Total negation of the self
Meditation is the total negation of the self
4th Public Talk, San Francisco, California
March 18, 1973
As this is the last talk here I think we ought to consider the question of religion, its relationship to daily life and whether there is something, or not, an unnameable, a timeless state of mind. One can call it enlightenment, a realisation of the absolute truth and so on. And we will this morning, if we may, go into this question, not only of meditation but also whether the mind, the human mind, can ever find, come upon, or discover, something that is incorruptible, that is not put together by the human mind with its thought, something that must exist, which will give a perfume, a beauty, a loveliness to life. Man, if you observe throughout history, has been seeking in so many different ways, something beyond this ordinary life, beyond this world. He has done everything possible - fasted, tortured himself, every form of neurotic behaviour, worshipped legends and their heroes, accepted authority of another who said, 'I know the way, follow me'. Man, whether he is in the West or in the East, has always enquired into this question. Of course the intellectuals, specially the modern intellectuals spit upon the word 'religion'. To them it is some neurotic enquiry which has no value whatsoever. To them it is some form of hysteria, some form of make-belief; and religion, to them, is something to be totally avoided. Because they see around them such absurdities in the name of religion, such incredible behaviour, without reason, without any substance behind their activity. And the intellectuals, the philosophers, the psychologists, and the analysts prefer to deal with human beings who will conform to the pattern, or to the pattern that is already established, or the pattern which they think is right. You must have observed all this in different ways.
But the intellect is only part of life, it has its normal place, but apparently human beings right throughout the world have given such extraordinary importance to the intellect - the intellect being the capacity to reason, to logically pursue, establish an activity based on reason and logic. But I am afraid human beings are not merely intellectual entities. They are a whole complex, confused human beings.
So religion has become something to be avoided, something of superstition, destructive of logic and sanity. But man, if you have observed, and we must have observed, wants to find something that is both rational, and has depth, a full meaning, not invented by the intellect. And he has always from the ancient of days sought out, enquired, and perhaps this morning, and it is a lovely morning, clear blue sky, the hills, the waters, and the light of California. When you see all this beauty, what has beauty to do with religion? And what is religion? What is a religious mind? And it is important, it seems to me, to enquire into this. We are asking what is religion, not the organised religion. Religion which is organised is a business affair, with a central figure and a priest in between you and the reality. It is a vast machinery, not only in this country and in Europe, and also in Asia, it is a vast machinery to condition the human mind according to certain belief, dogma, ritual and superstition. It is a very profitable business, and we accept it, because we want in our life which is so empty, which lacks beauty, we want romantic, mystical legend. And we worship legends, the myths. But the myth, the legend, all the edifices man has built, both physically as well as psychologically, has nothing whatsoever to do with reality.
And in enquiring, if you are at all serious, what is a religious mind, what is its place in the modern world, has it any relationship to daily life, which is so ugly, so empty, so brutal. If you are - and I hope some of you are - really, deeply serious in your enquiry, not through books, not through argument, not through comparing what one teacher has said or another, and if you are at all deeply concerned, then one must obviously put away all the legends, however pleasant, however satisfying, however comforting; actually put them away totally. And when you do that you do not belong to any organised religion, which doesn't mean that you become a non-believer; a believer and a non-believer are the same. But when one sees what legends have done to the human mind, whether the Christian legend or the Hindu legend, or the Buddhist and so on, they have broken up the human mind, they have separated, though they talk of unity, love and beauty and all the rest of it, they have actually put man against man - how many religious wars there have been! Probably, if you observe, the Christians have killed more human beings than anybody else. It is rather surprising, isn't it? Not only killed animals but human beings. And religions, as organised business propagandist affair have nothing whatsoever to do with reality.
