Suffering, love and freedom from death
Meditation is the total negation of the self
3rd Public Talk, San Francisco, California
March 17, 1973
I would like, if I may, this morning, to talk over with you the question of suffering, love and whether the mind can ever be free of death. I think they are important questions which every human being right throughout the world is concerned with, whether he be a communist or a capitalist or a socialist or not a believer in anything, he must be concerned with these problems. Whether the mind can ever be free from suffering, whether love is beyond pleasure and desire, and whether death which each one of us has to face, whether there is something beyond death; what is immortality, if there is such a thing, and what is the quality of mind that can face death and be free from all its agonies, from its pains and uncertainties. If we may, that is what we are going to talk over together this morning.
The speaker may be describing but the description is not the described, the word is not the thing. And communication is not only non-verbal but also verbal. But most of us unfortunately get caught in the very description and explanation, in the word and the stringing of words and the sounding of words and the reference of words - but to go beyond it, to actually experience. Which means in this case, sharing together this whole problem of existence with its enormous confusion, conflict and sorrow, and the pleasures that we consider are so important in life with which love is associated, and the fear, the uncertainty, the utter loneliness of death. Though the speaker is going to go into it verbally, and to share mere words has no meaning whatsoever, to merely repeat what the speaker has said, or what others have said has no meaning. What has significance, depth and vitality and energy is to see things as they are and to go beyond it. And to do that one must be sufficiently serious. But unfortunately in this country pleasure plays an extraordinarily important part, not that pleasure is wrong but to make that as the main issue in life, whether the religious pleasure or the stimulation through drink, through sex and so on, destroys the quality of a mind that is really deeply serious. And we need this quality of seriousness when we are going to talk over together very complex, intricate and subtle problems. And without this seriousness it becomes merely a propaganda. And as you listen to the television, read newspapers, the innumerable books that are put out, we get caught in propaganda, we want to be convinced because in ourselves we are so uncertain, so unclear. So if you are willing, this morning, let's go into it.
To understand, not verbally or intellectually, one must have the art or the capacity to listen. We mean by that word 'to listen' not only to the verbal meaning of what is being said but also to listen to the non-verbal intimations, hints and to read between the lines, if one can so put it. When you listen don't interpret, don't compare what you have already perhaps read or compare with your own feelings. The quality of listening is attention, to listen with your mind, logically, sanely, objectively, to feel beyond the word, not sentimentally or emotionally but to listen to the truth of something so that you yourself discover what is true and what is false. You yourself discover the truth in the false so that you are directly confronted, not through the speaker, but confronted with this enormous problem of living.
So we will begin together to observe, to listen and therefore act. Action is not different from perception. If you see something dangerous, both psychologically as well as physically, you act instantly. So action is the actual observation, they are not two separate things. You know, the speaker has talked about these things all over the world - in India, in Europe and here, not to convince, not to propagate a new set of ideas or philosophy, but to help human beings to see actually what they are doing; because we are concerned with life, with everyday living, not an abstraction of life, not an abstract of 'what is' as an idea and according to that idea put into action in life. So we are not dealing with ideas, conclusions, beliefs, suppositions, we are dealing actually with 'what is'. Oh, this is such a complex subject, I don't quite know where to begin.
When one looks at oneself both outwardly and inwardly, we are broken up human beings, fragmented, outwardly and inwardly. There is no harmonious whole, we function in different fields of life - technologically, business, if you are a priest talk about, oh, God knows what, and our daily living is something totally different, and our religious life, if we have any, is something quite apart. We are either artists, business people, politicians and so on. We live a fragmentary life. That's a fact. And each fragment is in opposition to the other, and where there is fragmentation there must be division and therefore conflict. This fragmentation as the 'me' and the 'not me', as 'we' and 'they' both outwardly and inwardly is one of the basic causes or reasons for suffering. Either that suffering is physiological or psychological. If it is physical then one can deal with it fairly, comparatively easily and simply. But when suffering is in the field of the psyche then it becomes much more complex. And a mind that is caught in suffering cannot possibly understand the nature of love, which we are going to talk about presently.
