The limitation of thought
Is it possible to observe the whole movement of consciousness?
3rd Public Talk Saanen
July 13, 1978
I am glad it is such a lovely day. We ought to be in the woods.
We were saying, weren't we, the last two times that we met here that this identification with our bodies, with our experiences, with the house, with the family, with the nation, with a particular ideology or belief has brought about the emphasis on the self, the 'me', the ego. And that has cultivated this idea - and I am using the word 'idea' in its proper sense - the idea of an individual, that we human beings are separate, distinct individuals apart from everybody else. This emphasis on individuality has created a lot of mischief. It has destroyed families - I don't know if you are aware of it - it has brought about excellence in achievement, in technology, a sense of highest endeavour on the part of a particular human being, the individual, the individual enterprise. Opposed to that there is this whole ideology of the totalitarianism. So we have these two opposites. On the one side freedom - so-called freedom, on the other no freedom at all, except for the few. And as one observes throughout the world, the excellence of the individual has brought about certain beneficial results, not only in the technological world, but also in the artistic world. And though the individual thinks he is free, is he free actually? And on the other side of the coin is the totalitarianism where there is no freedom at all, except for the few.
Now what is the truth of this? It is obvious there must be freedom. What do we mean by that word 'freedom'? Again let us be very clear that we are asking this question of ourselves; that the speaker isn't asking, you are asking. As we said, there is no speaker here. You and I are the speakers. You and I - this person talking - are enquiring together into this question: on the one side the enormous importance given to individuality with all its identifications: nation, house, family, capitalism and socialism, whatever it is; and the other, identification with the ideological society. Society there becomes all important according to the few. And in enquiring into this we must first ask, if I may suggest, what is it we human beings are trying to do? What is it that we human beings, not Mr So-and-so, Mrs So-and-so, as human beings without labels, without nationalities, without all the rubbish that has been pushed down our throats by other people as well as by us over other people, what is it that we human beings are trying to do in this world? What is it that we are seeking, that we are searching, that we are longing for? And one of the questions involved in this is: what is freedom? We think we are free because we can travel, go to America, go anywhere you like if you have money and the inclination. And on the other side you can't travel, you can't leave the borders, they are controlled.
So what is freedom? Perhaps most of us, at least those who are serious and thoughtful, aware, must inevitably ask this question: what is freedom? Is freedom to do what you like, as an individual? Is freedom a permissive activity? That is, each one wants to do what he wants to do. If he wants to believe in god, he believes in god. If he wants to pursue, take drugs, sex and all the rest of it, he is free, if he has the money and if he has the inclination and all the rest of it, to go with it. And we have considered this kind of activity freedom, to do what one likes to do, what one wants to do, what one wants to fulfil. Or trying to find, in freedom, identity. You know all this. So is this freedom? Or, is freedom something entirely different? We think of freedom as being free from something, from poverty, from a person you have married you don't want any more and you are free to divorce and all the rest of it. Free to choose your activity in the business world, or in the psychological world, or free to believe what you want to believe and so on, so on, so on. One is free, one thinks, in our choice to become a Catholic, or a Protestant, or not to believe in anything at all. You know all this.
So is that freedom? Please ask yourself this question, not me. You are facing the mirror, looking at yourself, investigating into the whole psychological structure of yourself. And our conditioning has been to do what we want to do. And we have never enquired into what it is that urges us to do, either to go left, right, or whatever it is. And as long as there is identity with a nation, with a family, with a husband, with a girl, with this belief or with that dogma, ritual, tradition, is there freedom? You are following all this? You are asking these questions. I am only voicing your enquiry. As we may point out again, we are not authoritarian here, there is nobody as far as the speaker is concerned with any sense of authority, any sense of superiority. There is no dogmatism, there is no belief. And if the speaker is rather emphatic, it is not an assertive, aggressive expression, it is his natural self.
So we are enquiring if there is freedom in its total sense, not from something to something else, or from something else to something else. We are enquiring into this whole feeling of freedom, if there is such a thing. And as long as the mind, thought, sensations, emotions identify themselves with a particular object, a piece of furniture, a human being or a belief, is there freedom? Obviously not. The moment you identify yourself with something you are denying freedom. Bene? If I, because I like the idea of some supreme being and all the rest of it and I identify myself with that and pray to that, worship that, is there freedom at all? So we are discovering that there is no freedom as long as there is an identifying process going on. Right?
