What is the nature of our consciousness?
The turning point
1st Public Talk, Saanen
July 12, 1981
I see some of my old friends are here - I am glad to see you, and I am sorry we are having bad weather - this is Switzerland!
As we are going to have six or seven talks we should go into what I am going to say very carefully, in detail, covering the whole field of life. So please, those who have heard the speaker before, please be patient, please have some kind of tolerance, if one may repeat, repetition has certain value. And as we are going to discuss, or talk over together, the many problems of our life, it is important that we hear each other carefully, affectionately, with a sense of comprehension, not only the verbal meaning but what lies behind the word. Good lord, you're all here? So am I.
Prejudice has something in common with ideals, beliefs and faith. And as we are going to talk over together, observing the state of the world together, and what is happening in the outward world and also in the inward, psychological world of man, we must be able to think together. In thinking together, our prejudices, our ideals and so on prevent the capacity and the energy required to think together, to observe together, to examine together, to discover for ourselves what lies behind all this confusion, misery, terror, destruction, tremendous violence. To understand all this, not only the mere outward facts that are taking place but also to understand the depth of all this, the significance of all this, we must be able, together, to observe - not you observe in one way and the speaker another, but together observe the same thing. And that observation, that examination is prevented if we cling to our prejudices, to our particular experience, to our particular comprehension. So if we are to think together, and the thinking together becomes tremendously important because we have to face a world that is rapidly disintegrating, degenerating, where there is no sense of morality, nothing sacred in life, no one respects another. And to understand all this, not only superficially, casually, but to enter into the depth of it, what lies behind all this, why after all these millions and millions of years of evolution, why man, you and the whole world whether it is east, or west, or north, or south, why man has become like this - violent, callous, destructive, facing wars, the atomic bomb and all the technological world and it's becoming more and more, evolving. And perhaps that technological improvement may be one of the factors why man has become like this. So please, together, let us think together, not according to my way or your way, but the capacity to think.
And thought is the common factor of all mankind. There is no Eastern thought, or Western thought, there is only the capacity to think, whether one is utterly poor or greatly sophisticated living in an affluent society, whether he is a surgeon, a carpenter, a labourer in the field, or a great poet, thought is the common factor of all of us. We don't seem to realise that. Thought is the common factor that binds us all. You may think differently, according to your capacity, to your energy, to your experience and knowledge; another thinks according to his experience, to his knowledge, to his conditioning. So we are all caught in this network of thought. This is a fact, indisputable and actual.
And to understand all the chaos in the world - and as we have been programmed both biologically, that is physically, programmed mentally, intellectually, one must be aware of this being programmed, like a computer. The computer is being programmed by the experts who programme it according to what they want. The speaker has talked a great deal with the professionals, the computer builders, and they are advancing so rapidly that these computers which are being programmed will outstrip man in thought. These computers learn - please follow all this. If you want to find out more about it you can discuss, read about them. These computers can learn, gather experience, and from that experience learn, accumulate knowledge according to being programmed. So gradually they are going to outstrip all our thinking, more accurately, with greater speed and so then what is man? I hope you are understanding all this. The computer experts, and some of them are so frightened when the computer can do almost anything that human being can do. Of course it cannot write, compose as Beethoven, or as Keats and so on but it will outstrip our thinking.
So we human beings have been programmed to be Catholics, to be Protestants, to be Italians, to be British, Swiss and so on. For centuries we have been programmed - to believe, to have faith, to follow certain rituals, certain dogmas; we have been programmed to be nationalists; we have been programmed to have wars. So our brain has become as the computer and it is not so capable because its thought is limited, whereas the computer being also limited but being able to think much more rapidly than human beings, it will outstrip us.
So these are facts, this is what actually is going on, specially in California, England and so on. And then what becomes of man? Then what is man? You understand my question? If the machines can do almost all that human beings can do, robots and the computer, what is the future society of man? When cars can be built by the robot and the computer, probably much better, then what is going to become of man as a social entity? These and many other problems are facing us. We cannot any more think as Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims and so on. We are facing a tremendous crisis; a crisis which the politicians can never solve because they are programmed to think in a particular way, nor can the scientists solve or understand the crisis, nor the business world, the world of money. So the crisis, the turning point is in our consciousness. Right? Please follow this step by step because we are going into it very carefully. The turning point, the perceptive decision, the challenge, whatever word you may like to use, is not in politics, in religion, in the scientific world, but one has to understand the consciousness of mankind, which has brought us to this point. One has to be very serious about this matter because we are really facing something very dangerous in the world, where the proliferation of the atomic bomb, where some lunatic will turn it on. We all must be aware of all this.
