Learning that transforms consciousness
The turning point
2nd Public Talk, Saanen
July 14, 1981
Shall we continue where we left off yesterday? Oh, the day before, sorry.
We were saying, weren't we, that human consciousness is similar in all human beings. Our consciousness, whether we live in the East or West, is made up of many layers of fears, anxieties, pleasures, sorrow, beliefs, every form of faith and perhaps in the content of that consciousness there is also love, compassion, and from that compassion a totally different kind of intelligence. And always there is this fear of ending, which is death. And also human beings throughout the world from time immemorial have sought, have tried to find out if there is something sacred beyond all thought, something that is incorruptible, timeless and so on. And also we were saying, there is not only group consciousness, like the business people with their consciousness, the scientists with theirs, and the carpenter with his, and so on, all these layers or content of consciousness are the product of thought. Thought has created extraordinary things technologically, from the extraordinary computers, to communication, to robots and so on, surgery, medicine - if you like that kind of medicine. And also thought has invented religions. Please don't be angry or impatient, or irritated when we point out certain things, when we say all the religious organisations throughout the world are put together, invented, brought together by thought. And thought has invented the computer. We must understand the complexity and the future of the computer. The computer is going to outstrip man in his thought; the computer is going to change the structure of society, the structure of government, the structure of society. This is not some fantastic conclusion of the speaker, or some fantasy, this is actually going on now, of which we are not aware. The computer can learn, invent and has a mechanical intelligence. The computer is going to make employment of human beings practically unnecessary. Perhaps human beings may have to work a couple of hours a day.
Please, these are all facts that are coming. You may not like it, you may revolt against it, but it is coming. And thought has invented it, and human thought is limited, but the mechanical intelligence of the computer is going to outstrip man. So what is a human being then? You are following all this? These are facts, not some specialised conclusion of the speaker. As we pointed out the day before yesterday, we have talked to many, several computer experts and all the rest of it. It is going to revolutionise totally our lives.
And when you consider what its capacity is, then we have to ask ourselves: what is a human being to do? It is going to take over all the activities of the brain, most of it. And what happens to the brain then? You understand? Please follow this a little bit. They are concerned about a human being whose occupation is taken over by the computer, by the robot and so on, then what becomes of the human? We are put together, both rather, we have been programmed biologically, intellectually, emotionally, psychologically through a million years, and we repeat over and over again the same pattern. As we pointed out the other day, we have stopped learning.
We will go into that question of what is learning. Whether the human brain which has been programmed for so many, many centuries, whether it is capable of learning and immediately transforming itself into a totally different dimension. If we are not capable of that, the computer, which is much more capable, more rapid, more accurate, is going to take over the activities of the brain. Right? See the importance of this, please. This is not something casual, this is very, very serious, desperately serious. The computer can invent a new religion. It can be programmed by an expert Hindu scholar, by the Catholic, by the Protestant, by the Muslim, and it will turn out a marvellous structure of a new religion. And we, if we are not at all aware of what is happening, we will follow that new, programmed structure which has been put forward by the computer. See the seriousness of all this, please!
So our consciousness has been programmed for thousands and thousands of years. And we have been conditioned, programmed, wired - (laughs) if you like to put it that way - to think as individuals, to think as separate entities struggling, struggling, in conflict, from the moment you are born till you die. We are programmed to that. We have accepted that. We have never challenged, we have never asked if it is possible to live a life totally, absolutely without conflict. We have never asked it and therefore we never learn about it. We repeat - it is part of our existence to be in conflict, nature is in conflict - that is our argument - and progress is through conflict. That's what we have been programmed with for millions of years. And the religious organisations throughout the world have maintained this individual salvation. And we are questioning very seriously whether there is an individual consciousness, whether you, as a human being, have a separate consciousness from the rest of mankind. You have to answer this, not just play with it.
My consciousness and yours, if we have been brought up, programmed, conditioned to be individual, then my consciousness is all this activity of thought - fear is thought, we will go into that presently. Pursuit of pleasure is the movement of thought. And the suffering, the anxiety, the uncertainty, the deep regrets, wounds, the burden of centuries of sorrow, is part of thought. Thought is responsible for all this. What we call love has become sensual pleasure, something to be desired, and so on.
