires, and you may get a job if you are lucky. But if you don't, what will you do? Most people don't. You understand what I am saying? Then what will you do? Come on sir. You see, you don't think far enough. You just think of passing some beastly examination, and then - lost. Right? Then what will you do? What good have your examinations been if you don't get a job?
Q: We have to study hard to avoid that possibility.
N: He says he studies hard to avoid that possibility.
K: So you are studying hard to avoid that possibility. What about the other people who don't get a job?
Q: For them it has been useless.
N: For them exams are useless.
K: If you don't get a job will the examinations be useless? Not for them, for you.
Q: It will be useless for me too because I am doing the exams for the job.
K: My god! This is the school that you are producing! You are only concerned about yourself, aren't you? Right? Right, sir?
Q: Yes, sir.
K: Be honest.
Q: Yes, sir.
K: Good. You are only concerned about yourself. As long as you get a job, you hope to be secure, enough money, married, children and a house. And that's all you are concerned about, aren't you? Be honest.
Q: Honestly I am not. I am not concerned about those things but that is generally what happens.
K: So what are you concerned about?
Q: There is so much misery in the world.
K: So you are concerned with misery, are you? What are you going to do about it?
Q: Right now I am confused about this. I don’t know if I can do anything about it.
K: I wish I could understand your English.
K: Where do you start to understand the misery of the world? Is the world outside there different from you?
Q: Sir, I think if you want to do something about what is happening outside, then you have to do something about yourself.
K: Do you start with yourself? Or those are just words?
Q: I think, sir, it is more of words.
K: Just words.
N: More of them. Or do you mean more than words?
Q: Of them.
K: So you add some more words to the words you already know. What kind of school is this? Would you tell me?
Q: It is like any other school and then...
K: It is like any other school, and what else?
Q: It is situated in a beautiful valley.
Q: Sir, we think so much about change but still I feel things are very much at a superficial level.
K: Sir, I asked you a question at the beginning. Are you happy here? Because it is very important to be happy while you are very young, isn't it?
Q: It depends on what you would call happiness.
K: I explained, sir. What do you call happiness?
Q: For me it has come to me, something that is just passing.
K: Can't make out.
N: He says for him, happiness is something that is passing.
K: Yes. So are you so happy? Good lord!
Sir, I will ask also, if I may, what would you like me to talk about. You have put three questions: what place has knowledge, and the division between knowledge and freedom - right? - and so on. What would you like me to talk about? What are you interested in? Books? Exams? Is that all what you are interested in? Would you kindly tell me.
Q: I don’t know what I am interested in because at times I am interested in something, in studying, and then after some time I find that I don’t feel like studying. So I don’t actually know what I am interested in.
K: How will you find out? Are you waiting for somebody to tell you?
Q: I am not waiting for somebody to tell me.
K: Therefore how will you find out what you are really deeply interested in?
N: He also asked a question, is there a passion that doesn't die away.
K: What do you call passion? What is passion to you? Passion to paint? Passion to be a first-class carpenter, first-class scientist? Not just pass some little examination that tells you are a scientist but to have passion behind it, vitality, energy, drive. Have you passion for anything? To be very well dressed (laughs) Passion to be the most really religious man? Do you have any passion? Good heavens!
And you also asked a question about the division in knowledge. What is knowledge? Have you ever asked yourself what is knowledge? Somebody raised that question. What is knowledge? Not only learning from books, but also watching: watching the movement of the leaves, watching the hills, watching the trees grow, how the birds fly. By watching, not by learning from a book. So what is knowledge? I wish you would discuss it with me, will you? What to you is knowledge?
Q: Sir, knowledge is experience.
K: All right, knowledge comes from experience. Does it?
K: Right. Now what is experience? You drive along in a car, rather fast and you have an accident. I hope you don't, but people do. And that is an experience, isn't it? Right. You have an experience when you go to a hospital, being sick. Right? You have an experience when there is a thunderstorm. Right? You have an experience when you learn something new. Right? You have an experience when you see or feel something that you have never felt before. Right? So all these are various forms of experiences. What do you learn from those experiences? To avoid an accident? Right? To observe the light on the leaf and watch it very carefully. So all that, all those experiences leave a record which is called knowledge. Right? Would you agree to that? All of you, do you agree to that?