Please, words are dangerous. Don't, if I may suggest, don't translate what is being said into your own words, into your own language, into your own opinion, but actually listen to the words we are using, because then we are in direct communication. All right, let me put it this way: language, that is the usage of words, the meaning, the verbs, the syntax - language, drives most of us. Right? When you say, 'I am a Frenchman' - the word is active and forces us in a certain pattern. So language uses us - right? I do not know if you have not noticed it. When you use the word 'Communism', 'Socialism' or Capitalism' or a Catholic, a Protestant, a Hindu, a Jew and so on, these are the words which act upon us and force us to think in a certain way. Right? So language is driving us, using us. I don't know if you are aware of this. And if you use language, not language drive you, then we are using words without any emotional content. Then there is a possibility of exact communication. Are we getting somewhere together? Please understand this because we are going to go into something which I think, which I am not sure yet, which will come out of all this in our enquiry into freedom, in our awareness that identity destroys freedom, curtails freedom, limits freedom. And if you are satisfied with that limitation of freedom then you must also be aware of its consequences, which is separation, which is continual lack of relationship, effort, war, violence and all the rest of it follow.
And in enquiring into ourselves we must also be very clearly aware that language is not driving us. That when we use the word 'Communism' we kind of withdraw from it emotionally. Or if you are socially inclined, the Capitalist world of America and so on - again. So one must be aware very seriously, if you at all want to go into all this, which I am not urging you to do, then being aware that language is not driving us, then we can use words in their simplicity, in their meaning without any emotional content. Then you and I are in constant communication. Right? Can you do this? Not tomorrow, now. Then we can proceed together, not at a slow but galloping along.
So if freedom is not all that, that is, there is only freedom when there is absolute non-identification with anything, with the church, with the gods, with beliefs, with the statue - you follow? - with nothing, then what are we, as human beings? Do you follow my question? I will go into it.
If we are not attached to anything at all and therefore under no influence - right? - under no pressure, then what is the whole meaning of existence? I wonder if you follow all this? Do you understand? Does somebody understand what I am talking about? I am sorry if you are Spanish, or Italian, or French, that you can't understand what is spoken in English, but perhaps this afternoon or tomorrow it will be translated in your own language, so please have patience.
We have filled our minds with all kinds of ideas of what we are - you are noble, ignoble, we are divine, we are experts - you know - filled ourselves. And this acceptance of what we are is the result of the movement of thought. Right? I will have to go into this again.
If you have observed, whatever we do, act, emotionally or non-emotionally, all our activities are based on thought. Now thought is limited. I do not know if you accept that, or if you are aware of it. Why is it limited? We think it can do everything: climb the Everest, go to the Moon, go to the depths of the sea - thought is the most active, most important, vital thing in our life. All our education is to cultivate knowledge and encourage thinking clearly, if you can, and act from thought. And thought has created not only the technological world, but also it has created wars, not only marvellous surgery but also thought has created conflict between two human beings. Follow, these are facts. Thought has created the quick transportation. Thought also has created the destruction of all human relationships. And one must, if you are at all serious, go into this question: why thought has become so urgently important? As we are talking together you are thinking. Right? You are following verbally. So the activity of thought is going on; trying to understand what is being said, trying to judge whether it is right or wrong, what value has it in daily life - you are all the time enquiring with the instrument of thought. And thought has created heaven and hell, not only the Christian world of Hell and Heaven, but also actual hell and heaven: the enormous poverty, the misery, the confusion, the uncertainty of existence.
So how is it that thought has created these problems, and thought thinks it can solve these problems. Right? And all the politicians are trying to solve our human problems through thought, either cunning, stupid, devious, dishonest, but still thought. Can thought solve these problems, which thought has created? Right? You understand my question? So one must ask: what is the meaning of thinking? What is the source of all thought, not only yours, mine, or somebody else's, the root of thought? If the root is limited, the outcome of that must also be limited. Right? You can't think thought will do something extraordinary, if the root is limited all its activities must be limited. Right? So what is the root, the very, very source of thought? Find out sirs. I have asked the question, don't wait for me to answer it. Then you accept what I am saying, that would be disastrous. But whereas if you are really passionately, urgently demanding to find out, you will find out what is the essence, the beginning of thought. I will point it out, don't accept it.