So a mind that is really serious, with all the intensity of a mind that is eager to find out, must obviously put away all belief, all belief in God, put aside all the myths, the legends, the saviours, the gurus, so that the mind is not dependent, so that it can seek, or find out, be capable to observe without any delusion. Can you do this? Because we like to be deceived, we are very gullible people, specially in this country. Though you may be highly sophisticated in one direction, you are extraordinarily, if I may point out, gullible, eager to accept some exotic, new oriental mysticism. And you are caught in your enquiry by somebody who is very assertive, who explains beautifully. And can you, if you are serious, put away all this? Because if the mind can be deceived, if the mind can create its own illusions, be deceptive, and live in deception, thinking that it is real, then such a mind is incapable of coming upon something, if there is something, beyond time.
So, what makes for illusion? Why do human beings accept so eagerly every kind of false, stupid - I don't know what word to use - make-belief? You have in this country, I do not know, how many gurus, both the native kind and the foreign kind. (Laughter) They go off to India, shave their head, put on a robe and become a guru. It is a very profitable thing - and they have come from India. And these people should know better, for there, religion used to be something very, very real, not something to be played with; something that was never used for money. And being gullible, wanting to find something new, because you are tired of the old - the old rituals, the old gods, the old legends, in this country you try to find something new, a new entertainment. And when you are seeking to be entertained, whether physically or psychologically or religiously, then you are bound to be deceived.
So deception exists, or the power of being deceived comes into being when you desire to achieve something, when you want something. So that is the first thing to realise, that when you are seeking, enquiring into this mind which is religious, which man has sought from time immemorial, there must be no deception whatsoever. And that means no desire to achieve, to become, to grasp, to attain. And that is very difficult because we see what is happening around the world, we see how life is transient, so meaningless and we want something that endures, that has beauty, that has substance which is not the substance of thought. And so wanting that we are caught in illusion. So that is the first thing to realise: that the mind in its enquiry must be totally free from all desire to achieve, to attain, to become.
And naturally one must be free of all belief and organised structural enquiry, and you have done that. Then what is the mind that is free from all the human endeavour, what is the mind which has really put aside everything that man has created in his search for this thing called a reality? You know this is one of the most difficult things to put into words. But words must be used and also communication is not only verbal but non-verbal. That is, both you and the speaker must, at the same time, at the same level, with the same intensity enquire, then communion is possible between you and the speaker. And we are trying to commune not only non-verbally but also verbally into this question, which is extraordinarily complex, needs clear, objective thinking, and also to go beyond all thought.
Our consciousness is its content, its content is consciousness. The content of your consciousness is what you think daily, how you behave, what you do with regard to your daily labour, and so on. The content of you, your consciousness is consciousness. The content is not separate from consciousness. It is one. And that content has been cultivated, put there, for centuries. It has evolved, always within the field of time.
I hope you don't mind if we become rather serious because you see we are going to talk about meditation, and meditation is not for the immature. The immature can play with it, and they do now, sit cross-legged, breathe in a certain way, stand on your head, you know all the tricks that one plays. Take drugs in order to experience something original, and all such activity is utterly immature because through drugs, through fasting, through any system you can never find, or come upon that which is eternal, timeless. But in this country it is becoming more and more apparent that you are craving for experience because you are bored with daily life, with the daily experience and you want something much more, and you think there is a short cut to all this. There isn't. One has to work hard, one has to become aware enormously of what one is doing, what one is thinking without any distortion. And all that requires great maturity - maturity not of age but the maturity of a mind, that is capable of observation, seeing the false as the false, and the true in the false, and truth as truth. That is maturity, whether in the political field, or in the business world, or in your relationship.
And we are going to talk over together, and share perhaps, this enquiry into not only what is the religious mind, but also into what is meditation. Probably most of you have heard that word, or have read something about it, or follow some guru who tells you what to do. And I wish that you had never heard that word. Then your mind would be fresh to enquire. But now that you have been contaminated, now that some of you have been to India, and I don't know why you go to India (laughter), truth isn't there, there is romance, but romance is not truth, truth is where you are, not in some foreign country - where you are. Truth is what you are doing, how you are behaving, it is there, not in shaving your head and oh, good lord, all those stupid things that man has done.