So as we ended up last time we met here, we went somewhat briefly into the whole movement and the nature of thought. Please, as we said, and we will repeat it over and over again till we are quite sure of it, that we are thinking together. The speaker is not telling you what to think. He is not doing propaganda, it is a horrible thing, propaganda. He is not telling you how to act, what to think, what to believe, and so on, but together we are investigating the catastrophe that is taking place in the world outside of us, the utter ruthlessness that is taking place, violence, thought and all the rest of it, and also inwardly in each human being, the extraordinary conflict that is going on. Together we are examining, taking the journey together, perhaps hand in hand. So it is not, if one may point out, that you are merely listening to some ideas, to some conclusions: we are not talking about conclusions, beliefs, ideas. We are together looking at this world that human beings have produced, for which all of us are responsible. So first we must be clear in our understanding, at whatever level that understanding be, whether it is intellectual understanding, which is merely verbal, or the understanding of the deep significance, and that understanding acts. We have come to a point where we have to make a decision - not by the exercise of will, but the decision that naturally will take place when we begin to understand the whole nature and the structure of the world outside of us and inside. That perception will bring about a decision, action. Right?
We have a hot morning.
So first let us examine together what thought is. Though the speaker has repeated several times what thought is but each time when we talk about it you discover something new. Unless you do it together, not merely listen to what the speaker is saying, if you are doing it together then you will, for yourself, discover the truth and the significance and the limitation of thought.
Thought has created the problems which surround us. And our brains are trained, educated, conditioned to solving problems. Please understand this. Thought has created the problems, like division between nationalities, thought has created the division and therefore the conflict between various economic structures, thought has created, invented various religions and divided them and therefore there is conflict. And the brain is trained to solve these conflicts which thought has created. I wonder if you see all this. Can we go on? We understand this problem together? And unless we deeply understand the nature of our thinking, the nature of our reactions, which is part of our thinking; and thought dominates our lives. Whatever we do, whatever action takes place, thought is behind that action. Every activity, whether it is sensual activity, or intellectual activity or merely biological, physical activity, thought is operating all the time. Biologically through centuries it has been programmed, conditioned - the body acts in its own way, breathes, but the brain which has evolved through millennia upon millennia, that has been programmed to a certain pattern, which is obvious. If you are a Catholic, or a Hindu, or a Buddhist, whatever it is, you repeat it over and over and over again.
And, as we asked the other day, what is thought? Why has thought become so extraordinarily important in our lives? Is there an action which is not born of thought? We have to enquire into all this, it is not just ask these questions and wait for somebody else to answer it. Nobody is going to answer it. And if you put the question to yourself and are serious in the question, you will break the pattern. I will show you as we go along. The speaker will go into it.
Thought is the movement of time. I will go very carefully into it. Please let us go together into it. Thought is the movement of time and space. Which is: thought is memory, the remembrance of past things. Thought is the activity of knowledge, knowledge which has been gathered together through millions and millions of years and stored as memory in the brain. Please, the speaker is not an expert on the brain. But if you observe your own activity you will see that experience and knowledge is the basis of our life. And knowledge is never complete, it must always go together with ignorance. See the importance of this, please understand this. Knowledge, we think, is going to solve all our problems, whether it is the knowledge of the priest, the guru, or the scientist or the philosopher, or the latest psychiatrist. But we have never questioned whether knowledge in itself, not about something - you understand the difference? - whether knowledge in itself can solve any of our problems, except perhaps technological problems. So we must go into it.
Knowledge comes through time. If one has to learn a language you need time. If you have to learn a skill you need to have time. If you want to drive a car efficiently, you have to learn about it. That requires time. You have knowledge how to drive, how to do something skilfully if you are a carpenter, or a surgeon. Or to put together a computer you must have knowledge, which means time. That same movement, which is the movement of time, is brought over to the psychological field - right? - there too we say, 'I must have time to learn about myself'. 'I must, in order to change myself from 'what is ' to what should be', I must have time'. The same activity as in the technological world, we have brought over that same movement into the psychological world. You are following all this? Which means that time is a great factor in our life - the tomorrow, the past and the present. Right? So time is thought. Time is the acquisition of knowledge through experience both there in the world, and here inwardly, requires time - that is what we have been programmed. You are following this? Are we understanding each other a little bit? Andiamo.