The beginning of thought is the brain registering, danger or not danger, the pleasure and the fear. Right? The original man or the ape from which we have come, or some source from which we have come, that brain which is very, very old, ancient beyond words, it must have registered danger, death, fear, security. Right? So the beginning of thought is the process of registration, which is memory. Right? We are not saying anything extraordinary, these are facts. And what has been registered is knowledge, knowledge of danger, knowledge of pleasure, knowledge of the fear between the two. And this accumulating process of knowledge, which is constant registration, day after day, centuries upon centuries registration, which is the accumulation of knowledge, that knowledge is in the brain, and that knowledge, which is memory, and from that memory thought is born. Right?
Krishnamurti: One moment. Sir, if you are disagreeing with me it is all right. Don't agree or disagree. We are not arguing - show off who is clever, who is less clever. But we are just enquiring, not asserting anything.
So memory, knowledge, is the outcome of the past. Right? So the past is limited, knowledge is limited. You may have more, more, more but it is always limited. And there have been people who say man can ascend only through knowledge, rise higher and higher and higher. The philosophers, the speculative intellectual romanticists, say that knowledge is the essence of growth. Which is, the past will always remain. The past, by accumulation, is evolution. As an acorn, a little thing grows into a marvellous, huge oak tree, so that same attitude, or that same example is transferred to this accumulative knowledge, growing, growing, growing. We have never asked whether knowledge is limited and therefore can knowledge end and something begin? You understand my question?
So thought born of memory, knowledge, is always everlastingly limited. And our activities therefore are always limited - based on thought. Right? It is not my argument. It is not what I posit and start from there. But if you go into this yourself, not according to some professor, not according to some theoretician, psychologist, then if you do, you become second-hand human beings, which we are. But whereas if you look into yourself and go at it, surgically, not emotionally, then you will find out that thought because of its very limitation has created all the problems. Right? Is this clear, between us or is this clear to yourself, not between you and me? All the scriptures, all the poems, all the literature, all the rituals, the gods, the images, everything is the product of thought. Horrible idea, isn't it, when you realise it.
So when there is identification with something, thought is the process of identification, therefore that identification limits, limits the energy, and that energy is used as an individual. Therefore the individual becomes more and more limited, and his action then will be limited, obviously. Which is what is happening. England on one side, Europe on the other, America, Russia - racially, politically, religiously, in every way - all that is based on thought. And is there an action - please, we are enquiring - is there an action which is not based on thought? Therefore an action which is not limited, confined, which means is there an action which is not based on knowledge, on memory, on remembrance? Don't say, 'That is impossible', or 'It is possible' - we don't know, we are enquiring, we are asking. Because in limited action there is regret, mischief, pain, anxiety, whether you have done the right thing or the wrong thing - all that follows from limited activity, which is called the individual. And the individual, limited, he is seeking the infinite. Theoretically they can assert there is the infinite, but to find out, to come upon that infinite, that thing which is not measurable, one must go into the very, very depths of thought. And is there a possibility of action without registration? Got it?
You understand? You tell me something, you use cruel words and you call me a name. I am hurt. And most human beings in the world are hurt, not only physiologically but much more psychologically. You are hurt, aren't you? And from that hurt we do all kinds of things - resist, withdrawal, fear, violence, bitterness and so on, so on, so on. This hurt is, if you examine it very closely, is the movement of thought in the formation of the image. Right? Thought has created an image about oneself, that you are beautiful, that you are intellectually marvellous, that you are etc. etc. And when you use an ugly word, angrily point it out, that image gets hurt; which is, thought - please follow all this - that thought, which has created an image about itself, that image gets hurt. Which is: can one live right throughout life without a single hurt? Then only there is freedom, then there is only sanity.
