What is death?
Magnitude of the mind
3rd Public Talk, Colombo
November 15, 1980
We have only this talk and tomorrow, so we have to make a rapid survey, and we cannot possibly go into all the details of what we are going to talk about. But I am sure you will fill the gaps.
As we were saying last Saturday and Sunday, one has to learn the art of listening, the art of seeing and the art of learning. Listening is not to interpret what you hear according to your own accustomed, easy ways, but rather try to find out not only what the speaker is saying, but also to listen to your own thoughts, to your own emotions, to your own reactions - not try to change them, not try to suppress them, but merely watch them. And so listening plays an important part if you are willing and serious enough to listen very attentively, patiently and quietly.
And also, as we said, the art of seeing, not only with your visual eyes, with the optic responses, but also to see beyond the words, to read between the lines as it were, to see what lies behind the words, because the words are not the actuality. A description of a mountain is not the mountain. The flowing river, with all its vitality and the volume of water behind it, that river, the word 'river' is not that which is alive. So one has to observe very acutely, with great care, attentively. And the art of learning is quite a complex affair.
It's rather hot here. One is not used to this heat, so I hope you don't mind if I take off my vest.
The art of listening, seeing and learning. We are accustomed to accumulate knowledge; knowledge through experience, memory stored up in the brain, and we are always functioning, learning within the field of the known. The known is the past modified by the present and continues in the future. Within that area, within that field we are always functioning. And learning through action, through experience, storing it up as memory and functioning with that memory, skilfully or not. This is what our minds are always doing. From the known, the knowledge, act, learn, and from that action and learning, accumulating more. This is the cycle in which we are always functioning. If you observe this, this is an obvious fact. But there is a totally different kind of learning, a learning which is not accumulation. That we shall go into as we go along in our talk today and tomorrow.
As we were saying, we have to read the book of which we are. We are the whole content of mankind, each one of us - mankind being the sorrow, the pleasures, the desires, the anxieties, the pain, fears, nationalities, cultures: all that is in the book, the book which is us. And the book is not different from us. We are the book. And I think it is very important if I may point if one may point out, to understand this: what you read is you, you are not different from that which you read; and if you interpret what you read according to your desire, according to your pleasure or fear, then you are not reading the book at all. That fear, that anxiety, that suffering is part of you. So if one wants to read the book actually, one has to see the observer, the reader, is that which he is reading. I wonder if we understand this. The observer is the observed. The thinker is the thought. There is no thinker apart from thought. This is a fact. The experiencer who thinks he must experience, and that which he experiences is the experiencer. But most of us think that thought is different from the thinker; so the thinker is always trying to control, shape, suppress thought and so on, so on, so on. So but when one actually observes that the thinker is the thought, then the division between the thinker and thought comes to an end and therefore conflict comes to an end. One hopes that we are together going into this, that you are not merely, if one may point out, that you are not merely listening to a talk, to a series of words, but rather we are together walking on the same path, with the same step, with the same quietness and enquiry. So if we go into this, that there is no separation between the thinker and the thought. Thought makes the thinker and thought separates the thinker. The thinker then becomes a master who controls thought. And this control, this suppression, this discipline in thought is by the thinker which thought has created. Therefore thought is the thinker. (Sound of crow) That crow is having he agrees with me. (Laughter) I hope you are listening to that crow.
So if this is clear, that there is no division between the thinker and thought. Where there is division, there must be conflict. That is a law. As there is division between the Muslim and the Hindu, the Buddhist and the other Buddhist, the division between the Catholic and the Protestant and so on, so on, so on. Where there is division nationally, religiously there must be conflict. And our minds are accustomed to conflict; from the moment we are born till we die, it is a perpetual struggle, perpetual strife, constant battle within oneself and outwardly, and if one realises, non verbally, not intellectually, but the fact that the thinker is the thought and there is no division between the two, therefore one begins to understand the nature of conflict and the ending of conflict.