So, being programmed that time is necessary to bring about a deep, fundamental change in human structure, we employ thought. Right? Which is: I am this, I shall be that. As you would say in the technical world, 'I do not know how to put together a computer but I will learn'. Right? So time, knowledge, memory, thought: they are a single unit, they are not separate activities, they are a single movement. And thought, being of time, must be limited. Right? Thought, the outcome of knowledge, and knowledge being incomplete, thought must everlastingly be incomplete, therefore limited. Right? And whatever is limited must bring about conflict. Nationality is limited; a religious belief is limited; an experience which you have had, or which you are longing for, is limited. Every experience - I don't want to go into that for the moment, it is too complicated - every experience must be limited.
Krishnamurti: Because there are more experiences. I may have an experience, sexual, the experience of the possession of wealth, the experience of giving up and going to a monastery - they are all limited. So knowledge is limited. And so thought is limited. Thought, being limited, creating problems, national divisions, economic divisions, religious divisions, racial divisions, which is happening in the world, and therefore bringing tremendous conflict, and having created the problem thought says, 'I must solve it'. And so it is always functioning in the resolution of problems - you understand? I wonder if you capture this. See what we are doing. And the computer, which has been programmed, can outstrip all of us because it has no problems, it evolves, learns, moves. I won't go into that for the moment.
So: our consciousness which we have been programmed as the individual consciousness - right? - we are questioning whether that consciousness which you have accepted as individual is actually individual at all. We are thinking together. Don't resist it. Don't say, 'What will happen if I am not individual?'. Something totally different may happen, but as long as we have been programmed through time endless that we are individual, our consciousness is individual - is that so? You may have a skilful individual training in a particular trade, in a particular profession, you may be a surgeon, a doctor, an engineer, and so on, that doesn't make you an individual. You may be tall, short, black, white, purple - whatever colour it is - that doesn't make you an individual. You may have a different name, a different form - does that make individuality? Or the acceptance the brain that has through time said, 'I am an individual, and it is my desire to fulfil, to become, to struggle' - so we are examining that so-called individual consciousness - which is yours - whether that individual consciousness is not the consciousness of the entire humanity, apart from the training as a doctor, as a surgeon - you know, all that. You've got it?
Is our consciousness, your consciousness, which you have accepted as separate, is it so and what is the nature of your consciousness? Please, as we said, look at it, together. The consciousness that we think is separate from the rest of mankind, that consciousness is the sensory responses - part of it, sensory responses. And also those sensory responses are naturally, necessarily programmed: to defend oneself, to be hungry, to breathe unconsciously - you are doing this. So that biologically you are programmed. Then the content of your consciousness is the many hurts, the wounds that one has received from childhood till now, the many forms of guilt. I am beginning slowly, we are going to expand it. The various conclusions, ideas, imaginary certainties, the many experiences, both sensory, sexual, other forms of psychological experiences, and there is always the basis, the root of fear in its multiple forms. Please we are looking at it together, your own consciousness, which is you. Fear, and with it naturally goes hatred, where there is fear there must be violence, aggression, the tremendous urge to succeed, both in the physical world as well as in the psychological world. Fear has many factors which we will go into when we are talking about fear. And the constant pursuit of pleasure - pleasure of possession, pleasure of domination, the pleasure of money which gives power, the pleasure of a philosopher with his immense knowledge, the guru with his circus. Pleasure again has innumerable forms.
And there is then also sorrow, pain, anxiety, the deep sense of abiding, endless loneliness, and not only the so-called personal sorrow but also the enormous sorrow mankind has brought about through wars, through neglect, through this endless sense of conquering one group of people by another. And in that consciousness there is the racial group content, and ultimately there is death. This is our consciousness: belief, certainties, and uncertainties, great sense of anxiety, loneliness, sorrow and endless misery. This is the fact. And we say this consciousness is mine. Is that so? You go to the far East, or the Near East, India, or America, Europe, anywhere you go where human beings are, they suffer, they are anxious, lonely, depressed, melancholic, struggling, conflict - same like you, similar to you. So is your consciousness different from another? I know it is very difficult for people - you may logically accept this, which is intellectually, verbally you say, 'Yes, that is so, maybe', but to feel this total human sense of there is no humanity except you, you are the rest of mankind, that requires a great deal of sensitivity. It is not a problem to be solved - you understand? It isn't that I must accept that I am not an individual and how am I to feel this global human entity? Then you have made it into a problem, and the brain is ready to solve the problem - do this, don't do that, go to a guru, you know, all the circus that goes on. But if you really look at it with your mind, with your heart, with your whole being, totally aware of this fact, then you have broken the programme. You understand? It is naturally broken. But if you say, 'I will break it', you are again back into the same pattern.
