The art of listening 2
How can we help the student to understand the nature of conditioning?
3rd K School - Adults Discussion, Brockwood Park
June 23, 1979
Teacher A: I was wondering if we could consider perhaps the time span in which a student is in a school like Brockwood, say a time span of about four years, beginning at 14 and perhaps leaving at 18, and how this relates to what we were saying the other day about wanting success and some form of achievement related to psychological security, and what the interrelationship is.
Krishnamurti: Are you saying what is the relationship between the student and the educator when they both realise, or the educator points it out to the student that they both are conditioned - conditioned being according to their ecological, cultural, economic, racial, and all that kind of conditioning - what is the relationship between the student and the educator when they both realise that they are conditioned? Is that what you are saying?
A: That's the question.
K: What is the relationship when you and I, I the student, you the teacher, realise that we are both conditioned, and we have a short period, a period of four or five years...
A: ...in which to work it out.
K: ...in which to work it out. Now
Teacher B: Is this something that we work out over a period of time, bit by bit?
K: I doubt it. That's what I wanted to I question whether time has any importance in this investigation.
A: We better say what we mean about time then, because it is obvious that the student is here for a span of time.
K: Span of time. A span of time being from fourteen to eighteen. Four years, or five years. Or if you have a longer period from fourteen to twenty and so on. No, I would like to question, or ask, what is the relationship between the educator and the person to be educated - educated in quotes - what is the relationship between the two? Not theoretical but actual. What is your relationship as a teacher to the student, with the student when you and he realise that both are conditioned? What is the quality of relationship? And then we can discuss whether time is necessary, a longer time or a shorter time and so on. I think that is an important thing to find out. What is one's relationship when two people realise that they are conditioned - may be conditioned culturally differently, but essentially, deeply conditioned.
B: These people are also interested in living a life that's...
K: They say, is it possible - no, before I say, is it possible, I want to find out what is the relationship between you and me when we both realise that we are conditioned.
Teacher C: I am not sure I quite understand the question actually, when you say: what is the relationship?
K: Yes. Before our relationship was, a teacher talking down to the student, informing him, not about himself, about the subject which he is teaching. But here we are asking, apart from that, because we are concerned with the total development of a human being. That's what we began with. And we asked, what is the relationship when two people realise that they are conditioned - realise, not verbally but actually? And this conditioning keeps people apart. You understand my question?
C: Yes, if I am conditioned as the teacher then I can't actually help.
K: Not as a teacher but as a human being you are conditioned. And so is another human being, what is the relationship between you two?
C: We are both the same, surely.
K: Yes, but I said when you realise.
B: From that point onwards you can begin to work together.
K: Yes, not only work together, but before we work together what takes place, emotionally, intellectually and all the rest of it, when you and I realise that we are both conditioned?
B: First I lose my fear of you.
K: Yes. And also, but go a little more deeper. What takes place between us?
Teacher D: It seems somehow our images of each other are somewhat broken down.
K: No. We don't react as we did before. Would that be right?
Teacher E: You really start listening to the other person a bit.
K: We are beginning to listen to each other. There is...
C: Is that because now I don't feel superior to you?
K: No, we both are in the same boat. We both are conditioned. You realise - realise, you understand? - not just verbally understood what the conditioning intellectually means, but actually realise that you are conditioned, and another also realises equally, then what takes place? Our reactions don't carry us away.
A: I think that in that particular relationship that is so. But the difficulty arises when one realises he is conditioned...
K: ...and the other doesn't. But we are helping the student and ourselves to realise that we are conditioned. Let us put it that way: part of our conditioning is to react instantly. Right?
A: To whatever happens.
K: To whatever happens, to your words, to your gesture, to your language. Our conditioning is part of our self-centredness. Right? And when you and I realise we are so terribly self-centred, then what takes place? It is obvious. No?
A: I am not sure it is so obvious. Are you suggesting that there is nothing left to achieve?
K: Look sir, you and I have to live in the same house. And you and I realise that we are self-centred. That is our deep abiding conditioning. You are self-centred and so am I. And we both realise it. And we both have to live in the same room, same house. What takes place? What is the difficulty?
E: You have to be very careful because this hardly ever actually happens.