So we are going to enquire together into this question of meditation. Why should you meditate? The meaning of that word is to ponder, to think over, to look, to perceive, to see clearly. To see clearly, to observe without distortion there must be an awareness of your background, of your conditioning. Just to be aware of it, not to change it, not to alter it, not to transform it or be free of it, but just to observe. And in that observation to see clearly without distortion the whole content of consciousness, and that is the beginning and the ending of meditation. The first step is the last step.
Why should one meditate and what is meditation? You know if you saw this morning, out of your window, the extraordinary beauty of the morning light, the distant mountains, and the light on that water, if you observed without the word, without saying to yourself, 'How beautiful that is', if you observed completely, were totally attentive in that observation, your mind must have been completely quiet, otherwise you cannot observe, otherwise you cannot listen. So meditation is the quality of mind that is completely attentive and silent. It is only then that you can see the flower, the beauty of it, the colour of it, the shape of it, and it is only then the distance between you and the flower ceases. Not that you identify yourself with the flower, but the time element that exists between you and that, the distance disappears. And you can only observe very clearly when there is non-verbal, non-personal, but an attentive, observation in which there is no centre as the 'me'. That is meditation.
Now this requires a great enquiry, whether you can observe non-verbally, without distortion, without 'me' as memory interfering. You know that implies thought must not interfere in observation. That is, to observe without the image in your relationship with another, to observe another without the image which you have built about the other. I do not know if you have tried it, we have talked about it. When you observe another without the image, the image is you, the you which have accumulated various impressions, various reactions about another, that forms the image and so divides you from the other. And this division brings conflict. But when there is no image you can observe the other with a total sense of attention, in which there is love, compassion and therefore no conflict. That is the observation without the observer. In the same way to observe a flower, everything about one, without division, for division implies conflict, and this division exists as long as thought becomes all important. And for most of us thought and the movement of thought, the activity of thought, is important.
And so the question arises: can thought be controlled? You have to control thought so as not to allow it to interfere, but allow thought to function in its proper place. Control implies suppression, direction, following a pattern, imitation, conformity. All that is implied in control. And from childhood you have been trained to control, and in reaction to that, the modern world says, 'I won't control, I'll do anything I want' - we are not talking about doing what one wants, that is absurd. And it is also absurd, this whole system of control. Control exists only when there is no understanding. When you see something very clearly there is no need for control. If I see very clearly, my mind sees very clearly how thought interferes, how thought always separates, when I see very clearly the function of thought, which is always in the field of the known, then that very observation prevents all control of thought.
And the word 'discipline' means to learn, discipline means to learn, not as it is accepted now, which becomes mechanical. Again in discipline there is conformity - as it is accepted now. We are talking about a mind that is free from control and is capable of learning. Where there is learning there is no necessity at all for any kind of control. That is, as you are learning you are acting. So a mind that is enquiring into this nature of meditation must be always learning, and therefore learning brings its own order. You know order is necessary in life. Order is virtue. Order in behaviour is righteousness. Order is not the order which is imposed by society, by a culture, by environment, by compulsion or obedience. Order is not a blueprint but order comes into being when you understand not only in yourself but about you, disorder. Through the negation of disorder is order. Therefore we must look at disorder, the disorder of our life, the contradictions in ourselves, the opposing desires, say one thing, do another, think another.
So in understanding, in looking at disorder, being aware, attentive, choicelessly of disorder, order comes naturally, easily, without any effort. And order, such order is necessary.
So meditation is a process of life in which relationship with each other is clear, without any conflict. Meditation is the understanding of fear, of pleasure. Meditation is that thing called love, and the freedom from death, which we talked about yesterday morning; and the freedom to stand completely alone, and that is one of the greatest things in life, because if you cannot stand alone you are not free. I mean stand alone inwardly, psychologically. That aloneness is not isolation, a withdrawal from the world. That aloneness comes into being when you totally negate, actually, not verbally but do it actually with your life, all the things that man has put together in his fear, in his pleasure, in his search for something that is beyond this daily routine of life.
Then you will see, if you have gone that far, that the mind, not having any illusion, not following anybody, and therefore is free of all sense of authority. It is only such a mind can open the door. It is only such a mind that can see if there is, or if there is not a timeless quality.