So, unless one is very, very serious, not flippant, not casual but is concerned with the whole of humanity, and to understand this human behaviour, human thought that has brought us all to this point, we must be able to, very carefully, hesitantly, with great observation, understand together what is happening both out there and inwardly. The inward psychological activity always overcomes the outer, however much you may have regulations, sanctions, decisions outwardly, lay down certain rules, regulations, all these are shattered by our psychological desires, fears, anxieties, the longing for security, the fear of loneliness. Unless we understand all that, however much we may have outward semblance of order, that inward disorder always overcomes that which is outwardly conforming, disciplined, regularised. I hope we understand this clearly. One may have carefully constructed institutions, politically, religiously, economically, whatever the construction of these be, unless our inward consciousness is in total order that disorder will always overcome the outer. We have seen this historically, it is happening right now in front of our eyes. This is a fact. (Sound of train) There is our good old train! That train is as regular as we come here! (Laughter) It is quite amusing, isn't it? There is a great deal of humour in this but we won't go into that for the moment (laughs).
So please, be serious even for this hour, if you cannot be serious all the time at least give your thought, go into being serious while you are here.
As we said, the turning point is in our consciousness. Our consciousness is a very complicated affair. Volumes have been written about it both in the East and in the West. We are not aware of our own consciousness and to examine that complicated consciousness one has to be free to look, to be choicelessly aware of its movement. And that is what we are going to do together. When we use the word 'together', it is not that the speaker is directing you to look at it in a particular way, or to listen to all the movement, inward movement of our consciousness. We are together looking at consciousness, which is not yours or mine, theirs or his. Consciousness is common to all mankind. All mankind whether they live in the Far East or the Near East, West, or in the far West, that consciousness, with all its content, is common to all mankind. When you go to India, or the Far East, there they suffer inwardly as well as outwardly, as here. They are anxious, uncertain, utterly, despairingly lonely, as you are here. They have no security, they are jealous, greedy, envious, suffering. And in the West it is the same thing. So human consciousness is one whole, it is not your consciousness or mine. It is the consciousness of humanity. Please understand this. It is logical, sane, rational because wherever you go, in whatever clime you live, whether you are affluent or degradingly poor, whether you believe in god, or in Christ or in some other entity, the belief, the faith is common to all mankind. The picture may vary, the image may be different, the symbol may be totally different from another but that is common to all mankind. This is not a mere verbal statement. If you take it as a verbal statement, as an idea, as a concept, then you will not see the depth of it, the deep significance involved in this. The significance is that your consciousness is the consciousness of all humanity because you suffer, you are anxious, you are lonely, insecure, confused, exactly like another who lives ten thousand miles away from you. The realisation of it, the feeling of it, the feeling in your guts if I may use that word, is totally different from mere verbal acceptance of that. When one realises that you are the rest of mankind, it brings you have a tremendous energy, you have broken through the narrow groove of individuality, the narrow circle of me and you, they and we. And we are going to examine together this very, very complex consciousness of man, not the European man, not the Asiatic man or the Middle East man, but this extraordinary movement that has been going on for millions of years as conscious movement in time.
Please, don't accept what the speaker is saying because then it will have no meaning, but if you begin to doubt, you begin to question, be sceptical to enquire, not hold on to your own particular belief, faith, experience or the accumulated knowledge that you have been given, or that you have, and reduce it all to some kind of petty little 'me'. If you do that, you will not, if one may point out very respectfully, you are not facing the tremendous issue that is facing man. So, together - I mean together - not you think one way, I think another, together as human beings confronted with this tremendous danger of existence of the whole of humanity. Because the atom bomb, the wars, whether it is in the Middle East or somewhere else, the terror that is spreading all over the world, the kidnapping, the killing, the brutality of it all - we as human beings are responsible for all this. So we have to examine very closely and carefully the state of consciousness. We understand the meaning of that word: to be conscious, to be aware, to recognise, to see what our actual consciousness is.
First, thought and all the things that thought has made, put together, is part of our consciousness: the culture in which we live, the aesthetic values, the economic pressures, the national inheritance. If you are a surgeon, a carpenter, specialise in a particular profession, that group-consciousness is part of your consciousness. Right? You understand what we are saying? Are we making it difficult? We are not scholars, at least the speaker is not. We are dealing with human existence with all its complexities. If you live in a particular country with its particular tradition, with its religion, culture and so on, that particular form has become part of your consciousness, the group consciousness - right? - the national consciousness, the particular professional consciousness. These again are facts. If you are a carpenter you have to have certain skill, understand the wood, the nature of the wood, the instrument, so you gradually belong to a group that has cultivated this special, particular form and that has its own consciousness; like the scientist, like the archaeologist, like the animals have their own particular consciousness as a group and so on, so on, that is part of your consciousness. Right? Please see the fact of this for yourself. If you are a housewife you have your own particular consciousness, like all the other housewives, it is a group consciousness. Permissiveness has spread throughout the world; it began in the West, far West and has spread right through the world. That is a group conscious movement. Right? See the significance of it. Please understand, go into it for yourself, see what is involved in it. They are discovering scientifically, they are experimenting with certain animals, say in England and say in Australia, and those animals learn much quicker there because one set of animals, like rats, have learnt after twenty generations certain action, and the twenty-fifth or twenty-eighth learn much more rapidly. And in Australia these rats have learnt much quicker without going through all the experiments - you understand all this? So it is not a genetic transformation, genetically evolving, but there is the group consciousness that is operating - you understand this? I hope you understand this.