K: Ah, that's what I am going to establish with the student. I want him to realise, I want to help him to realise that he is conditioned. And in explaining what conditioning is I realise also I am conditioned. Obviously. Unless I am dull, anything, I realise the same thing. So we are both together in this. He is conditioned and his activities are self-centred, so is that of another. Right? So what takes place in this actual realisation of two people?
B: What happens then in the relationship is no longer from the conditioning.
K: No, it is conditioned, but go on, sir, investigate.
D: It is a problem.
K: It is a problem which has to be resolved.
A: But surely it is the communication which is now the important thing, and not the...
K: Yes, communication. Now how do I communicate to you and how do you communicate to me from our self-centred point of view?
A: Is there any communication from that point of view?
K: There isn't any. There is superficial communication. Right? So what takes place? If you realise and I realise, what takes place?
A: We, as it were, create the possibility of illuminating this self-centredness.
K: That means what? What is our relationship?
A: Well, it is one of equality, we've said that.
K: What is our relationship actually?
C: Surely we both want to understand and discover together then.
K: No, a little more than that. Go into it a little. What is our relationship?
B: Then we can deal with each other with affection.
K: Go on, sir, look at it sir. You are conditioned, I am conditioned. And we established a relationship of mutual conditioning. (Laughs)
B: So we both know we are conditioned.
K: So what is that relationship, what has taken place in that relationship?
B: We have seen something together.
K: That is, we are removing the barriers between you and me. Right? We are removing the division, this self-centredness. Right? You are helping me, and I am helping you - not helping - we are watching each other in order not to be self-centred. Right? That is part of our conditioning. Can the educator convey this to the student and feel the responsibility of this exchange?
C: But if we said the two are equal, why is it the educator conveying to the student?
K: No, the student is not so clear as you are.
C: But doesn't that mean...
K: No, clarity. I see more clearly than you do. It is not, which doesn't mean I am superior or inferior. You have more knowledge about mathematics than I have. But if mathematics is used to gain a status, then there is a difference between you and me. No?
A: That is true in that field, and it is quite clear. But the conditioning may also suggest to me that the suggestion of being conditioned is a similar factor to being a mathematics teacher.
K: All right, sir. Let's forget for the moment conditioning. What is the relationship between the teacher and the student? What is the relationship, actual relationship, apart from teaching a particular subject? Have you any relationship with your students?
A: Some of them.
K: What? Apart from that subject.
A: Apart from the subject.
K: Now what is that relationship when you realise the fact that you and he are both conditioned, both self-centred - forgive me if I use the word 'you', it's not personal - what is the relationship there?
D: Part of it seems to be that we are able to work as mirrors for each other. The student is talking to me and I am able to...
K: Are you doing that now? One has realised that you and I are both self-centred, and do we see our conditioning in our relationship?
A: Taking place in the relationship.
K: Yes. And it is only through the understanding of this conditioning in relationship there is the possibility of real communication. Communication can only exist when there is no division, when you can both share something together.
C: It seems as though we see this sometimes but now always.
K: No, the question of 'sometimes' and 'not always' is for the moment - if I may point out - irrelevant. What is relevant is, what takes place in this relationship with the student and with the teacher when they both realise they are in the same self-centred area, field? You are not answering my question. Probably you haven't thought about this. This is what has happened at Brockwood. So what then is the relationship between you and the student here?
A: One level of it is like this: I can see that such and such a person is conditioned in such a way because of his cultural background - what - Indian.
K: Indian, American, African, doesn't matter.
A: He is conditioned in a certain way, and another is conditioned in another way. I can see the elements of that, and what has brought about that picture. He may have been educated in a special way but nevertheless when he arrives the whole culture is there with him. So I can see that. And I see that...
K: Now wait a minute. When you see the conditioning in him, how that condition has been brought about do you see at the same time how that very same conditioning exists in you?
A: I see another form of conditioning.
K: But it is still conditioning.
A: It is still conditioning.
K: That's all my point.
A: But it works out seemingly these conditionings have affinities. For instance, although we are an international school here, it is very frequent to find that the Americans go to the Americans, the English go to the English, the Germans go to the Germans, the Indonesians go to the Indonesians. So this similarity draws them together. In that sense their conditionings are not equal. At least they have the same colour.