So it is imperative, at least it seems to me, that we understand this question completely and find out for ourselves whether the mind can be free of this torture, this extraordinary thing that man has put up with for generation after generation. In the Christian world they have symbolised suffering and one person, the Saviour, is the embodiment of that suffering and goes beyond it. In the East they translate it in different ways, but the fact remains that human beings, each one, right through the world, goes through great agonies, the more sensitive, the more alert, the more observant, the greater the suffering, the anxiety, the extraordinary sense of insoluble problem. I am sure you must have felt this too, you must have known or felt not only the individual personal suffering but also the suffering of those people killed in Vietnam, the maimed, those who can never have a full meal, can never have clean clothes, who can never live in luxury, in comfort. One must have seen this, or felt it very deeply. So there is not only the personal agony, personal sense of frustration, hopelessness, despair, but also those who can never live, either physically or inwardly, a deep rich life.
So there is suffering of one human being and there is the collective suffering. And can the mind, your mind, go beyond it? Because unless one does, the mind is never free. Freedom is one of the most important things in life. Most of us do not want to be free, most of us like to be attached to a person or to an idea, to a piece of earth or to some furniture in the house. Most of us like to identify ourselves with something or other. And freedom, though we talk about it easily, glibly, that freedom doesn't exist. We think that freedom to think for ourselves, to express freely what we think, to assert our ideas dogmatically or quietly, intelligently or idiotically, is freedom. Thought can never be free because thought is the response of memory, experience, knowledge, which is the past. So thought is never new, thought is never free. And freedom from suffering is not a conclusion, an idea. And we are dealing, or concerned, not with ideas and conclusions but with the actual fact of this colossal weight which human beings bear right through their life. This suffering may come through different forms, which we won't have time to go into and it's irrelevant.
And the point is: is it possible for the mind to be totally free from suffering and yet not become indifferent, callous, irresponsible, but to have that passion, the intensity, the energy that freedom brings, freedom from suffering. We know we suffer, physically and inwardly. They are somewhat related: there is psychosomatic suffering and suffering beyond the mere physical. And two friends talking over this question, like here, as you and the speaker are doing, one asks very deeply, not superficially, not verbally, whether the mind, whether the whole being, the whole structure of our existence can be so totally ordered that suffering doesn't exist at all. The physical suffering is one thing, you can bear with it, or you can medically do something about it; but that physical suffering, to be so aware that it doesn't interfere or distort the clarity of perception. That's one problem. Though one may physically have pain, not to allow that pain to confuse clear action, to confuse relationship and to be so aware of it that it doesn't interfere with the clarity of perception and therefore of thought.
What is suffering, beyond the physical? If you are asked: what is sorrow, how does it come; is it the sense of loneliness, the sense of not being able to fulfil in your desires, in your objectives; is it the sense of being deprived, capacity, person, or that comparing yourself with another you find yourself smaller, less capable. There are so many reasons for suffering: self-pity, and that conflict that comes through comparison. And also we said suffering, sorrow, exist when the mind is fragmented. All these are the factors that bring about suffering: lack of relationship, lack of love and wanting to be loved, the sense of feeling inferior through comparison. I do not know if you have ever gone into that question of comparison. Are you dull, stupid when you don't compare, or only in comparison you find yourself being dull? These are the various factors of suffering.