K: Right. Then what happens? You have knowledge of an accident, you have knowledge of a hospital where you have been sick, you have knowledge of seeing something totally new; so what happens after that knowledge? You have learnt, or been taught mathematics; you have learnt from the books, you have listened to your educator, and you have gathered information. Right? And that you call knowledge. That knowledge is stored in the brain, isn't it? Right? Agree? And what happens after that?
Q: We use that knowledge, apply that knowledge.
K: How do you apply that knowledge? I have learnt, I have been apprentice to a carpenter, a master carpenter, he has taught me how to use the instruments, to feel the quality of the wood, and so on. For a few years I have studied, I have learnt. And that learning becomes the knowledge and I am going to use that knowledge. Right? Right? Now what happens between knowledge, before action? Think with me, learn from me, don't just answer it, learn. I have seen, experienced, I see from experience there is knowledge, but before that knowledge is put into action what takes place?
Q: Thought operates.
K: Thought operates. Right. You follow? Look what happens: experience, knowledge, thought and action. Right? Have you got that? I have an experience, from that experience I gather a great deal of knowledge, then I think how to put that knowledge into action. So experience, knowledge, memory, then thought, then action. From that action you learn more. Right? All that is the process of knowledge, thought and action. That's clear? You have learnt in the school, if you have, a great deal of information as knowledge about engineering; you go to college, there you learn more about engineering, mathematics, pressure and so on; then you go to university, there you are also getting more and more knowledge; and then you get a job, if you are lucky, then you operate skilfully or not skilfully according to the knowledge that you have acquired. Right. Is that clear? Have you understood that?
Now just a minute: I have explained, I have put into words what actually goes on in the brain. Now do you see that for yourself, the fact of that, or you have made an idea of it? You understand?
Q: I didn’t understand.
K: No, you don't. All right. First of all do you see the difference between the word and the thing? The word 'microphone' is not the microphone. Have you understood that? No, no, don't say, yes, unless you completely understand this. The word is not the thing.
N: He is saying the properties of matter, you can see, is not the thing.
K: You come over here. Come and sit down, sir.
Q: Are the properties which we see...
K: Be simple with me. Not, the property we see. What do you mean you see? You see that clock, you see that pillar, you see that tree. Go on. The word 'clock' is not the actual thing.
Q: But we are saying...
K: Have you understood what I said?
Q: How can you say it is not the thing?
K: Not how can I, the word 'clock', is not the actual clock, the thing. The word is not the thing. The word 'father' is not actually your father.
Q: Yes sir. That word only creates a picture of what it is.
K: First see the word is not the thing.
Q: It is synonymous with the thing, it is almost synonymous with the thing. I mean the word and the thing, there is a very subtle difference between them.
K: But first, sir, see, it may be synthesis, it may be this, but see the difference how our mind works. The word, say, 'clock', you immediately imagine that. Right? We don't separate the word from the thing. Right?
Q: Sir, we are always caught up in this.
K: What's your name?
K: Sapan. All right. The word 'Sapan' is not you.
Q: Yes, sir.
K: Though that indicates you. That describes you. But the description is not you. I describe the mountain, I paint the mountain, I write a poem about the mountain, but the poem, the description, the picture is not the actual mountain. Got it?
Q: Yes, sir.
K: You are sure?
Q: Yes, sir.
K: Quite? (Laughs)
Q: Then the question arises, what is the mountain, what am I?
K: I am not asking what you are.
Q: But I am.
K: You may be a cuckoo! But I am asking you a very simple question. The word 'mountain' is not the actual rock, the tree, all that. Right? Do you agree to that?
Q: Yes. I agree to that.
K: Good, I am glad. So next is: the knowledge that you have acquired through experience, knowledge, memory, thought, all that is part of you, isn't it? Right? Right?
Q: Yes, sir.