And this evening we shall go into desire, pleasure, suffering and if there is time, the whole meaning and the significance of death. A man who is greatly concerned with humanity, with man's suffering, man's conflict, man's violence, and all the travail that man goes through in life, he must begin to enquire, as we are doing now together, into the nature and the structure of desire. Desire plays an immense part in our life. Desire as we grow a little more mature physically, varies, the object varies, but desire is the same: whether you desire for a car, or for a woman, for god, for an illumination, that desire is the same. There is no noble desire and ignoble desire, but only desire. Are we coming together? Are we understanding each other? So we are going together to examine very carefully the nature of desire. Because for us desire, with its will is the constant factor in life. Desire is will, is the summation of desire - will, and we operate, function with will: I must and I must not. This constant activity of will which is the essence of desire. Right? May we go along? So together we are going to investigate and learn: learn, not merely repeat, but learn as we are investigating and moving. You understand what I mean?
We are going to look into desire. In the very looking into desire you begin to see, have an insight into the nature of it. When you have an insight, comprehension of it, there is no need or necessity to repeat the structure of desire, which would become merely verbal. Am I making myself clear? No? Bene. If it is not very clear we will talk more about it before we go into it. When you look, examine a watch, undo it, look into it, see how it works, you are learning the movement of the watch. The learning how the watch works is not mere memory, you are learning the operation as it moves. Right?
So we are looking into desire. You know what desire is. Most people do. Desire, and non-desire. First, what is desire which plays such an important role in our life? Most religious groups, the monks of various religious denominations, have always said, suppress or transmute desire: if you want to serve god, you must have no desire for the world, for a woman, for a man and so on. It has always been a suppressive process - right? - a disciplining of desire. Now, we are neither suppressing it, avoiding it or transmuting it. We are examining the nature of desire. Right? So there is no question of trying to avoid it, trying to look at it in order to escape from it. We are together going into the nature and structure of desire. So please understand that. We are not suppressing it, we are not avoiding it, we are not rationalising it. We are merely examining very closely what is desire. If you understand the nature of it, there will be no question of suppressing it or avoiding it or rationalising it. Right? Is this clear for ourselves? So we are asking what is desire. Obviously the word is not the feeling, the reaction. So we must be clear when we are using the word 'desire', the word is not the reaction, that feeling of wanting.
Nice flowers, aren't they. You know we have so little beauty in life. There are beautiful trees around in this country, lovely clouds, marvellous flowers and orchids. We never see the beauty in them. We are too occupied with our own worries and problems and desires and anxieties. We never look at a sunset and enjoy the beauty of the light. So we are losing not only the appreciation of outward beauty, but also perhaps none of us, or very few have the inward beauty, the beauty that doesn't depend on things, on pictures, on statues, or on a sunset or on a tree. That beauty comes only when there is great love, compassion; not for something, in itself, per se. That is only a side issue. Though beauty one must have, to enquire what is truth. Without that great sense of beauty, one never can come upon that which is truth.
So, what is desire? And man has been haunted by this and the conflict that lies in desire itself. So we are together examining, exploring, learning the nature of this. Is not desire the beginning of perception, seeing? I will go into it very carefully, slowly. The seeing with your eyes, optical perception, seeing the flowers, the trees, the cars, the women, seeing the world. That is the beginning of desire: seeing, tasting, smelling. So, seeing a tree, a house, a car, a woman, a man, a lovely garden, seeing and touching it, contact with it, then sensation. Then thought, please listen, thought creates the image: you owning that garden, that car, that person, this or that. Right? That is, seeing, contact, touching, then sensation, then thought saying or creating the image: you sitting in the car and driving it. Right? Is it clear? Seeing, contact, sensation, thought creating the image; then desire is born. When thought creates the image, that is the beginning of desire. Have you understood this? Are we together, or not at all? No?