K: We said conditioning is not merely the superficial manners, colour, but we went much deeper into conditioning, which is self-centredness, the desire for success.
A: And the tribal.
K: And the tribal. We went into that. So we haven't tackled this problem.
E: When you are talking to someone about conditioning, it doesn't seem to be their conditioning or your conditioning, you can look at theirs or yours at the same time.
K: At the same time. That's what I am
E: It is exactly the same thing in both people.
K: That's right. Then when you both see the same thing in each - you follow? - then what is our relationship? Our relationship has undergone a great change.
A: I am stuck on this point of actually seeing the conditioning as being the same. I can see it as being equal.
K: Yes, all right, equal.
A: But as being identical is a...
K: Wait, sir. The Indian from India, the American, the Russian, the Englishman or French - the western, eastern and far west, the common factor is they all want success. Right? Obviously.
K: Now the goddess of success (laughs) has many, many faces. But the central factor is success.
A: Self-continuance, or self-perpetuation.
K: Yes, I mean you might seek success as a lawyer, and another seeks success in being a carpenter, or a politician, or whatever it is.
A: How do we distinguish that from interest?
A: Yes. Because that is also one of our objectives in a school like this is to help the student find an interest which will sustain him through life.
K: Is that the central factor of life, interest? He might be interested - he might say, 'I am really interested in wanting to be a surgeon, that's what I want to devote my life' - is that interest the central factor of life? Or is it something much greater than interest?
A: I would suggest that the real interest is...
K: I am not suggesting anything.
A: It seems necessary to have this interest also in order to...
K: The interest may be awakened by the social demand.
K: Society says, you must be an engineer because you get more money.
A: But there may be a talent there also.
K: Oh yes, talent. But we are talking of interest. I say, is that the central factor of life - interest? Or ambition to achieve something? I think interest is rather it can vary, diminish, sometimes enormous interest, but it is rather feeble.
A: It is partial certainly.
K: Yes. We are trying to get at, aren't we, what is the common factor between two people who realise that they are caught in the same trap? I want to move away from conditioning.
A: Well, they can either accept that they're there or...
K: You see, if they realise they are in a trap they help each other to break the trap.
A: But seeing the contour of the trap, to see the nature of the trap is...
K: No, but if you realise you are in a trap, and that causes a great deal of pain both physically and psychologically, and another realises, and you two have to live in the same house, what takes place? We are helping each other to break down the trap. And the intensity of that trap, and the pain of it, is making us very active.
A: Outwardly, you mean.
K: Inwardly also.
A: Would you say this is responsible for the agitation of thought, generally?
K: Probably. So one's relationship with another is, when one realises, the activity of relationship in which each one is helping the other to break down the trap, to undo the trap.
C: So part of that relationship is trusting another person and not feeling afraid of them.
K: Now, which means what? How will you trust another if one is afraid of them? How can I trust you if I am afraid of you? If you are competing with me for the same job, or for the same whatever it is, how can I trust you? I can only trust when there is mutual responsibility about certain things.
C: But we both have to see that.
K: That's what I am saying. Do we at Brockwood, it comes down to that, help the student to see that he is conditioned, and the teacher is also conditioned, not climatically, dark brown or black or more pale, but also psychologically in the sense we are both conditioned to act from a self-centred interest. If we both see it there is a definite change in our relationship, in the relationship between these two people. I think that is very important in a school of this kind.
C: I still wonder what happens if we don't both see it?
K: Therefore it is my responsibility. If you see it, it is your responsibility to help me to see it.
A: Are you saying then that this will become the dissolving agent which will do away with the particular conditioning? For instance, an English mentality will tend to be puritanical for instance in some respect, either puritanical or in rebellion against that, so it has that kind of trap, kind of seized-up emotionally. Or a Jewish mentality which could be legalistic, for instance, and see things in those terms. And this come through in the students, the conditioning shows itself, these different aspects of the mentality. So we are suggesting now that if we meet at this common and deeper level then that will throw light on the particular conditioning rather than starting from the other way round.
K: Through the particular you can find out the whole.
A: Right. We are suggesting, or at least you are suggesting that that's not the best way to proceed but rather the other way round.