Therefore it is important to understand the question of time. Obviously there is the daily chronological time. We are not talking about that, that is fairly simple and clear. But is there psychological time, the time of tomorrow, that is, I will be something, or I will attain, I will succeed; the idea of time being from here to there. Or is it an invention of thought, this whole idea of progress? There is obviously progress, which unfortunately the business world has turned into profit. There is progress from the bullock cart, the wheel to the jet, but is there psychological progress - the 'me' becoming better, nobler, wiser? The 'me' which is the past - please follow this a little bit, if you are interested - the 'me' which is the past, the 'me' which has accumulated so many things, the insults, flatteries, pain, knowledge, suffering - the 'me', can that progress to a better state? And to advance from here to the better, time is necessary. To become something time is necessary, but is there such a thing as becoming something? Will you become something better? Better in the sense, better 'me', the 'me' more noble, the 'me' less conflict. But the 'me' is the entity that separates. The 'me' and the 'not me', the 'we' and 'they', the 'me' as the American and the 'me' as the Hindu, or the Russian or whatever it is. So can the 'me' ever become better? Or the 'me' has to cease completely and never think in terms of the better or becoming something more. When you admit the more, the better, you are denying the good.
So meditation is the total negation of the 'me', so that the mind is never in conflict. And a mind when it is not in conflict is not in that state of peace which is the interval between two conflicts, but a peace - I don't like to use that word 'peace' - but a quality of mind that is free from total conflict. And that is part of meditation. And when you have understood the psychological time then the mind has space. Have you noticed how little space we have, both physically and inwardly? Living in large cities, in cupboards, in narrow space we become more violent because we need space physically. Psychologically also, have you noticed how little space we have inwardly? Because our minds are crowded with imagination, with all the things that we have learnt, with the various forms of conditioning, the influence, the propaganda. We are full of all the things that man has thought about, invented, our own desires, pursuits, ambitions, fears and so on, it is full, and therefore very little space. And meditation, if you go into it very deeply, is the negation of all this, so that there is in that state of attention there is vast space without boundary. Then the mind is silent. You know probably you have learnt from others that you must go through a system of meditation so that the mind becomes silent, that is, practise in order to achieve silence, to attain silence, practise in order to become enlightened, which is called meditation, and such kind of meditation is sheer nonsense. Because when you practise, you see what happens, don't you, that there is the entity that practises over and over and over again, becoming mechanical, more and more and more mechanical, therefore limited, insensitive, dull. And why should you practise? Why should you allow another to come between you and your enquiry? Why should the priest, or your guru, or your book come between you and what you want to find out? Is it fear? Is it that you want somebody to encourage you? Is it that you lean on somebody when you are yourself uncertain? And when you are uncertain and when you lean on somebody for certainty you may be quite sure that you are choosing somebody who is equally uncertain. And therefore the person on whom you lean maintains that he is very certain. He says, 'I know, I have achieved, I am the way, follow me.' So be very careful, beware of a man who says he knows.
Enlightenment is not a fixed place; there is no fixed place. All that one has to do is to understand the chaos, the disorder in which we live. In the understanding of that we have order, there comes clarity, there comes certainty. And that certainty is not the invention of thought. That certainty is intelligence. And when you have all this, when the mind sees all this very clearly then the door opens. What lies beyond is not nameable. It cannot be described, and anyone who describes it has never seen it, because it cannot be put into words because the word is not the thing, the description is not the described. All that one can do is to be totally attentive in our relationship, and that attention is not possible when there is image; to understand the whole nature of pleasure and fear, and to see that pleasure is not love, and desire is not love. And you have to find out for yourself everything, nobody can tell you. Every religion has said, 'Don't kill'. To you that is just a word - 'Don't kill', but if you are serious you have to find out what it means for yourself. What has been said in the past may be true, but that truth is not yours, you have to find it out, what it means never to kill. You have to find out, you have to learn what it means not to kill, then it is your truth and it is a living truth. In the same way you have to find out for yourself, not through another, not through practice of a system invented by another, nor the acceptance of a guru, of a teacher, of a saviour, but you yourself in your freedom have to see what is truth, what is false, and find out for yourself completely how to live a life in which there is no strife whatsoever. The whole of this is meditation.