Krishnamurti: Sir, look at it, go into it yourself, you will see. This is a very simple fact, very, very simple, that the very seeing, the contact, sensation, that is natural, normal, and also it is normal thought creating an image: you having that shirt, the blue shirt or that particular robe and at that moment, creating the image, at that moment desire is born. Right? You can see it for yourself. You see a nice trousers or robe, or something in the window - the seeing, going inside the shop, touching it, then thought saying, how nice it will look on me, you have formed the image, at that moment desire flowers. Right? So if you understand this very carefully, when thought creates the image, that is the beginning of desire, then can that image come to an end? You are following? Are we together again, or am I going off? I am not talking to myself. I can do this if I want to, if the speaker wants to, in his room. But we are together going into this. You may not be accustomed to this explanation of what desire is. If you are not accustomed, then please listen, put away all your conditioning which says you must not desire, or you must desire, and all that. For the moment put all that aside and look at it very carefully. The moment thought creates the image of you in that car, in that shirt, in that robe, then desire begins.
Now, can one learn - please listen - can one learn the fact, seeing, contact, sensation and remain - only that, not let thought create the image? You have understood this? Come on sirs! Have you understood this? There is a discipline, that is, seeing, contact, sensation and the moment thought creates the image, desire. The discipline is to learn. The word 'discipline' comes from the Latin, disciple, a disciple is one who learns. What we have made of that word is to discipline means to copy, to imitate, to conform, to obey, to follow. All those deny totally learning. All right? So if one learns the fact that desire begins when thought interferes with sensation. Right? You have had a great pleasure, suppose, yesterday, that pleasure, that incident of pleasure is recorded in the brain and desire says, I must have more of that pleasure. Right? So discipline means to learn. And we are learning together the nature of desire. Right? Have you understood, if one may ask, whether you have seen how the nature of desire, how it comes. If you once see it, actually, there is never a question of suppression or trying to control it, or trying to change it. You have understood how desire arises and to be aware at that moment, to pay complete attention at that moment when thought creates the image, then there is no question of suppression, avoidance or rationalising desire.
And desire is pleasure. Right? And we are all slaves to pleasure - pleasure of possession, pleasure of power, not the power of great politicians, but the power you have over your wife, or over your children, or over your clerks, your underlings. The desire for power - most people have. And that is a form of pleasure. And this pleasure man pursues endlessly. If you are not pleased with one thing, you go after another. If you are not pleased with your wife or husband, you change them. And this pursuit of pleasure is totally different from enjoyment. May I go on? Are you all awake, or asleep?
Q: We cannot hear you. I cannot hear you.
K: You cannot hear?
K: I wish you had said at the beginning.
Pleasure has been one of the drives, a factor in human life. Please understand, because we are coming to something quite difficult. So we must understand pleasure: sexual pleasure, the pleasure of possession, the pleasure of money, the pleasure that an ascetic has when he trains his body, completely controls it; the pleasure of belief; and the ultimate pleasure for man is apparently what he believes in: he believes in god and that is such great pleasure that he doesn't want to be disturbed. So we are going to look into the nature of pleasure.
As I said, as the speaker said, enjoyment is totally different from pleasure. When you see a beautiful sunset or a fast running river, there is a delight, there is beauty in it. And the mind has recorded that water, the beauty in that water, the light in that water, the swift current in that water, and it has given him great pleasure, and he wants it again, comes back tomorrow to see that river again, hoping to have the same pleasure; or when you see a sunset, or the glory of a flower. Enjoyment is not pleasure, because you enjoy it - finished, but the moment it is recorded and the pursuit of what you have enjoyed, what you have had pleasure in, is the continuation of the past through the present to the future. Right? Have you understood? So this is our constant movement in life: desire, pleasure. Pleasure means the avoidance of punishment and holding on to that which is pleasurable. Therefore our minds function always within this - punishment and reward. If you are a religious person you think heaven, that's the ultimate pleasure, because heaven then is the reward for doing good and living rightly and so on. And if you are not doing the right thing there is the other place. So there is always this - reward and punishment. And is pleasure and desire love? That word 'love' has been so misused, so degraded, so spat upon, that it has lost its beauty. We associate love with sex. So we must ask whether love is pleasure or desire. Ask it, sirs. I am asking, the speaker is asking it, you have to ask yourself that question, and honestly answer it for yourselves. And we will go into it still further a little, after going into the question of suffering.