K: The other way round, that's right, or...
A: Is it helpful then to point out to a student the particular conditioning?
K: No. You see, sir, I am not sure whether a collection of details, a collection of particulars is going to help to perceive the whole conditioning, or to understand the nature of conditioning, the structure of conditioning: the climatic, the food, the religion, the prejudices, the family - you follow? - the whole cultural and environmental conditioning. That's why personally I would look at the principle of it rather than the details of it.
D: But in point of fact that is how we attempt to do things here, try to see the particulars first.
K: I know.
D: And all the time it makes the person more conditioned.
K: Yes. That's why when we were discussing the other day, whether they want a room where they could be quiet, silent, they began to discuss in details. I said, please, if you don't mind, look at it, first find out if you want a room like that, a quiet room. If you do that is the principle from which you can work it out. In the same way, can we work this out? That we are, as human beings, wherever we live, we are conditioned by the society, culture, religion of that particular country, or group, or community. And part of that conditioning is ambition, which expresses itself in the desire for success. Success implies security. Right? And so each one is seeking his own personal security. Right? That is what is taking place in the world. Or there is the totalitarian concept: the state must be the great success, of which we control. You know, the whole business of that.
So can we help the student to understand the nature of this conditioning as success. I am only taking that as an example.
B: You are taking that as an example because we are interested not just in that particular conditioning but we want to see what the whole nature of conditioning is.
K: That's right. By looking at one particular conditioning we may discover the whole nature of conditioning. I don't know. Right, sir?
A: One particular conditioning being...
K: Success, say for instance. Or take anything. We will take success because that is what most human beings want. Which when you succeed you have money, position, status, freedom - at least 'freedom' in quotes, and so on. You are respected. So why has success become so important in man's life? We said, in our previous dialogues, security. Right? Right sir? It does give security. If I am a first-class fiddler, violist, I am a tremendous success. If I am mediocre or not so good I become just part of the orchestra. Even in the orchestra there is competition (laughs), the left hand man is more important - the violist - than the other fellow. So success is part of our life.
B: Does success really bring security? Or do we have the idea that it will bring security?
K: Ah, it does in certain ways. Look at all the politicians, they struggle, they campaign, they make all kinds of silly remarks - you follow? - all this goes on because they want to be a success, as Prime Minister, or member of Parliament, or whatever it is.
B: But even if you get to the top of whatever you are striving for, it is still shaky, you may fall down any time.
K: The more you strive for success, and the higher you get, nearer to god, in one direction - right? - the popes, the bishops, the archbishops, and the whole hierarchical structure of religious people. And on the other side the politicians and the businessman, in every direction it is there. Now what is wrong with success?
B: That's what I am trying to say: it doesn't bring you real security. It may bring you physical security, or you may feel wanted, or above everyone, or something like that, but in the end it brings...
K: There is tremendous pleasure in being successful.
C: There is, but there is also the fear that that success won't last.
K: It is a tremendous thing to feel, I have succeeded. And you thrive on that.
A: You fulfil your ambitions.
K: That is just it. And you are doing the same, we are all doing the same.
A: So we are fulfilling ourselves through some particular role.
K: Role, and therefore opposed to each other.
A: Do we see that?
K: If you and I are trying to fulfil our ambitions through that particular channel, you are better than me, I begin to be jealous of you, I begin to be nasty about you. You follow? There is division, obviously, conflict between us.
A: One might though put that down to market factors. For instance, the government used to want a lot of teachers at one time, so anybody who trained could be a teacher, so they weren't so much in competition with one another. But nowadays there are not many jobs.
K: Because of overpopulation, you know, all the rest of it.
A: So we are saying that is a market factor, you see.
K: I understand all that, sir. But we are trying to find out whether that conditioning which in certain ways is so destructive in our human relationship - right? - we agree to that? If you and I are married, or husband and wife, and I am ambitious in one way, and you are ambitious in another, we can never there is no relationship between us. This is so obvious, isn't it?
A: Even if one is ambitious at all.
K: That is just the point.
B: People are willing to put their relationships second to success.
K: That's it. That means, self-centred activity is more important than relationship.
C: And the whole point about success is that it seems to be at the expense of other people.
