The meaning of life, pleasure and fear
In meditation, life is a total movement
2nd Public Talk, Ojai, California
April 08, 1973
May we continue with what we were talking about yesterday? We were pointing out how important it is to have right relationship with each other. As we see it now, in relationship there is a great deal of trouble, conflict, bitterness, jealousy, anxiety. And if we apply our minds, our hearts, to bring about right relationship in which, as we explained yesterday very carefully, every form of conflict ceases then in that relationship, which is a movement, which is never static. That relationship when it is really right, clear, not sullied by the images that one has built, then out of that relationship there comes a great deal of creative energy.
I do not know if you have at all thought about or enquired deeply into what we were talking about yesterday, and if you had you would see for yourself how important it is to have this kind of relationship which creates a totally different kind of social structure. For most of us creativity doesn't really exist. It is one of our problems, living in this modern world, that life has lost its meaning; life has no meaning whatsoever as it is lived now. And it is one of our responsibilities, if we are at all serious, to discover for ourselves the meaning of existence. And so we are going to talk over this morning together this question of meaning in life, pleasure and fear.
One can give significance or a meaning to life intellectually, you can invent a meaning, put together by cunning thought but such contrivance has really very little meaning. But if we do not find for ourselves the real meaning of life then we shall escape from the living of daily life into all sorts of neurotic behaviour, neurotic thought and expressions and activities. We are asking: is life a mere struggle, a battle both within and without, live a few years laboriously, painfully, anxiously and then die? Is that all? And if we do not find for ourselves the meaning of life, not a philosophic meaning, not a meaning invented by a philosopher or a psychologist, but a meaning that has deep significance in our daily living, then if we do not find it then inevitably we shall always be in conflict with each other and also we shall form various categories of division and endless conflict with each other. So in enquiring into the meaning or if there is a meaning to life, or is it merely a passing shadow with dappled light and movement endlessly groping, searching, struggling and ending.
So what we are going to do this morning if you will permit it, and therefore share it, try to find out for ourselves what is it all about - this nationalistic war, or the economic war which is to come or which is already taking place, the little expressions of individuals who say, I must play, write, the guitar, or my life is dedicated to music, to painting and so on - which has all become so extraordinarily superficial - if that is the only meaning to life then whatever we do socially, morally or religiously has very little meaning. And so it behoves us, being responsible and serious, to find out for ourselves. And in finding out we will share it together. You know when you share something, that which you share, that is neither yours nor mine. I do not know if you have ever shared something with another so completely that you and the other who shares it ceases completely because in that sharing there is no you or I, there is only that quality of mind that is sharing the thing, which neither belongs to you or to another. So in enquiring into this question what we discover is not yours or mine, it is the whole significance, the meaning of a human being living either in America or in Russia, or in India or in China, wherever he be.
As we said, if our relationship with each other is not based on a conclusion, an image, then that relationship releases this extraordinary creative energy. I am using that word 'creative' not in the orthodox sense that demands expression. Creation doesn't ever demand expression. In the movement of that creativity the 'I', the 'me' that wishes to express itself in painting, in literature, in music, doesn't exist at all. So creation, this feeling of creativity, this tremendous energy that comes when there is no conflict whatsoever in ourselves and outside of ourselves, inside the skin, as it were, and outside the skin, the significance may be, and probably is, this release of creative energy which is not the product of thought. Therefore we are going to look together, therefore share, this whole problem of what is thought, what is the relationship of thought to creativity. Has it any relationship or can thought bring about this creative energy? So we are going to enquire, if you will, into this question: what place has thought in relationship. For if our relationship is a battlefield between man and woman, between human beings, then our life is committed to constant enmity, constant battle, hatreds, hurts.
So, what place has thought and what is the whole structure of thinking? Please, this is very important for each of us to understand because we live by thought. The whole world is based on thinking and its activity. And when we realise the shallowness and the limitation of thought we try to escape from it through all kinds of neurotic activities - the suppression of thought, the denial of thought, going after or seeking cosmic consciousness, which is utter nonsense when you have not completely understood the nature of thinking.