Now can you look at this whole structure, not fragmentarily, but as a whole, and look at this suffering and remain with it, not sadistically, not morbidly, remain with it without escaping, or without seeking the cause of suffering. Because if you can, if the mind can remain with it totally, without any distraction, without wanting to go beyond it - and the mind is trained, as we are, through education and so on to escape anything, from anything that is painful - so can you who suffer, remain with it without the description, word? Do try, please, as we are talking. Look at it, observe it, remain with it without the word, without the desire to go beyond it, so that you are observing it without the observer, so that there is no division between you and the thing which you call sorrow. Because the moment when there is a division between you as the observer, the thinker, and the observed, which is suffering, then when there is that division there is not only conflict but the desire to go beyond it, to escape from it. And when there is no division at all then you are completely with it without identifying yourself with it. Then you will see, if you do it really, deeply, seriously, with that energy which you have now, which has been dissipated through escape, through rationalisation, you have that energy to face completely that sorrow, then you will see that sorrow becomes passion. The very word 'passion' has its roots, its root meaning is sorrow. Because most of us have no passion, we may be lustful, we may be ambitious, greedy, with innumerable desires, but that is not passion. To do anything creatively, fully, completely, there must be a sense of great intensity, great passion, and that passion is denied when sorrow exists. And that's why, if you are serious, if life is to be something beyond the verbal propagandistic level, one must go beyond this thing called suffering.
And also when there is passion one must enquire into what is love.
Are you interested in all this? I don't know why you should be, are you? Because we are dealing with your life, not with the speaker's life. We must find out and share together because we have created this monstrous, brutal world; we have made it together and we must together transform it; bring about a different world, and therefore there must be co-operation. And co-operation doesn't exist round an idea, round a profit motive. Such co-operation soon breaks up. Co-operation can only exist when there is love. And to bring about a change in this world which is so utterly mad, so destructive, so meaningless, though intellectually you can give it a meaning, but that intellectual capacity to give meaning to a life that is empty is meaningless also. So we must find out for ourselves and in the way of finding it out we shall then learn how to co-operate, how to build a different world which is based on something entirely different. So it is important to find out for ourselves, if you are at all serious, what is love. Is it pleasure? Is it the outcome of desire? We went into the question of pleasure the other day. But for most of us love is pleasure, both sexually and the search for reality or for greater experience is based on pleasure. The ambitions, the greeds, the envies, the whole moral structure which we have built is based fundamentally on pleasure, though we cover it up with words like sacrifice and all the rest of it. So is love pleasure? Please, ask yourself this question.
And is desire with all its tremendous energy, is that love? And is love jealousy? Can a man who is ambitious, competitive, who believes in an idea, in a concept - the idealist, can he love? Can a man who is pursuing pleasure know what love is? And for us love is identified with sex, and sex has become extraordinarily important in our life, probably after power, money, that's the greatest thing because in that there is great pleasure, and in that a sense of freedom, and self-forgetfulness. And is all that - not self-forgetfulness - but the usage of sex as a means to self-forgetfulness is a form of pleasure. Now is all that love? And can love be cultivated? And can love, which has been used by the politicians, by the Generals, by the army, navy, you know, all the brutality, and the divisions of churches and religions, all that, they use this word so easily, and is all that love?
One comes upon it through negation of what it is not, but you must negate, not verbally but actually in daily life. For joy, ecstasy is not pleasure. Pleasure you can invite, sustain, nourish through desire, but joy you cannot invite, you cannot cultivate it, when you are ecstatic, the feeling of it, ecstasy, you cannot hold it. The moment you hold it and want to pursue it, it becomes pleasure.
So through real actual negation of ambition, competition, a negation of sorrow, observing what pleasure does and the pursuit of it, and the divisions that we have made in our life, to negate all that, you come upon this thing which is compassion which is most positive, which has tremendous energy.
Then we can go on to the next thing which is, death. You know, man has always sought immortality, he has always held a belief that there is something beyond death, and has always asked whether he, as a human being, the individual, the 'you', can be immortal, beyond mortality. And we have pursued that, the you becoming immortal, deathless, timeless. And every religion has given you a hope, or conditioned you through propaganda of two thousand years, or seven thousand years historically, has conditioned you to believe in some form of resurrection, reincarnation and so on, because death for all of us, most of us at least, is something dreadful, something to be totally frightened of, something that denies living. The living that we know is, from the moment we are born until we die, it's a constant battle, constant travail, constant anguish, uncertainty with occasional flashes of happiness, joy, and creative expression, but the matrix of our life is pain, grief, struggle. That's what we know. And death is something we don't know. All that we know is life comes to an end, and so we cling to the living which is the known.