K: Now the question was asked: is there freedom or division between knowledge and non-knowledge. This is rather difficult, you won't (laughs) Now you have acquired a great deal of knowledge from books - right? - what other people have said. Agreed? And you repeat that for the rest of your life, don't you. Getting a little more or a little less but you keep on repeating that. Right? So what happens to you, to your brain?
Q: It is not your own.
K: Which means what?
Q: I am not thinking for myself.
K: Go on sir, enquire. What does that mean? That you are all second-hand human beings. Right? Right? He doesn't like to say that. He doesn't like to acknowledge that he is a second-hand human being.
Q: Sir, but if we were to start discovering knowledge, it would certainly take ages.
K: I don't quite follow.
N: If he has to pick up all the knowledge himself, it would take ages.
K: Of course not. Probably you will take a thousand years. But see the point that as long as we are learning about something from others, say for example, if you want to be a scientist, you have to study all the previous scientists and their discoveries, all this knowledge is stored up in books, by your studying, it is there in your mind. You can't start right from the beginning to discover what science is, other people have discovered it, and so you learn about it, and you repeat what other people have said. Right? Right? Do you agree to all that? Do you? Don't be shy. That is what you are doing, old boys.
Q: Sir, what is wrong with doing that?
K: Oh, what is wrong with doing that. You are like a machine, aren't you, if you keep on repeating, repeating what other people have said. It is just like a machine going round and round and round.
Q: I certainly don’t have the feeling that I am a machine.
K: Of course not. Of course not. You don't have the feeling that you are a machine. But you are. You don't like to think you are a machine. Probably you are studying, I don't know what you are studying, suppose you are studying mathematics, and that's your subject in which you are going to pass your examinations, and you become a professor in mathematics in some unfortunate university, and what happens? You repeat what you have learnt. Right? And you tell the other students to repeat what they have learnt. So gradually your mind, your brain becomes mechanical, like a machine going round and round and round. You may discover something in going round and round, but it is still round and round. Agree?
Q: Yes, sir.
K: Are you quite sure? (Laughs)
Q: If I were to become a mathematics professor, all 24 hours, I won’t just be doing mathematics all the time. There are so many other things I could do.
K: No, of course not.
N: He will be doing interesting things as well.
K: You will be doing other interesting things? Which means you are not interested in mathematics! (Laughter) So you realise what you are doing with your life? It's your life: school, college, university, passing some exams, adding some alphabets after your name, and for the rest of your life you do this.
Q: Is there an alternative to it?
N: He says what is the alternative.
K: Do you want to find out? Do you want to learn about it? Do you? Seriously? Will you give as much time as you have done to study mathematics or to your study? Or it is just a passing interest? You want the alternative. I'll tell you what the alternative is. But you must give time to it, won't you. Right? Will you? So you are just asking what is the alternative because it doesn't matter. What matters is exams, title, job.
Q: Sir, but even that alternative is in the – again you are going to do the same thing. Once you say that you want an alternative you are still in the field of knowledge.
K: That's right. Quite right. The field of knowledge. So you move from one knowledge to the other. Knowledge is the same. So do you want to find out how to live a life where knowledge is necessary, where knowledge is not necessary? Knowledge is necessary if you are a carpenter; knowledge is necessary if you want to drive a car; knowledge is necessary if you want to be a businessman, or an engineer, or some crook. Right? Knowledge is all necessary there. Now find out, find out where knowledge is not necessary, or may not be necessary. Find out. Exercise your brain to find out. Do you understand my question?
Q: Yes, sir.
K: All my life I have worked in this field. I go from one corner to the other and I think I am free, but it is still in the same field. Right? Now I realise that. That's not freedom. It is like a donkey tied to a tether, it thinks it is very, very free because it has got that length of rope, but it is not free. Right? So I have to ask if there is freedom first. Which means freedom from this. Right?
Q: Yes, sir.
K: Now, how will you find out?
Q: But there isn’t any freedom from that. The prime importance is passing school, getting a job and feeling secure. Where is freedom from this?