K: Of course, naturally. So can we, as educators, convey all this to the student, not verbally, but actually make him realise these things. How dangerous it is.
B: That this is the nature of success, this is what it would lead to.
K: Yes, lead to. Division, no relationship. If there is a relationship, perpetual wrangle - you don't love me, I love you - you know, all that kind of thing that goes on. And each one pursuing his own self interest. How can you have any kind of relationship, or love in this?
D: And also the added factor that if you do become successful and you have that ensuing pleasure you don't want to lose that.
K: And the wife supports you, or the girl and says, 'Go on', because she gets reflected glory from you.
B: But we are saying, Krishnaji, that we want to look at success merely as an example of conditioning, because you just don't want to understand success and put only success away.
K: No, but I see the factor, or I realise what brings about division between people.
A: I could observe it in the world also which is perhaps quite a fertile field, speaking as a teacher. I can observe it in the world as take the map of history, or take the map of current events. Perhaps more difficult in certain other subjects.
K: You can see it, sir, you can see it.
A: It's in the newspapers.
K: It is not only individual success but also it is collective success, national success.
E: It is really quite obvious that if somebody succeeds somebody else fails. So somebody feels good about succeeding, somebody else is suffering.
K: Of course. So do we as a group of educators see the nature of this: that where there is division there is no relationship. If there is a division between the student and the educator you are educating him only about that particular subject. Here you are saying it is different. Here we are actually bringing about a relationship with the student which is not divisive, which has a quality of affection, love and all the rest of it.
D: That is what we are attempting to do, but whether we are actually doing that.
K: Then you are not doing it - there is no attempt, either you sink or swim. Sorry! (Laughter)
A: You can swim more or less badly. But you are still swimming. (Laughter)
K: Sir, what is our responsibility in all this? The parents send their children here. First of all, if I was a parent and I sent my children here I would want them to live a life that is whole, complete, not partial. Right? And I say to you, as educators, here are my two children, please help them to live that way, not only at Brockwood, right through life.
E: It is quite clear after what we have been talking about we have to go into the conditioning with them as if it really is the most important thing.
K: That is the most important thing. That's why I am asking you, how will you deal with my children - if I have children - how will you deal with them, what is your responsibility? They come conditioned - right? - and the teacher is conditioned, how will you help each other to be free of this terrible trap that man has invented for himself? That's our problem. That's why we said, sir, at the beginning of this dialogue, the last two dialogues, what is our actual relationship, is that of a teacher who is merely concerned with the subject, or he is concerned not only with the subject but the whole way of living, his thinking, his feelings, his sorrows, his ambitions, all that. Are we concerned with all that or not?
B: That's what we've set out the school for.
K: I agree. That was why the school existed, began. So are we doing it? So that is why I am asking, what is our responsibility?
E: It is difficult to say that we are doing it when we are actually here in the middle of it. But if you ask whether I would like my child to come here, or to another school, I think I would like her to come here because we are trying to do it more than other schools that I know of. Even if we are not doing it as much as we could.
K: But that is not good enough - a little more is not good enough.
E: I know, but I am trying to say what I actually feel.
K: I know, a little more is not good enough.
B: Even in answering this question by saying we are trying to do it, aren't we again talking about success?
B: We are asking the question: are we succeeding?
K: That's why I say, sir, I am back to the point: what is our relationship, or responsibility in this relationship? If we don't feel responsible in the sense that we are concerned totally with the whole development of the student, not subjects only, then is it possible for both of us to share that responsibility - the student and ourselves - so that we are all working together for the same end. Do you follow what I'm saying?
C: I think perhaps why we feel hesitant is perhaps maybe that some people are trying to do this and others are not, or maybe one person won't listen, and then you feel that you are not doing it.
K: All right. If you are doing it, and you feel great responsibility in the doing of it, what happens to another who is rather weak about it.
C: He may catch
B: He is either strengthened, or sometimes he leaves.
K: Yes, that's all. You burn him out, or burn him in. I don't know what I'm saying. (Laughs)
A: There are also those who slide out, Krishnaji. (Laughter)
K: Yes, yes (laughs) Slither out too, quite.
A: Psychologically, I mean.