So is there such a thing as immortality, the 'me' living everlastingly, the 'me' living in a timeless world? And the 'me' is what I am, and what am I? Look at yourself, what are you? Look at yourself clearly, surgically, not sentimentally, not hopefully, but to see actually as one is. What are you? You are the things that you have identified yourself with, it may be the country, it maybe your politics, it maybe your church, your husband, your wife, your girl friend or whatever it is, identified yourself with your knowledge, the books that you have read, or the books that you want to write, the furniture, the house, the bank account, the ambitions, the frustrations and so on - all that is you actually. You may think you are a divine entity, there is something divine in you - which is again put there by thought, either it is your own thought or the thought of the thousand years of priests. Your own hope and that hope being exploited by another. So that's what you are. That's what you can find out for yourself, what you are - the known. And you want that thing to be immortal. You want that thing to live beyond time. That thing is a series of conclusions and words. I know most of you won't like what is being said, but that's a fact.
And is there freedom from death - which is a much more important question to ask rather than immortality. Can the mind, living in this world, be free from death? Not only the idea of death, and as death, a movement in time, death, something to be postponed, something that is inevitable but let's avoid it at any price, something far away. So when there is this time element which exists between here and there, between the living and the dying, when there is this gap of time, then death is inevitable. And because it is inevitable man seeks through belief, through superstition, through rationality, a way of escape. And thought, as we went into it the other day, is time, thought is measure. It is this measurement as time that divides the living, death and life. Now can the mind be free of death, the idea, the sense of being completely isolated, completely lonely? That's what takes place when you are dying, that there is a moment when you are completely isolated, all your relationships, everything is cut away from you and you are completely lonely, isolated. Can the mind free itself from this?
You know, we are caught in the stream, in a stream - or rather there are two streams, the technological stream and the stream of human conduct, of human sorrow, pain, anxiety, aggression, pleasure and so on. There are these two streams in which the mind is caught. I do not know if you have not observed it. To the one that is, to the mind that steps out of the stream that human beings are caught in, to that person there is no death, there is freedom from death; but the person that is caught in the stream of ambition, greed, envy, pursuit of pleasure and so on, there is always death. And from the stream the Psychical Research Society draws the past, from that stream the persons that have lived express themselves, but they are still in the stream. I don't know if you understand all this. But it doesn't matter.
You see what we are trying to point out is that life is one, the living, love and death are one, they are not three separate things. And when you separate them there is conflict, there is agony, there is pain, there is sorrow and the fear of death. But when life is a whole, non-fragmented, harmonious, total, then to such a mind there is freedom from death.
You know all this requires a great deal of meditation. For meditation is a form of enquiry and that enquiry is not only outwardly but also deeply inwardly. To know oneself, the knowing of oneself completely is the ending of sorrow and the beginning of wisdom. The knowing of yourself completely both consciously as well as unconsciously, to know yourself, the whole of it, is not dependent on a psychologist, on a philosopher. If you know yourself according to somebody then you know that somebody but not yourself. And to know yourself you have to enquire, to look, because you are the world and the world is you, and when you know yourself completely, and the knowing is not just acquiring a knowledge about yourself, it is a movement, then you will see that sorrow ends and wisdom begins.
Would you care to ask questions about what we have talked about this morning?
Questioner: Sir, in the last year I have been caught up in tension because I had to get good grades to get my degree. Initially I worked very hard indeed until suddenly I realised the reason why I was working was for a goal instead of just working out of interest, and what took place was that it was as if suddenly my attention grew inwardly, I became more objective and I would just stop working. It’s a sort of objectivity that would come about and if tension started rising again, the objectivity would come again.