I wonder if you understand this? Shall I go over it again? Is it necessary for the speaker to repeat this? No, please don't accept this because the speaker feels this. To him this is utter reality, not something verbally accepted because it is pleasant. But it is something that is actual. Then, if that is so, which is logically reasonably, sanely examined and you see it is so, but the brain which has been accustomed to this programme of the individuality is going to revolt against it - which you are doing now. Which is - listen - which is the brain is unwilling to learn. Right? Whereas the computer is willing to learn because it has nothing to lose. Here we are frightened of losing something. And if you don't understand this we can go into it over and over again, but a serious person confronting the world situation, the world catastrophe: the terror, the atom bomb, the endless competition between nations, that is destroying human beings, that is destroying us, each one. And the decision comes when you perceive the truth that you are not an individual.
So can the brain learn? That is the whole point. So we have to go into this question of what is learning. You understand? Phew! I hope I may take off my jersey.
Learning for most of us is a process of acquiring knowledge. Right? I do not know Russian but I will learn. I will learn day after day, learning, memorising, holding on to certain phrases, words, the meanings, syntax, verbs, irregular verbs and all the rest of it. I apply and can learn any language within a certain time. So to us learning is essentially the accumulation of knowledge, skill and so on. That is, our brains are conditioned to this pattern. Right? Accumulate knowledge and act. Right? That is what we know. So, look, are we learning? When I learn a language, I am learning, there knowledge is necessary. But am I learning psychologically about the content of my mind, of my consciousness, and learning there implies examining each layer of it, accumulating knowledge about it and from that knowledge act. The same pattern as the other - you are following? (Sound of machine) And I am questioning, that is only a part of learning. (Pause) If the brain is repeating this pattern - right? - learning a language, learning about the content of my consciousness is similar because I need time, which means I am accumulating knowledge about myself, my consciousness. And then I determine what the problems are and the brain is ready to solve the problems because it has been trained to solve problems. Right? So I am repeating this endless pattern and that is what I call learning. Right? I go to a guru, if I am silly enough and he will tell me what to do, what not to do, be initiated - all that tommyrot that goes on!
So what does it mean to learn? You understand? Is there a learning which is not this? You understand? We are enquiring. Please don't say there is no other way than this, or, 'Tell us the other way', but together we are doing it. So you are not learning from me. The speaker has nothing to tell you. But together we are looking. This is the pattern the brain has been programmed to, always accumulating knowledge, and knowledge has become so astonishingly important. And we don't say that knowledge in itself is limited. Now we are going to find out if there is a different action of learning, which is not accumulation of knowledge. You see the difference? You understand this? Please, somebody say yes or no! (Laughs)
Krishnamurti: Let me put it differently: experience, from experience knowledge, from knowledge memory, memory, the response of memory is thought, then thought acts, from that action you learn more, so you repeat the cycle. Right? This is the pattern of our life. (Sound of machine) He must be doing it purposely! (Laughter) And we are saying that form of learning will never solve our problems, because it is repetition - you understand? More knowledge, better action, but that action is limited and so on - keep this repeating. That is clear. Right? And the activity of that knowledge will not solve our human problems at all. It is so obvious, we haven't solved them. After two or five million years we haven't solved our problems: we are cutting each other's throat, we are competing with each other, we hate each other - not here - we want to be a success, we want to have - you know, the whole pattern is being repeated from the time man began and we are still there. So this pattern has not solved the problems. Right? Is that clear? Do what you will along this pattern, no human problem will be solved, either politically, religiously, economically because it is thought that is operating. Right?