A: I was going to say, is the task not something like this, which is: to bring about a different mode of seeing things.
K: Yes, a different way of looking, observing, a way of learning, not merely accumulating knowledge, learning, the activity of learning, the mind that wants to learn.
A: And so therefore this would not be held within the time-frame of fourteen to twenty.
K: No, that's right, it doesn't. I mean, sir, take an example also - do the students know what love is? The care of love?
E: I wouldn't just ask whether the students know what love is.
K: As an educator do I know it? Or is it all emotional, romantic, physical, sensuous? Which at present it is. So how am I to convey all this to the student? And I feel terribly responsible. Which means first I must help them to listen to what I have to say.
A: Surely wouldn't that come later in a sense, after you had if you established a way of seeing together, and moving together.
K: But that is only possible if I've listened to you - sorry, I've got hay fever. It is only possible that we move together, walk together, on the same road, if I listen to you first.
A: So that is all involved: seeing, listening.
K: Yes, yes. First I must listen to what you have to say.
E: But you are only going to listen to me if I feel fairly passionately and strongly about what I am trying to convey.
A: Are you saying that love is in that listening?
K: Yes. If I love you and I listen to you, whether you tell me I am a fool or I am not, I listen to you.
A: What is the relationship of love to silence then?
K: Oh, that we are going off into...
A: I am sorry.
C: I think when you say listening, I think we ought to explore a bit more about what listening means. I mean I can listen to someone who I believe in without necessarily involving love.
K: No, I listen. I want to tell you something: I say, human beings are very self-centred. I want to tell you that. Will you listen? Or you say, 'Yes, I know that. That's nothing new what you are telling me'. Which means that you are really actually not listening to what the other fellow is saying.
C: So by listening you are saying it is not judging whether it is right or wrong, just holding it.
K: You're just listening. Listening implies, doesn't it, also a certain quality of attention. No? And if I want to listen to, doesn't matter, Tchaikovsky, or somebody or other, I must attend.
C: Sir, I think listening has become something that people don't do: like you put the record player on and you work and you do something else.
K: No, no, no. I am only talking of listening. I think if I can learn the art of listening I have solved a great many problems.
How do you help the student to listen to mathematics? He is not interested in it. He wants to do something else while you are talking, explaining a problem. And how do you see that he really listens to what you are saying?
A: Well I might talk to him about what he is doing instead of listening.
K: Sir, just look at it. If you are passionately involved - involved, not verbally - wholly involved in what you are saying your very passion makes me listen to you.
C: So that shows him the importance.
K: I mean if you are interested in history, and history is the story of man, anyhow, and you say, look, man is you, you are the history of mankind, obviously. And find out, not merely who was the king, this and all the rest of it, wars, but the story of man which is essentially the story of you. And I am interested, I am passionate about it so he will listen to me.
A: I think he listens when he gets that point, which is that history is the history of himself.
A: But when he makes that leap then it all...
K: Yes, that is what I am saying because I am interested in pointing out. History is the story of yourself - the violence, the hatreds, the jealousies, you know, the whole thing.
A: That is the inner content of history.
K: Yes, but what I am trying to say is, to help him to listen, that is all I am concerned about.
E: It isn't a matter of how to listen.
E: It just comes out of the way you are doing things.
B: To help him to listen you must listen to him carefully.
K: Of course. Naturally. It implies both. Can we do this here? I can't listen - one can't listen if I am prejudiced, if I have a certain point of view I stick to, I can't listen to you. You may be contradicting the point of view and so I won't listen. But if you say, look let's listen, find out why you hold on to a particular point of view, let's find out. I am interested. I may be holding it, my own opinions may be very strong, I may consciously, or unconsciously be holding on to them. By talking with you I am discovering. You follow, sir?
A: Similarly with inattention, and the other things.
K: Of course, of course. It seems to me I have talked all the time. What's the
B: Krishnaji, it seems we keep coming around again and again when we start talking about success and seeing how dangerous it is. We can start talking about nationalism, or many, many things. But is there a
K: central thing.
B: central thing?
K: Oh, yes, there is. I don't think we have time to go into that now. Let's stop.
Sir you raised a question, what was it, silence and
A: Silence and love.
K: Oh, yes.