Do you want to ask any questions? Or - just a minute, sir, just a minute - or you have listened a great deal, we have talked about so many things, things that concern our daily life, and having listened what have you learned, what are you learning? Or are you so full of questions that you're not learning? And who is the teacher? If you have a teacher you are not learning. Because you yourself are the teacher; you yourself are the disciple. There is no teacher outside you, and if you can learn from yourself by observing yourself then you don't have to read a single book about yourself. Well, do you want to ask anything? (Laughter)
Questioner: Krishnamurti, can we go into the relationship between imagination and the quietness of mind?
Krishnamurti: Could you go into imagination and to the quietness of mind. What is imagination? Why should you imagine at all? 'Imagine' - build images, that's what that word means. Why should you build images at all? Why should you build an image about another? Why should you build an image about the mountains, about the light on the water? There it is. Why should your mind create image about the light on the water? - unless you want to put it on a canvas. And why do you want to put it on a canvas? Is creation - please, this is... I'll go on if you are interested - is creation does creation demand expression? Or is creation itself expression? One writes a poem; you feel something. You see something extraordinarily beautiful; you hear the nightingale in the wood, and the beauty of it, the silence, the deep woods and the light of the morning - you want to express it. Why? To convey it to another? And when the other reads it and he begins to imagine himself in the wood, through your words and listening to that bird. And what is all this about? Why should I express at all?
So, what place has imagination to the quiet mind? None at all. When the mind is absolutely quiet - mind being not only the mind, which is thought, the brain, but the heart and the body, the total harmony - when there is a complete sense of harmony, of which there is no recognition as being harmonious. You can never say 'I am harmonious' - then you are not. And when there is such absolute quietness, there is no place for building images. That state itself is the expression and the creation. I wonder if you understand.
Q: Isn’t this then we do not write the book, we do not write the poem? What happened to earning a living?
K: I understand, sir, I understand. If we lived like this we would not write a poem, we wouldn't write books, we wouldn't paint, we wouldn't go to the office. Then how should we live? That's the question, isn't it, sir?
Q: Yes it is.
K: Come to this stage and then you'll find out the answer. (Laughter) (Clapping)
Don't, sir, please, this is not a flippant answer. You put the question: what am I to do when I have come to that state. How can I live in this world in that state? So that state is a formula, is an imagination which you have acquired from the speaker, and therefore it's not real. But when that is real to you, then you will know how to live in this world. When that is not real then you have the problem of how to live with that. You haven't got it. It's like asking what shall I do when I'm absolutely happy. (Laughter) If you are completely vital, harmonious, real, then you would do the real thing in daily life.
Q: You say there must be some other thing other than the mind. Where does this have its source? You say there must be some other source other than the mind, another source which we can tap, that the human can tap, other than the mind.
Q: If there is something beyond thinking, what is it?
Q: Beyond the mind.
K: Beyond the mind. If there is something beyond the mind, what is it? Is there anything beyond the mind?
K: Wait. How do you know there is something beyond the mind? Has somebody told you? Have you read about it? Or do you think there should be something beyond the mind, because you realise your own mind is so shallow, empty, full of conflict, full of contradiction, and you imagine there is something beyond that. Or do you say, I see 'what is'. 'What is' is this conflict, this shallowness, this emptiness, this second-hand living, and I will look at it, see what it is and whether the mind can go beyond what is. That is the problem, not if there is something beyond the mind. If I say there is, what right have you to accept it? I may be telling you something totally wrong, false or true, but it's not your truth. So you have to find out for yourself, totally. And to do that you have to see 'what is' in your life, daily life, and to observe 'what is' demands attention, energy. To observe 'what is' without distraction, without saying it is good or bad, or saying, 'I must go beyond it'. The desire to go beyond it, to condemn it, to justify it, to rationalise it, is a wastage of energy and you need that energy to go beyond 'what is'. Then only you'll find out for yourself there is something beyond.