Man has lived with suffering, through centuries upon centuries and apparently he has never been able to end it. That is one of our accustomed ways of bearing with something unpleasant, something that gives us great pain and never finding a solution for suffering. There are many various ways of suffering, not only loss of those whom you think you love through death, suffering is also losing a position; poverty, injustice, the sense of incompleteness in oneself, the utter state of ignorance that man lives in though he has accumulated vast knowledge about the heavens and the earth and matter and technology, he is still ignorant and so breeds great suffering. So we live with suffering. And we have accepted it. We have never said: can it end? And there are those who give all kinds of explanations how to go beyond suffering: have faith in god, faith in your saviour, faith in the Buddha, faith in Krishna or whatever it is. So we have borne suffering endlessly. And we are asking if suffering can end, not temporarily, completely, so that the mind which has struggled in pain, in sorrow has a totally different state, a different movement. A mind that suffers cannot think clearly, a mind that suffers cannot have love, a mind that suffers escapes into some fanciful images, a mind that suffers has no relationship with another, however intimate they may live together, a mind that is suffering has no relationship. Suffering becomes an isolation. There is not only personal suffering, but also there is universal, mankind suffers: suffers after the wars, the shedding of tears of millions and millions and millions of people, the mother losing a baby, the man who wants to fulfil in ambition, wants to be a great man and is incapable and therefore suffers. We have found comforting solutions for suffering. So when one suffers one seeks comfort, and that comfort may be in actuality or in illusion, in some romantic illusory fancy. And we are asking if there is an end to sorrow. Don't say, please, if you are a Buddhist, 'Ah, we have heard this before. The Buddha said' - which means what? You are merely repeating what someone else has said. But you haven't solved the problem. Merely quoting somebody, however great he may be, is not the solution of suffering. So please find out if sorrow can end. Without the ending of sorrow there is no compassion.
Why does one suffer? You all know what suffering is but we have never asked why, and gone into it, not depending on anybody, not depending on the Buddha or what he says, or what another religious leader has said in another country. Put all that aside, because what they have said may be true or may not be true, but you as a human being suffer, and if you do not solve that problem, end it, resolve it, your life becomes more and more mechanical, more and more repetitive and rather superficial. You may repeat, or read sacred books and repeat the sacred statements, but your life becomes superficial more and more and more, which is what is happening. So it is important if we will to enquire if sorrow ends.
What is sorrow? Is it the loss of something? - the loss of a job, the loss of your so-called loved ones, loss of prestige, power, position, money. What is sorrow? Is it self-pity? Examine it please, as we are talking. The speaker is only a mirror expressing that which is in you, the book. And when you look at the mirror, the mirror is not important, but what you see in the mirror is important. Then you can throw away the mirror, destroy it, break it up, otherwise you make the mirror into an image. So what is sorrow? The loss of someone, the loneliness of man, the isolation of man, the grief that comes having no relationship with another, and ultimately death. As we said, is it self-pity? Examine it, sir, don't be shy of these things. One has to be very precise in examining these things. Is it self-pity? The loss of someone in whom you have put all your affection, your care, your so-called - all that - in someone, and that someone dies, goes away, runs away, rejects you and you feel so utterly miserable. That is one form of grief. The other: your mind has become so traditional, so repetitive, mechanical, and you can't see something immediately, something that is true instantly. That is also great sorrow. And as one grows older, disease, the body withering and the mind slowly losing its capacity.