So it is very important to find out for ourselves what place has thought in relationship, in action, and in that thing which we call creativity. All right? May I go on? Am I making myself clear? If not, ask me at the end of it, we will discuss it, we will answer questions. But if you are not interested, it is equally all right. For it's a lovely morning, full of shadows and light, the mountains are extraordinarily clear, and the birds are singing, and the fields and the trees are full of flowers and there is great beauty about us. And if we could look at that so totally and completely and live with that beauty which is to have complete relationship with nature then you have solved all the problems of life. But we cannot live so completely with nature because in ourselves we have lost touch with it because we, in ourselves, have no relationship with another. And because we have no relationship with each other we have no relationship with nature, and therefore we kill animals, pollute the air - all the horrors that are going on in the world.
So it is very important to understand the nature of thinking.
What is thought? And what is the measure by which all thought functions? Please, this is not an intellectual thing, it may sound rather highbrow, but it's not, because you act, feel, do or commit yourself to a series of actions based upon your thinking. So without understanding the whole movement of thought, its relationship to the human beings, its relationship to pleasure, its relationship to fear, and whether thought is capable of cultivating or bringing about creativity. Can thought give a full meaning to life? So that is the problem we are going to discuss, I hope you don't mind. It's rather serious and needs a little bit of attention.
The whole Western world is based on measurement. The Greeks started it-not that I have read history but I have observed a great deal - the Western world is the product, more or less, of Greece, and measurement, which is technology, has been the result of thought. Right? All the world, specially the Western world, is based on thought, on measurement. Measurement between here and there, measurement of distance from here, from the centre to the periphery and so on. Measurement brings about the development of technology, mathematics and so on and so on. All that is thought, based on thought. And if you have observed, if you have gone to the East, there they have tried, at least a few, they said to themselves, measurement is limited and through measurement the immeasurable cannot be found. But they use thought to find the immeasurable. Are you following all this? Does it mean anything to you at all, what I am talking about?
K: Good! I am not quite sure that you really understand it, but it doesn't matter. And what relationship has thought to freedom? So first we must enquire into the nature of thinking. What is thinking? Because all our relationship, all our activity, every form of the pursuit of pleasure is based on thought and it has its own energy. So we are seriously asking: what is thought, how does it come into being? Surely thought is the response of memory, experience, knowledge. You are Christians, at least you think you are, and you have been conditioned through two thousand years to think along a particular line and your thinking is according to the background, to the conditioning that you have had which is based on experience, knowledge, memory. Right? That memory is stored up in your brain. That is the function of the brain, to respond according to the data - to use a modern word - that it has and respond according to that. This is a simple psychological fact. Right? I ask you, what is your name, and you are very quick to tell me because you already know it by heart and you can repeat it very quickly. But if I ask you something a little more difficult you take time, between the question and the response there is an interval of time in which thought is looking, enquiring, asking in the memory for a right reply. Right? And if the question is still more complex and not wholly in the memory, then you say, 'I don't know'. All that is the process of thinking based upon your memory, experience, knowledge. So thinking is the response of memory. So thought is never new. Right? Thought can never be free because thought is the response of the past and the whole idea of freewill or through thought you can find freedom, has no meaning. So thought cannot be the instrument of creativity. Right? You are following all this?
Please, we are sharing together and it's very important that you and I understand this. Because if we once understood this very simple fact then you will see for yourself that knowledge in relationship as thought breeds conflict. Knowledge in relationship, in human relationship: you have hurt me and that becomes my knowledge about you. And that knowledge interferes in our relationship with you. So thought in relationship is the source of conflict. Have you understood this, not intellectually, not verbally but deeply, in the very core of your being? If you see the truth of this, which is not a verbal understanding of the intellect, but the actuality, that thought as knowledge in relationship between two human beings brings about conflict and therefore there is no relationship at all. Then what place has knowledge in life? You are following all this? May I go on? I want to go, if you don't follow, or it's not clear, please, it's up to you.
K: I am coming to that, sir, I am coming. Have a little patience. What is the function of thought? If it has no place in relationship, and I see the truth of it, because it creates disastrous results in human relationship, then what is the place of thought, what is its function. I see very clearly it has no function whatsoever in relationship. Right? I hope you see this. Then what place has knowledge, or thought as knowledge, what is its function? Its function is to act in the field of knowledge and nowhere else. I know how to ride a bicycle, that's my knowledge, how to drive a car; how to do all the daily things one has to do; how to calculate, you know the whole technological, mechanical world, because thought is mechanical because our minds are conditioned, and to act according to that conditioning is mechanical. So thought has a legitimate place but not in human relationship.