K: Let me finish first and you'll have next week or week after, you can discuss with me. During these talks, and there are four more talks, if you don't mind, let the speaker let us talk together. But when the talks are over there'll be discussions or dialogues. Then we can bombard each other.
So is it possible not to register the hurt? You understand my question? Because all our brain is in constant registration, and when you say something ugly to another, that is registered, that is called hurt. And is there a possibility of not registering at all? Do you follow my question? Therefore we have to go into the question: why the brain registers certain things and avoids other registration? And it never avoids the individual concepts, images, structures, ideas. One must obviously register when you want to drive a car, to do certain kinds of skills you must register. If you want to be a good technician you have to have a great deal of technological knowledge stored up in the brain, which is a process of registration. Right? So knowledge as a process of registration is, in certain fields, absolutely necessary. Right? That is clear.
Then why should there be any other form of registration? Do you understand my question? I have identified with myself, with my image. That image is put together by thought: the thought of another, parents, education, whatever it is, society, culture. That image has been put together by thought, which is a continuous process of registration. And is that necessary? You follow my question? It is your question. Why is there psychologically, inwardly this constant activity of accumulating round the centre, which is the self? Right? Which is obviously limited, which has been cultivated by thought and therefore essentially limited. When I think about my own occupation, how I must be happy, how I must be a success, I must be this, I must be that - it is all the movement of thought which is bringing about constant limitation, throttling, narrowing down, which we call individual. And that individual has activities, naturally. Those activities are essentially mischievous because they are limited.
Now we are asking, knowing logically, sequentially, reasonably, that any form of registration, apart from the registration of necessities, technological knowledge and so on, every other form of registration limits action, and from that limited action comes all our misery. And that limited thought says, 'I am going to meditate, I am going to practise, I am going to find god', or whatever you like to call it. You might just as well call it dog - as good. So thought is the registration of an incident, accident. Anything that is registered must be limited, and that limitation, in its action, will create a great deal of mischief. So we are asking whether it is possible not to register, except in certain fields, not to register at all. This is real meditation, you understand? Nothing else is meditation. Because when there is no registration the whole brain cells themselves have become transformed. It is not the same old brain cells, there is a new thing taking place, because there is no need for registration. You understand?
That is, thought is measure. Right? Thought is the outcome of time, which is the accumulated memory of five, ten million years, centuries - whatever you like to It is the result of time. Right? So thought is time. Time is limited, obviously. That is, there has been yesterday, today, and tomorrow. But thought can say there is still further, but it is still the movement of thought in time. Right?
So we are asking: is there a possibility of no registration at all, except there? What is your answer to that question? You understand? This is a tremendously important question. Don't kind of brush it aside as an intellectual something or other or this or that. Because so far we have lived in action which is always bringing sorrow, misery, confusion, uncertainty and fear, regrets. Right? We have lived that way. It is our heredity, it is in our genes, it is our conditioning. And is it possible never to register at all, and therefore no identity with anything? You understand? The moment thought identifies with something, with a piece of furniture, with a shirt, with a blouse, with a house, with a wife, with a husband, girl, or whatever it is, that limits thought and therefore that limitation is born out of registration. That is, as long as you remain a Catholic you are limited. As long as you say, 'Well, I am an Indian', or I am this and that, you are limited, and any action, action of love, any action must be limited.
So if you are serious you are asking this basic question, a fundamental question, which you must answer: is there a possibility of not registering at all? That is, is there an action not born of thought? Do you understand my question? All our action is based on thought, with all its consequences. Now we are asking: is there an action, is there a way of living in daily life, in which thought doesn't operate? You understand this is very serious, it isn't a question that you just play around with and discuss and all the rest of it, one has to find out. That means you must put passion into it, vitality, energy to find out. Those who do research, scientific research, or technological research, they love it, it is their life, their blood, their bread-and-butter, everything is first. Then their wife, their family comes second. In the same way we are asking, passionately: is it possible? I say it is, I will show it to you. Please don't accept it because you don't know what it means, so don't come to any conclusions, don't translate what is going to be said into your own terminology - then you are lost! Then you are driven by the language which you know. Therefore you become a slave to language. But we are using language, not your conclusion, my conclusion or his - just words without any circus round it. Then we can communicate happily and easily.