Some of these are the factors, and looking at all these factors you will have to find out what is your reaction to these factors - your reaction, how you respond. That is, you want power, you want money, you want position, you want justice, you want a social revolution, you want to find, if you are really serious religious person, you want to find that which is timeless, which is truth. And a mind that is confused, uncertain, insecure, is always suffering. So is that also a factor that the mind has never found security? One may have security in a job, one may have a security in your family, which I doubt which one doubts always, a security in your belief. There is no security in belief whatsoever, or in faith, because doubt destroys faith. Doubt tears apart all belief. But man at the end of all this explanation is suffering, not only for himself, but also sees the world with all its misery, confusion, poverty, ugliness, violence, wars. When one sees all that, that is also great sorrow. Can sorrow end? The speaker says it can. You cannot accept what he says ever. He is not an authority, he is not a guru, he is not your you are not his followers. The follower destroys the guru and the guru destroys the follower.
So, can one have can one see the nature of suffering and not run away from it, not try to find comfort, not try to rationalise it by saying, 'Well, last life I did this, therefore I am paying for it'. You know all those kind of tricks that man plays. Which all means, can you remain with that suffering without any movement of thought? The moment thought comes into being and says, 'I must find a way out of this', suffering still remains; you are merely running away from it. But if you remain completely immovably with that thing which you call suffering, then you will see that suffering completely ends and there is a totally different beginning.
And we ought also to enquire together, what is death. Because that is part of our life - the living and the dying; the living with all its business, its ugliness, its beauty, its travail, its anxieties, its struggles, and death, the ending of the organism through disease, old age or an accident. And most human beings, whether religious or otherwise, are frightened of death. That is, they are living, and so they say death can be postponed, wait. You understand what I am saying? There is a gap between living, and a wide gap of death. This is a fact. Why have we done this? Why has the mind separated death and living? Please find out. This is your problem. Find out in your heart, in your mind, if you are thinking, if you are alive, if you are active, not merely traditionalist repeating, repeating, repeating - active - why has man throughout the ages separated living and the dying? Which means time has come in between. You understand? - time. That time may be years or two days. There is an interval between living and dying, which is time. Right? Come on, sirs. So, why?
To find this out one has to enquire what is living and what is dying. Right? You understand, sir? Are we together, moving together? Or you have explanations already about death, or you already believe in reincarnation, in karma, that you will be resurrected in heaven, and so on and so on. Which means you are so conditioned, your mind is so narrowed down to a belief, to a conclusion, that you are incapable of answering this question. Which means your mind has become a slave to words, slave to beliefs, slave to some kind of comforting conclusions and ideas. And so you will never understand why human beings have done this throughout millennia upon millennia - this division, this conflict, this fear. Therefore to enquire into that you must enquire what is living.
Is there in living, in our daily life, the job from morning till night, nine o'clock till five o'clock or six o'clock, day after day, day after day, month after month, year after year, repeat, repeat, repeat - that is one part of living. The living with your family, with your wife, with your neighbour; the conflict between you and your wife or husband, the sexual desires, their fulfilment, their pursuit, and the conflict that exists between two human beings everlastingly; and the conflict between 'what is' and 'what should be'; the holding on to power - political, religious - think of a religious person having power. You understand? How ridiculous it has become. So what is living? Please answer this to yourselves. What is living? One continuation of strife, with occasional joy, the pursuit of pleasure, fear. That is, the whole of that life is that. Nobody can deny it. You don't have to go to any priest, to any psychologist, to any guru - that is your life: mechanical, repetitive, traditional, believing in something which has no value. What is important is what you are doing, how you are acting, how you behave - all that.
So that is what we call life, the living. The attachment to another with its fears, anxieties, jealousies, and where there is attachment there is corruption. When a man holds power and is attached to that power he is breeding corruption. When a high priest holds a position, becomes the authority, he is inevitably cultivating corruption. You see all this happening under your eyes, under your nose. That is what our life is. And we are afraid to let that go. The letting go of that is death. Right? That is what we consider death. You are attached, you have money, your position, or you are very poor, where there is no justice, nothing, you are empty in yourself, insufficient. That is the living and you hold on to that. And that is the known. Right? That is the known, everybody knows that. And the unknown is death. You may say there is reincarnation, there is proof and so on, so on - we will go into that a bit later if we have time. So this is our life.