Then what place has thought with regard to pleasure? Because for most of us pleasure is the most important thing in life. No? If we are very, very honest, one sees how we pursue pleasure; taking drugs is a form of pleasure, to have certain experience, sexual pleasure, the pleasure of achievement, the pleasure of success. There are ten different forms of pleasure and we are pursuing that all the time. Your morality is based on pleasure and therefore it is immoral. You are accepting all this?
Q: Would you please repeat it?
K: Could I repeat what I said just now - I'm afraid I can't, but I will put it differently. We are saying that human beings right throughout the world whether they are Christians, Buddhists or communists, whatever they be, are everlastingly pursuing pleasure. Their gods, their saviours, their beliefs are based fundamentally on pleasure. And our social structure is a form of this pursuit and insistence on pleasure. And therefore social morality is immorality. So what is pleasure? You understand, we have to grapple with all these things, this is part of our life and if we don't understand all this then life has no meaning, then we live very, very superficially and die - though in that superficiality there are all kinds of other superficialities. So it is very important to understand the nature of pleasure. What is pleasure? Is it a memory of something that gave you a certain form of delight, which thought picks up and pursues, which becomes pleasure? Are you following all this? That is, you may have had sexual pleasure and you think about it, the thinking about it is the insistence and the pursuit of pleasure. So thought sustains an incident which happened yesterday and that incident has left a mark on the mind, on the brain, and it pursues that incident in the form of pleasure. If it is painful it resists it. You know all this, don't you know all this?
So pleasure is the continuance of an incident which is dead, which is past, and thought insists or pursues that incident which now becomes the pleasure. You are following this? Look, sir, you told me yesterday that I was a very nice chap; it gave me pleasure. I haven't forgotten it, I haven't cut it off. That incident, thought picks it up and says, what a nice person he is, I would like to see him again. So thought pursues an incident that's dead and the insistence on something that is dead, which is over, thought nourishes and sustains it in the form of pleasure. Right, you have got it?
So our life is based on thought. And thought, as we said, is never new, never free, so we are slaves to the past. Right? Our life is the past and in the past we are trying to seek the meaning to it. So the meaning in the past is a dead meaning, therefore it has no meaning at all. And thought can invent a meaning based upon its pleasure, its experience, its knowledge which is always the past. So when thought gives a meaning to life, it is giving a meaning to life in terms of the old, therefore the meaning is dead and has no meaning whatsoever. Right?
Please, all this is an enquiry into what is creativity. Because life, lived as we do, has no meaning. We are conditioned human beings, the result of two thousand or five thousand years of propaganda: religious, social, whatever it be, capitalistic or communistic, Mao or something totally different.
And from that, what is fear? You are following this? Because fear also plays a tremendous part in our life: fear of darkness, fear of what people might say, or do say, fear of not fulfilling, not succeeding, the anxiety, the pain, the sorrow, the innumerable shades of fear in which we live. One may be conscious of it or unconscious of it but it is there, from childhood to the grave this thing is constant. And one can observe where there is fear every form of violence comes into being, every form of neurotic behaviour; one lives in darkness, in utter despair. Probably you know all this if you have had the taste of fear and you are conscious of it. Fear, not only physical fear of pain which you have had yesterday and you hope not to have it again tomorrow, but also all the many psychological fears. Now how is one, how is the mind to be totally, completely free of fear, not only at the conscious level but deeply? When one puts that question, when you put that question to yourself, how do you resolve it? Or do you say, 'Well, it is inevitable, it's part of life, one must go through fear' and continue? So we get used to fear. That is, we get used to neurotic behaviour.