K: I am afraid you have to make your question brief otherwise we can't repeat it for others to hear it. So would you kindly be brief.
Q: She says, I get tense because I have to get a good grade in my studies, then I realise that this tension comes from the ambition of wanting good grades. The rest I didn’t understand.
K: Is this what you are saying, if I understand a little bit of it: that the urge or the demand to get better grades makes you tense and therefore various activities become also rather tiring and exhausting and therefore destructive. Is that what you are saying?
Q: Yes, but I find it hard to be objective.
K: I understand. Let's take up that question by itself. We are being educated for what? (Clapping) Please, I beg of you don't clap, you are wasting your energy. We asked, what is it we are being educated for. And this is a serious question, not a rhetorical question. What for? To go on with this present structure as it is, ambition, greed, envy, fear, you know all that is going on in the world, is that what we are being educated for, to earn a livelihood so that you can have a job because you have a degree? And if you reject that, fall out, what will you do with your life? Just wander around, take drugs? - and there are thousands of them, I have been told fifteen to twenty thousand of them in America, in India, who have dropped out because they reject this kind of education, which merely sustains, as they say, the Establishment. And what will they do with their life? So it is a basic question, it is not just a flippant thing to ask: what is it you are being educated for? To run dynamos, to run factories, to get more money, to buy more cars, refrigerators, and God knows what else, toothpaste and so on, which they advertise everyday - is that what you are being educated for?
So what is education? Is it just a fragmentary cultivation of a particular part of the brain, or is it the total movement of man, the total; his mind, his heart, his body, where he is going, what he is doing? Is it merely to cultivate what he should think, or the art of thinking and therefore realise the limitations of thought and to go beyond it? What is it all for? To dress beautifully? To drive more cars? To take drugs and to have some kind of silly experience? To go to church once in a week and look to God, and all that kind of stuff? Play around? What is it you are all doing, for god's sake? More wars, better submarines? You see we never ask these fundamental questions and if we do then we have no answers. Or we try to answer it according to some philosopher, some saint, or some professor, we never find for ourselves the answer so that we live differently. Why should I be educated? To know more about things, facts and then what? You have been to the moon, then what? You have put up an American flag there. (Laughter) No, don't laugh, don't laugh, you should cry. This is what your education is doing and then ultimately send them to be killed. If you are a mother and you love your child, do you think you would ever allow your son to be killed? No, sirs, you don't.
So you must find out how to bring up a child so that it doesn't become neurotic, violent, and he will become violent if the father and the mother have no right relationship, if each is pursuing his own particular ambition, and treating the child as a toy for a few years and then sending him off to school and then forget him. Do please for your own sakes and for the sake of the world look at it all, do be terribly serious about it.
Q: You said we must be free, what is this force within us which says you must be free?
K: What is the necessity, or the force that demands freedom. Is that it, sir?
Q: Yes. If it is more than a concept or an idea, what is it then?
K: Yes. Is it more than a concept? All right. What is the thing that demands freedom? Is it desire - desire to be free because you are in a prison and you want freedom? Is freedom natural? Or is it something because one lives in a prison, and we live in a prison. We may have marvellous cars to go out, lovely country, the hills and the beauty of the land and the lakes, and the rivers to look at, but inwardly we live in a prison. And to escape from that prison, to wander off, is that freedom? Is freedom the realisation of the prison? And the desire to be out of that prison, is that freedom? Or seeing the prison, seeing we are caught in this awful trap of so-called civilisation, culture - it's a trap, and the very fact of that realisation that it is a trap, the realisation, not the verbal conclusion that it is a trap, that very perception is the demand for freedom, and therefore going beyond the trap.