While living can you end attachment? Attachment to a belief, to a person, to a family, to an ideal, to a particular tradition - can you let that go? Death is going to make you do that. Right? One may be attached to a person very deeply because you are lonely, you need comfort, you need companionship, you cannot stand alone, therefore you depend, and dependence means attachment, and where there is attachment there is jealousy, anxiety, fear and all the action arising from that, which is corruption. Now, death says end, you are going to die. While living can you end it? You understand my question? Oh yes, you understand very well - fairly simple. Suppose the speaker is attached to his position - god forbid; he is not, but suppose he is - think of the corruption, how the mind gets corrupt. He must need an audience, he depends on an audience, he draws energy from the audience, the larger the better, so there is competition and all the horror involved in all that. So the ending is the beginning of something totally new. The ending of attachment completely, which is death. When you end it completely there is a totally different dimension of existence.
Then what is death? We have looked into what is our living: chaos, misery, confusion, slight order, and the labour of man, endless labour. What is death? Death is not only the physical organism, the body getting old, diseased or accident, being misused, indulging endlessly, various things that give it sensation, appetites and excitement, and gradually withering, consciously, or withering in great pain, with various kinds of diseases. So is that what is death? The dying of the organism? We know that. We recognise it. We see it. But also we say there is something that cannot die, the soul, the Atman, the something which is permanent - these are the various beliefs - which, when you die, reincarnates. Right? Some of you very deeply believe in all this, though some of you are Buddhists, etc. All religions offer various kinds of comfort. Comfort is not truth, comfort is not the understanding of a mind that penetrates through all kinds of illusions, dogmas, rituals. So, is there something permanent in man, in you? Which is, if there is something permanent in you then that has a possibility of being born next life. Merely to believe in reincarnation has no meaning. If you believe in it, then what you do now today matters infinitely - right? - if you believe in reincarnation. Because then what you do now, either you will have a better position, a bigger house, you know, or be nearer heaven - which are all the same.
So, is there something permanent in you - the 'me', the you, the mind that says, 'I am permanent'; is there anything lasting? Or everything is moving, changing, there is nothing permanent. Is your relationship with another permanent? Is your gods permanent? - god's been put there by your thought, by your comfort, to escape from your mischief of daily life into something precious, which is an illusion. So I am asking We are asking together, find out for yourself if there is anything permanent in your life. The house is permanent; permanent unless an earthquake comes. The trees are permanent, the oceans, the rivers, the mountains - apart from that is there anything permanent, lasting, enduring in your life? The 'me', the 'I' the ego, has been put together there by thought - the name, the form, the quality, the characteristic, the idiosyncrasies, the capacities, the talents, and so on - all that is the result of culture and certain forms of education, and so on. As there is nothing permanent - you are not permanent; a physical body you have, but your thoughts are not permanent, they are changing, constantly modifying; your beliefs, because you take comfort in your beliefs, you think there is security in your beliefs. That is why you are so hard to give up your beliefs. Belief is just a word, just an idea, a concept, and you take refuge in that concept. And that is not security. Have you watched your religious people, how secure they are in their position, in their belief, in their dogma? And that security is a form of illusion. So there is nothing whatsoever permanent.
To realise that may be very depressing, melancholic, but it's not. When you see the fact that there is nothing enduring, that very seeing is intelligence. And in that intelligence there is complete security. There is not your intelligence or my intelligence, it is intelligence. That as long as there is attachment there must be corruption; to see the truth of it immediately and the ending of it immediately is intelligence. That intelligence is the only factor of security - not security, that's the wrong word - that intelligence, not being yours or another's, it is the intelligence of something infinite.
Perhaps tomorrow we will talk about the nature of affection, love and compassion, and meditation. As we said, where there is suffering, there is no compassion. Where there is compassion it has its own intelligence.