Now we are going to find out together and therefore share together whether the mind can be completely free, totally, of fear. You know, look at your own fear, if you are sufficiently interested in it, observe your fears as you are sitting there; you may not have t now but invite it. You may have ten fears or one basic fear of which you are conscious and do not know what to do with it. Is it that one must operate or look at every leaf, every branch, every little branch of the whole tree of fear, or can one look at the very root of fear and therefore not be concerned with the little fears? Have you understood my question? Is this fear in which we live - hundreds of fears - are they to be taken one by one and disposed of, or is it possible to get to the root of it and therefore in the understanding, in coming into direct contact with it, go beyond it? You have understood?
Now first of all, we are not doing a group therapy. Right? That's an abomination; that has no meaning. Nor are we indulging in analysis because analysis implies time, division between the analyser and the analysed, and every analysis must be totally complete and therefore - which it never is - so you can keep on analysing for the rest of your life, which has become the fashion nowadays, and die with analysis. So analysis - paralysis through analysis. Right? - so analysis doesn't free the mind from fear. And what does not free the mind from fear has no meaning, so you can put it out, actually deny it, negate it. Then what is fear? We are not analysing, we are just observing. Observation is not analysis, just to look at that beautiful oak is not analysis: just to look. But you can look at it and say, 'Well, I've looked at one leaf and a branch', and so on, that is not the whole tree. So we are trying to look at fear totally. What is fear?
Q: It is...
K: Sorry, you can talk afterwards, come on the platform and you can take charge, now let me go on with it. What is fear?
K: Sir, we are sharing it together, don't give me explanations, descriptions, because the description, the explanation is not the explained, not the described. We are concerned with the fact of fear and to look at it totally. One is afraid of the pain that one has had a month ago. Thought thinks about the future of that pain and hopes it will not occur again. You follow? So thought is responsible for the fear that might happen, take place tomorrow because I have known physical pain. So thought is responsible for fear, physical fear. Right? Look, you have had a toothache, haven't you, and you have been to the dentist, and you hope that pain won't happen again. That is, you are thinking about tomorrow while you are not having pain today, and tomorrow is the result of your thinking and you hope not to have it. That's a simple fact.
And there are many psychological fears; what people might say, fear of unsuccess, you know, you have dozens and dozens of fears, old age, ignorance, you know, I don't have to enumerate them. What is the root of fear? Is it not becoming something, is it not being something, is it at the conscious level expressing itself as success and failure, not being able to achieve a certain position psychologically or physically? And there are all the hidden fears, deep down. Can they all be exposed, looked at and gone beyond? Right?
As we said, thought gives a continuity to an incident which happened yesterday which is over, and thought picks it up and says that I must pursue that. So thought gives, nourishes, sustains pleasure. So thought similarly sustains fear: I am afraid I am going to lose my job, I haven't lost it but I might lose it; I am afraid of not being a success - again in the future; I am afraid of not being able to fulfil, become somebody and all that. So thought is responsible for fear. Got it?
So the problem then arises: can thought not interfere - if one can use that word - with that incident which was a delight yesterday and not pick it up, just leave it. You have understood? Look, sir, I saw something very beautiful yesterday evening, the sun was behind the mountains, and the light was extraordinary; it was a great delight just to see it. But when it is over thought says, 'How extraordinarily beautiful that was, I want it repeated, I'll go on that walk again tomorrow and see that delight again, that experience again'. Thought thinking over the past, which is dead, gives a continuity to that which is dead in the form of pleasure today or tomorrow. In the same way thought creates or sustains fear of what might happen tomorrow. So thought is the basis of fear. Right? Whether that fear is the next second or ten years later. Right? So how is one to deal with thought which is all the time projecting itself? You have understood my question? Right? Can I go on with it? We are moving together? Or is it too hot?
So my question is: knowing that thought is all the time conjuring up the future pains or picking up the delight of yesterday which is over and desiring to continue in the form of pleasure today. So thought, I see, is responsible for all this movement. And so I ask myself: what place has thought in all this? I live by thought, at a certain level thought is necessary, otherwise I can't function, I can't speak English, I am not able to do anything. Thought at a certain level is absolutely necessary as knowledge, and I see very clearly as long as thought enters into the whole movement of the unknown, that is, the tomorrow, then it either creates pleasure or fear. Thought can only function in the field of the known; it cannot function in the field of the tomorrow, the unknown, and yet it is all the time overflowing into the unknown, the tomorrow. So is there a demarcation between the known, which is yesterday, which is experience, which is knowledge, which is memory from which all thought takes place, and a movement which is not shaped or controlled by thought? And that is creativity, the other is not. Have you understood it, sir? No.