You see, sir, if it is desire to be free, what is desire? Have you ever thought about it? What is desire, how does it come, about which you are so passionate, we want our desires fulfilled. If they are not fulfilled we become violent, aggressive, silly, idiotic, neurotic. So we have to find out what is desire, how does it come. Surely it comes, to put it very, very simply, there is first seeing, contact, sensation and desire. Seeing a lovely piece of furniture, touching it, the desire to own it. Perception, contact, sensation. And whether the mind can observe this process and not go on with the desire to fulfil that desire. You experiment with it and you will see. Yes sir?
Q: Krishnamurti, I wanted to ask you, do you believe that a man is born with an instinctive nature – instinctive in terms of animal behaviour – and if so what is the nature of it? What do you believe is its nature?
K: I understand. What is the nature of man and is it instinctive. Do you believe in it. Look, I don't believe in anything. There are only facts, there is only 'what is' and to go beyond 'what is'. We human beings are the result of thousands of years of evolution, of environmental influence, heredity, I am the result of the group or the community in which I was born - a Hindu, a Brahmin, conditioned. Conditioned by the environment, by the culture in which that brain was born. It was conditioned, there is no intrinsic essence. And the fact is, a mind is conditioned whether it is in the communist world or the capitalist world or the Catholic world or the Hindu world, it is conditioned. You believe in Jesus and somebody else believes in some other person, that's the result of your propaganda of thousands of years. And that conditions you to behave in a certain way, and you revolt against it, as is being done now. And a revolt is not freedom, a reaction is not freedom - it will form another conditioning.
So the question is, basically, whether the mind can be unconditioned, is it possible for a mind which has been conditioned as a Hindu, Buddhist, Catholic, Christian or whatever it is, communist, can that mind free itself completely? Otherwise it lives in a prison and reacts according to that prison, according to that conditioning. And can the mind be aware, become completely choicelessly aware of its conditioning? Not only superficially but deeply, at the deep layers of consciousness, is that possible? It is possible, not because the speaker says so, you can find out for yourself if you are energetic enough, if you are eager enough, if you are intense enough you can find it out. That is, the enquiry is then: what is consciousness, your consciousness, what is your consciousness? Your consciousness is its content. What the content is makes up consciousness. That's fairly obvious. And can the mind go beyond the content which makes up the 'me' as the content of my consciousness? That is real meditation, not all this phoney stuff that is being spread around in this country - which we will go into if you wish, tomorrow morning. Yes sir?
Q: During the last week I was attempting to observe my fears but there came a point when I was walking down the hall to my school when I recognised a woman whom I recognised and I left and saw my face and...
K: I didn't quite understand the question, sir.
Q: During the past week I was trying to observe my fears and one of the experiences I have had during this last week has been a simple total power, and noticing death on my own face. And at that moment I attempted to escape and the horror seemed too great.
K: I haven't understood. Forgive me, sir. I haven't understood your question. Put it in two or three words.
Q: I found during the past week a sense of identifying myself with death and I felt tremendous power and I tried to escape.
K: Are you saying, sir, that you stayed with fear and it gave you a certain energy and you are there, is that it?
Q: I saw the lack of love in my face, I saw a dead face.
K: Sir, this gentleman says he realises the lack of love, death's face and so on. What is the question, sir?
Q: What can I do?
K: Ah, what can you do. What can you do - please listen - what can you do when you find in yourself that you have no love, that you have only pleasure, that you want this or that, but actually in you there is no compassion, what will you do? Now first of all how do you find out that you have no love? When you say, I have no love, what do you mean by it? Are you saying it according to a conclusion that you have about love, or do you realise that you have no love when you are jealous, when you are angry, when you are violent, when you are ambitious? Does ambition, competitiveness, comparison, do you realise, that denies love. When that denies love then you negate what is not love. Can you put aside your ambitions, your competitiveness, your greed and all the rest of it? So through negation, as we said earlier, the real thing takes place.
I'm afraid I must stop.