Q: Excuse me. Is there any way you can explain the process of awareness, of becoming aware?
K: Yes, sir, that's very simple. Is there any way to... could you explain the process of becoming aware. It's very simple. Be aware of those flowers, be aware of your neighbour, sitting next to you, be aware of the proportions of this hall, be aware of the sounds, the people's words, how they are dressed, what they look like, without condemning, without justifying, without choosing. Just be aware. And if you say, 'No, I can't do that, because I can't look at something without condemning or liking or disliking', then don't observe the far, but find out why you are... become aware why you dislike and like, why you have prejudices. So, from the outward, from the outer move inward. The whole of that is awareness. The whole of that is attention.
Q: Sir, yesterday we discussed suffering. I was wondering if you could comment on what is the necessity of suffering? It seems that all this is so hard; I wonder what makes our conditioning so strong that reality doesn’t break through the walls before us.
K: So, you are asking, are you, sir: you are so conditioned that it is difficult to get beyond our conditioning. Right?
Q: And what’s the necessity of the suffering that we must endure to...
K: What is the necessity of suffering. Can the mind be free of its conditioning. Right? What is the necessity of suffering? There is no necessity at all. But we do suffer, because we are ignorant of ourselves. We do not know ourselves. We haven't looked at ourselves. We have not become aware of ourselves. We may become aware of ourselves by reading about ourselves, written by somebody else, but that is not looking at yourself. If you look at yourself, be aware of yourself, then you will see that suffering is part of this unawareness. And our minds are conditioned. If you live in a particular culture, that culture shapes your mind - through education, through economic conditioning, through various influences of propaganda, through the religious authorities, and so on - your whole mind is conditioned - as an Indian mind, the Russian mind, the Maoist mind, and so on - it's conditioned. Can the mind free itself from that conditioning? If you say, 'Yes, it can', how do you know? Or if you say, 'It is not possible', then you have blocked yourself.
So, we are conditioned and according to that conditioning we respond. To be aware of that conditioning, not only consciously but the deeper layers of that conditioning, is to be totally attentive of your actions, of your behaviour - the words you use, the gestures, the vanity, the pride, the arrogance, the search for status and so on. Be aware of all this, and then you will see it for yourself that the mind can be free from its conditioning.
Q: But why doesn’t this come about naturally? For example, you talked last week about the difference between function and status, why do the most destructive aspects of the mind continually prevail?
K: Why should not the mind only function? Why should it seek status from that functioning? That's the question, isn't it? Isn't functioning, to function in a job, isn't it terribly boring? If you are - what? - a writer, and nobody looked at what you wrote, wouldn't you soon find it was not worth writing? Wouldn't you soon find out, if you loved music, that if you played for yourself quietly and nobody bothered to listen to you, wouldn't you soon get bored, tired? Or if one loves, not possessively, not on which you depend, but love without any sense of demeaning it, would you be bored? You would?
K: Wait. You may be exception, sir. (Laughter) So, for most of us, the way we have be educated, mere function becomes tiresome, because what we do we don't love, and therefore through function we want status, and status gives us a certain position in society, and the more you have status the more you are respected, or looked up to. The cook you look down upon, and the man who is a big executive with a big car you look up to. So there is respect, which is really disrespect. When you look down on a cook and look up to the minister or to the president, you have really no respect at all. You are only respecting a word called 'status'. Full stop.
I must stop.
K: I'm sorry, sir.
Q: You said that consciousness is the content of the consciousness. Now, are there layers of consciousness, and if so – layers, deep layers and shallow layers – and if so, how does it come out? And the second question is: in our observation regarding observance what is the state of such a consciousness and how does that express itself in one’s waking hours?
K: I'd like to answer this question but I've been told that we must get out of this hall at half past twelve. What shall we do?
Q: Could you speak for a second on insanity? (Laughter) (Clapping)
K: It's not my problem. (Laughter) (Clapping)