Look, we are always functioning in the field of the known. Right? That's obvious. The known is the memory, the experience, the knowledge which has shaped the mind, the brain, all our activity is within the field of the known. The known is the past and in that there is no possibility of creativity. So thought cannot possibly bring about this release of creative energy. The release of creative energy comes into being only when thought remains in the field of the known, and never moves over. So the known as the yesterday, the unknown as the tomorrow, must move together harmoniously all the time then creativity takes place. I wonder if you get this. Has somebody got this? Because you see if we are living always within the field of the known, which we are, Christians, communists, Hindus, Buddhists, Maoists, committed to some form of activity which is always from the known, in the field of the known, then we are living mechanically, living always in a prison. And in that prison we are trying to find a significance. And the philosophers, the analysts, and the psychologists and so on give a meaning to that. Whereas we are saying, thought has a legitimate place and it can only function in the field of the known, therefore thought can never bring about freedom, thought is never new. And when one realises, not verbally, not sentimentally, not ideologically but actually, as the fact, then the mind is free from the known and therefore is free absolutely from fear. And therefore the movement in harmony between the known and the unknown is creativity. And that, to me, is the significance, the meaning of life. And we are going to go into it much more next weekend, further into the problem.
It is twelve o'clock, so please ask any questions you want.
Questioner: Could you go into the question of how loneliness and boredom – society says we never have to be lonely, we never have to be bored – how it drives us in different directions.
K: Could we, the questioner asks, go into the question of loneliness and boredom, which is part of our life. Could we discuss it. All right, sir. Let's take a breath, shall we?
What is loneliness, boredom and can one go beyond them? Right, sir? What is loneliness? Most of us know that feeling of being completely isolated, though you may be with your friends in a group, or with your family, you feel completely cut off, isolated. And that isolation, that loneliness is rather painful, and being aware of that pain we either escape from it or try to cover it up or rationalise it. But at the end of it the loneliness still remains. Then what is one to do with it? What is this sense of loneliness? Is it the result of our daily life which is so self-centred, so egocentric, so selfish, which is all the time isolating, building a wall round oneself? And that brings about this quality or this feeling of utter loneliness, utter despair in that loneliness. Now if you do not escape from it, and I mean not escape, you can escape by verbalising about it, you can escape by analysing about why it is there, you can escape by going off, taking a drink or going to church or turning on the television, a dozen ways, they are all more or less the same, but if you don't escape and you see the absurdity of escaping, the fact that running away from it is part of that loneliness, then you have the energy to face that loneliness. You follow? Because we are wasting that energy through escape, verbal escape or actual escape. So when you realise the absurdity, the silliness of it, then you are facing that loneliness.
Now, please follow this a little bit. When you look at that loneliness, are you looking at it as an observer different from that which you call lonely? You understand sir? Are you looking at it as an outsider looking in or the observer is the observed? When you say, I am angry, is anger different from you? Obviously not. You are anger. So when you look at that loneliness when there is no escape but are actually in contact with it, then are you looking at it as an observer looking at something outside or the observer is the observed? Then when the observer is the observed there is no movement of escape or rationalisation and therefore a complete going through with that loneliness, the ending of it. You understand, sir? Sorry, sir, just a minute, I haven't finished it yet.
Therefore it is very important to understand the relationship between the observer and the observed. Is the observer different from the observed? The observed is loneliness; is the observer different from that thing which he is seeing? He, the observer gives the name to that which he sees as loneliness. The observer has experienced that loneliness previously and when the thing comes up again he says, 'That is loneliness'. So he is responding, the observer is responding from the previous experience and therefore separates himself from the new. Whereas if he does not look at it with the eyes of the past then the observer is the observed, then he goes beyond it.