Now, is there another form - we will use the word for the moment - of learning? Learn, not in the context of knowledge, but a different form of non-accumulative action - let's call it that way. Right? Have you understood? Non-accumulative perception-action. So we have to enquire whether it is possible to observe the content of our consciousness, to observe the world and my consciousness without a single prejudice. Right? Is that possible? Don't say it is not possible, how am I to get rid of prejudice - just ask the question. See whether when you have a prejudice you can observe clearly. Right? You cannot, obviously. Right? If I have a certain conclusion, a certain set of beliefs, concepts, ideals, and I want to see clearly what the world is, all my conclusions, ideals, prejudices and so on will actually prevent it. It is not, how to get rid of my prejudices but to see clearly, intelligently, that any form of prejudice, however noble or ugly, any form of prejudice will actually prevent perception. When you see that, prejudice goes. Because what is important is not the prejudice but the demand to see clearly. Right? I wonder if you are meeting me!
If I want to be a good surgeon I can't become a good surgeon with all my ideals and prejudices about surgeons, I have to actually do it. So can you see that a new form of action, a new form of non-accumulative knowledge, is only possible and therefore break the pattern, break the programme so that you are acting totally differently. Have I put the question clearly? Gosh, I am struggling so much to put it clearly. No, I am not struggling, sorry. Is this clear? That is: the way we have lived for the million years has been the repetition of the same process of acquiring knowledge and acting from that knowledge, which is limited. And that limitation creates problems and the brain has become accustomed to solving the problems which knowledge has created. So it is caught in that pattern. And any form of learning is to add more to it. And we are saying that pattern will never, under any circumstances, solve our human problems. It is so obvious, because we have not solved them up to now. There must be a different, a totally different, movement, which is: the non-accumulative perception-action. And to have the non-accumulative perception is to have no prejudice. You should have absolutely no ideals, no concepts, no faith, because all those have destroyed man, they have not solved the problems. You understand now? Are you doing it now? Otherwise don't - no point in just listening to the nonsense. Unless you do it, it has no meaning. You grow old and die. You may attend these conferences year after year, and, you know, it is nice to meet each other, but... (Laughter)
So: have you a prejudice? Have you a prejudice which has something common with ideals? Of course. Right? Ideals are the future, to be accomplished, and ideals become tremendously important in the process of knowledge. You understand? So can you observe without accumulation the destructive nature of prejudice, ideals, faith, belief, and your own conclusions and experiences? Can you do this? Don't ask the speaker, 'Have you done it?' Otherwise the speaker wouldn't be here. So, see, please understand this. There is group consciousness, we went into it - I am not talking irrelevantly, I want to show, point out something - there is group consciousness, national consciousness, linguistic consciousness, and professional consciousness, racial consciousness, and fear, anxiety, loneliness, pursuit of pleasure, sorrow, love, death, all that is part - right? If you are keeping acting in that circle, you maintain the human consciousness of the world - you understand? Just see the truth of it. Because you are part of that consciousness and if you sustain it by saying, 'I am an individual. My prejudices are important. My ideals are essential' - you follow? 'My guru is a better guru than the other guru' and so on, so on, so on, you are repeating the same thing over and over again.
Now the maintenance, the sustenance and the nourishment of that consciousness comes when you are repeating that pattern - right? - you sustain it. But when you break away from that consciousness, you are introducing a totally new factor in the whole of that consciousness. You understand what I am saying? Please understand this: they are experimenting, as the speaker pointed out the other day, with various forms of group consciousness. They haven't come to that. If one group has learnt something quickly, the animals that belong to that group learn much quicker because the consciousness of that group is enlivened by a new factor. You understand? Now if we understand the nature of our own consciousness, see how it is operating in this endless cycle of knowledge, action, division and so on, that consciousness has been sustained for millennia, million years. If when you see the truth that any form of prejudice - all this is a form of prejudice - and break away from it, you give a new factor into the old. You understand what I am saying? Which means are you, as a human being, who is the rest of mankind, of whose consciousness you are, and whether you can move away from the old pattern, the old pattern of obedience, acceptance, you know, all that, that is the real turning point in our life. Because man cannot go on repeating this pattern, it has lost its meaning, except in the biological and technical world. In the psychological world it has totally lost its meaning. What - if you fulfil, who cares? If you become a saint, what does it matter? You follow? Whereas if you totally move away from that you affect the whole of consciousness of mankind. Right, I've stopped.