K: That's what I am asking, sir, there is no freedom from this. As long as you want that there is no freedom from it. You understand? As long as I want a job, I want a good job, money, house, family, I am stuck there. If I want freedom I have to enquire. Right? I have to say, what is freedom, from what?
Q: You have to enquire into what you want to get freedom from.
K: That's right. First freedom from. Right? Now I am violent. I want to be free from violence. That's one. I want to be free from pain. I want to be free from public opinion. Which none of you want. Right? Right, sir? Public opinion matters very much to you, doesn't it? What? Agree? But you don't want to be free from that, do you? You are frightened what people might say about you. Have you heard of Bernard Shaw? The writer. He is dead. He had over his mantelpiece, 'People say, let them say'. You understand? You have understood?
Q: Yes sir.
K: Do you understand that?
Q: That is again an escape from what people are saying.
K: No, no, old boy. (Laughter) You know people say all kinds of things. All right. People say all kinds of things about me. Who cares? They might say good things, they might say bad things, they might want to say things to hurt you; let them say what they want, who cares! But you all do.
Q: Yes, sir.
Q: Because the world which we have figured for ourselves, it is of prime importance. Public opinion is also an important factor, apart from job and security.
K: Of course! So are you frightened of public opinion? Of course you are. You don't even know about it.
Q: Sir, is there life after death?
K: Oh Jesus! (Laughter) Why are we all laughing? Because a little boy asks what happens after death. (Laughs) We will talk about it another time, but now we are talking of what happens before death, not after. (Laughter)
Q: Sir, some people say who have gone to hospitals when they were dying, (laughter) for blood transfusion, they said they have seen a long tunnel, and when they come back they say they went through a tunnel, and at the other end they saw all their friends shouting at the other end of the tunnel.
K: Look, don't talk about death now, (laughs) we will do it another time. Let's talk about what happens before we die, shall we? Right.
Have you ever looked at yourself, apart from the mirror, I don't mean that. (Laughter) Have you looked at yourself? Have you?
Q: Yes, sir, but all the time I have always been forming images about myself that I am this, and I am that, and it does not get me anywhere.
K: Agreed. Now why do you have images about yourself? Listen to what I asked - my question. Can you look at yourself without any image? Or look at yourself who are the maker of images? Or can you look at the image that you have made about yourself? This applies to all of us. Can you look at yourself, which is your image, look at it? Can you look at your image that you have made of yourself?
Q: It has become too strongly embedded in me.
K: So you are the image, are you? Right? Right, sir? Do you agree to that? Silence! You make a statement that your image is strongly embedded; and I say look at that strongly embedded image, can you? I see you are not used to thinking things out for yourself. Right?
Q: Everything seems to go blank.
K: I know. Why? How old are you?
K: Remain fifteen, nice, don't grow old. We have talked for an hour, is that enough? Is that enough?
K: Yes! The boy says, yes. Is that enough? What do you say?
Q: I don’t think you have answered a single question.
K: Of course not. I have not answered a single question, that boy says. Why? I am not escaping, I am not avoiding. I can answer all your questions but I haven't answered them because I want you to think it out for yourself. I can help you to think it out, but you see you are used to: you ask a question and somebody answers it, so you have stopped questioning yourself. Right? Whereas if I say look, you have asked a question like passion, like knowledge, enquire into it, look into it, exercise your mind to understand it, not what I say, but find out. That way you have a good brain. But if I say well, passion is this, or the end of knowledge, and so on, if I explain it all very carefully, which I will, I am not frightened of explanation, but at the end of it what will you do? You will repeat that explanation. Right? Whereas if you and I can think together, explore together, find out, learn, but you are not doing that. Your minds, your brains, are used to being told what to do, how to think. But I don't want to do that. I want, if we can, to help each other to find out, to learn about things anew, fresh.
Is that enough, an hour, Narayan? Is that enough, sir?
Q: We can continue.
K: (Laughs) Poor chap, he says, you can continue, in a meek voice! I think that is enough for this morning. Will you sit quietly for two or three minutes? Absolutely quiet. Keep your eyes closed. Don't let your body move, twist, fingers, just sit absolutely quiet. (Pause)
All right, sirs.