And also what is boredom? Aren't you all bored with life? No? Aren't you? No? I'll show you how terribly bored you are! Because you happen to be young, you have got a lot of years to live, you want to experience new things, get excited, emotional, sentimental, practise this meditation, that meditation, follow that guru. Why are you doing all this? What's the basis of your action? Is it an escape from yourself because you are bored with yourself, because you realise how petty you are, how shallow you are, how meaningless the whole structure is? And so being bored with oneself you do all these innumerable things. So unless you understand very deeply yourself, which is self-knowing, there must be boredom. So the understanding of oneself which is a very, very subtle and complex problem, because knowing oneself is to learn about oneself, not learn according to somebody, some clever psychologist, or philosopher but know yourself as you are, learn about yourself, not having learnt move, but learning is a constant movement, and therefore in that there is never boredom. Yes sir?
Q: Krishnamurti, some people say that creativity is related to the manipulation of the known in a new combination – some people take that view point. You simply address yourself to a quality of awareness that transcends the known and stops at the anticipation of the future.
K: Yes, sir.
Q: Could you elaborate about this with the use of the word awareness, please.
K: All right. Sir, what is it to be aware? Don't practise awareness, don't go to some school or somebody to learn how to be aware. Awareness is actually in the active present. Right? Aware of the trees, of the sky, of that extraordinary colour of that branch, aware of the colours about you. But when you are so aware you say to yourself, 'I don't like that colour', or 'I like that colour, I wish I had that tree in my garden', so you are always in that awareness choosing. And that is not awareness, that's merely a reaction to your conditioning. Awareness choicelessly, to have no choice in the very look at that oak tree, at that branch, at the light on that trunk, just to look. Now to be choicelessly aware of the fact that thought can only function in the field of the known. It has no other place. It can invent a new place for itself but it is still the result of thought. Right? To be aware of the whole machinery, the whole movement of thought, and also to be aware of a movement which is not in the field of the known. That is, sir, one has to go into this question of time. Time is always within the field of the known. Right? Time is measurement, yesterday, today and tomorrow. That is the known.
And time shapes or modifies the past through the present to the future. Now to be aware of that as one is aware of that trunk of that extraordinary tree with that colour, choicelessly. And if one is totally aware of that then what takes place? Is there an awareness of the unknown? No, that's the whole point. The moment you are aware of the unknown it is the known. I don't know if you see all this. Right, sir? So the movement of the known, and it's a movement, and that which is not capable of being put into words, which is not measurable, has no relationship to thought. So the total awareness of both: awareness of the known and also awareness that says, 'I cannot possibly be aware of the movement of the unknown'. Right? Sir, it's like this: if you are happy the moment you become aware that you are happy it's gone. That's all, it's as simple as that. Truth is that quality of mind which never knows that it is the truth. You understand? Yes sir?
Q: When your physical body ceases where has the spirit gone?
K: I think we had better leave that question for next Saturday because that requires a great deal of enquiry: whether there is a spirit at all or your idea that there is a spirit. We will go into all that.
You have no more questions to ask?
Q: When you take a concept like trying to achieve perfect happiness, it seems a kind of abortion, self-inflicted, is derived from it. If you did not have a theme there to define the pleasure you would eventually just reach that happy state.
K: Good Lord! Sir, we are not trying to achieve a perfect state of happiness. I am afraid we have not understood what has been said during the whole hour. We are not trying to achieve anything but just to observe. Now, look, when you observe that tree are you trying to achieve anything? When you look at yourself totally, when you are aware of yourself, all the movement of yourself, aware of it, are you trying to achieve something? And who is the entity that is trying to achieve something? Is he not part of that which he is observing?
Q: One time I was asked to ask myself whether I was me when I was being aware, and I was asked not to make up my mind too quickly. And during the time that I tried I came to the conclusion at that moment – I could be wrong – that I was nature when I was aware. I went back to the person who told me ask myself that and I said, ‘OK, I think I know, I think I am nature when I am aware’, and then she asked me, ‘Who is nature?’ And so I haven’t been able to think that far because I didn’t understand it.
K: I don't quite follow your question, sir.
Q: Well, I mean, I asked myself what am I when I am being aware.
K: That's good enough. That's enough, sir. Let's stop there. What am I when I am being aware. What are you when you are being aware? So when you put that question, is the questioner there? You understand? When you say, what am I when I am aware, in that question there is a duality, the one that is aware and the one that says, what am I when I am aware. Then if there is duality then there is no awareness at all.