There is an action, a total, complete, holistic, whole action in which thought doesn't interfere at all. Are you waiting for me to tell you? That's rather cheap! I do all the work, the speaker does all the work and you just listen and say, 'Yes, I agree with that'. What is the point of that? But whereas if you really, you know, desperately want to find out, like an unhappy man, a drowning man - you know there is desperation to find some kind of thing to hang on to, so he can be saved. There he exerts all energy. And that is what we are doing.
First of all, do we see very clearly, each one of us, wherever we are, whatever our situation, whatever our conditioning, however neurotic we are - most of us are - do we see very clearly that thought under all circumstances is limited? Not a verbal acceptance of it, but an actual fact, which you in your blood see it, irrevocably? Then if you see that, not as an idea, not as a conclusion, not a thing reasoned out and therefore it is, if you do it, it is still thought. So when you realise that thought is completely, totally, wholly limited, and from that limitation all activity, whatever type it is, must be limited and therefore in human relationship it creates havoc, misery, from there you ask the question. You understand? Not if you haven't done all this. And you can do all this instantly, not take time, years, months. Then you can ask: is there a perception devoid of memory, devoid of remembrances, totally divorced from the past, is there an observation and therefore out of that observation action? Do you follow what I am saying? You look all puzzled. All right, I will take it up again.
You understand? Our action is based on memory. Either ideological memory, a Utopian memory, or memories of past actions which have left certain marks on the brain, and all such activity must be continuously destructive in human relationship. If I love you because you have been pleasant to me, which is, you have given me something, sexually or this way, or that; which is from memory, with the pleasure of it I say, 'I love you.' So is there a love which is not born of memory, which is not the result of give and take, which is not sensation? Obviously there must be. There should be. Or this is all we know? Let us put it that way. This thing that we call love is all this. And that love breeds jealousy, anxiety, possessiveness, attachment, you follow? And out of all that there is great misery. And is that misery love? Don't. Don't say 'No' or 'Yes'. If that is not love, and you have totally abandoned jealousy, anger, all that, that which is left completely, that is love. Right? So in the same way, if one understands the whole movement of thought, as measure and time, and born out of the past and therefore endlessly curtailed, limited, narrow. If you see that very clearly and therefore abandon it, then you have what one may call insight. I am going to go into this very slowly.
Insight: insight, we mean by that word, according to the dictionary, to have a sight in something, an immediate perception of truth in that which is being talked about. That is, you have talked to me about the limitation of thought. You have talked to me. I have listened to you with all my energy because perhaps there is a new way of living, a new way of action, and I have realised my actions have always been bringing such sorrow, confusion and misery. And I have listened to you. And you say to me, 'Have you really seen the truth that thought is limited?' - the truth of it, not the idea of it. Seeing the truth of it, is to have insight. Have you got it? That insight is not memory, is not idea, is not something out of the past. You see directly the truth of it and from that there is action, which is complete.
So do you, as a human being, and you who are the representative of all humanity - so you are the world. If you see the truth of this then that truth will act in the world. You don't act.
K: So we have seen the mischief of thought which is limited, which has created the individual, and the opposite of non-individuality which is totalitarianism, authority, and all the rest of it. We have also seen that thought, stored up in the brain as memory, knowledge, those very brain cells have become limited. For god's sake see this. Of course, obviously. But when you have an insight into all this, the very brain cells are no longer limited. The brain cells are functioning totally differently. Do this, please, do it! Don't say, 'Yes, how marvellous', 'What a wonderful speech that was' - which is all romantic nonsense, emotionalism. That has nothing to do with actuality. Can you see the truth that knowledge has its place, technologically, and has no other place psychologically, which is to register? So if you see the truth that registration, like hurt, brings narrow action, limited action, from which hate, violence and all the rest of it. To see the truth of it, then you have an insight into the whole movement of thought. Therefore thought then limits naturally itself and remains there. You don't have to say, 'I must stop thinking' - that is too silly. When you understand thought as measure, measure being comparison and the whole - oh, it isn't time now. I must stop. So, if this is clear then we will talk about other things on Sunday.