The Catholic consciousness: one group believes in something, that begins to activate, live, spread - you understand? So our consciousness is not only a group, national, economic consciousness, a professional consciousness, but also much deeper consciousness which is our fears. Man has lived with fear for generation after generation, with pleasure, with envy, with all the travail of loneliness, with depression, confusion. Watch it in yourself as we are talking. And with great sorrow, with what he calls love and the everlasting fear of death. This is his consciousness, not only the professional, the group, the national, but the rest of it, which is common to all mankind. Do you realise what it means? That you are no longer - please don't resist it, look at it - you are no longer an individual. This is very hard to accept because we have been programmed like the computer to think we are individuals. We have been programmed religiously to think that we have souls separate from all the others. And being programmed our brain works in the same pattern century after century.
So if one understands the nature of our consciousness, the particular endeavour, the 'me' that suffers, that has become something global, then it has a much greater a totally different activity will take place. That is the crisis we are in. We have been programmed like the computer. Like a computer, being programmed, we can learn, occasionally have an insight and being programmed our brain repeats itself over and over and over again. Right? Just see the actual fact of it: that I am a Christian, I am a Buddhist, I am a Hindu, I am against Communism, I am a Communist, Democrat - you follow? - repeat, repeat, repeat. And in this state of repetition there is an occasional break through.
So how shall a human being who is actually the rest of mankind, how shall he face this crisis, this turning point? How will you as a human being, who has evolved through millennia upon millennia, thinking as an individual, which is, actually, if you observe, you are not an individual, it is just an illusion - you know, like any neurotic person it is very difficult for him to give up certain belief deeply rooted in him. So are we prepared as human beings to face a turning point, see what actually is and that very perception is the decision to move totally in another direction.
So first let us understand together what it means to look: to look at our mind, at our brain, at the actuality of thought. You all think, that is why you are here. You all think, and thought expresses itself in words, and those words are means to communicate, either through a gesture, through a look, through some bodily movement, to express what you are thinking, briefly, or through the usage of words, the words being common to each one of us, we understand through those words the significance of what is being said. And thought being common to all mankind - it is a most extraordinary thing if you discover that. Then you say it is not your thought, it is thought. And so we have to observe, or rather learn about how to see things actually as they are, not being programmed to look. Do you see the difference? Can we be free of being programmed and look? If you look as a Christian, as a Democrat, as a Communist, as a Socialist, as a Catholic, Protestant (laughs) - which are all so many prejudices - then we shall not be able to understand the enormity of the danger, the crisis that we are facing. If you belong to a certain group, or follow a certain guru - and I hope none of you do, forgive me if I say that - or committed to a certain form of action, then you will be incapable because you have been programmed, then you will be incapable of looking at things actually as they are.
So can we look together? Because the speaker doesn't belong to any organisation, to any group, to any particular religion, no nationality, etc. etc. It is only then you can observe. If you have learnt a great deal, accumulated a great deal of knowledge from books, from experience and so on, your mind has already been filled, your brain is crowded with your experience, with your particular tendency and so on. All that is going to prevent you from looking. Can we be free of all that to look? To look at what is happening actually in the world - that is the criteria - the terror, you know, all that, the terrible religious sectarian divisions. One guru opposed to another idiotic guru, the vanity behind all that, the power, the position, the wealth of these gurus, it is appalling. Now look at it. In the same way to be free to look at, to what we have been programmed. If you are an engineer you have spent years and years and years learning all the implications of being an engineer, that is part of your consciousness. If you have followed a certain guru, that is part of your consciousness. That is part of your being programmed, as a Catholic and so on, so on, so on. Can you look at yourself, not as a separate human being but a human being that is actually the rest of mankind? To have such a feeling means that you have tremendous love for human beings. Then when you are able to see clearly without any distortion, then you begin to enquire into the nature of consciousness, not only professional and all the rest of it, the group, but also much deeper layers of consciousness.
We have to enquire into the whole movement of thought because thought is responsible for all the content of consciousness, whether it is the deeper layers of consciousness or the superficial layers, all the content - the professional, the group, the particular religious programme, all that is the movement of thought. Right? If you had no thought there would be no fear, no sense of pleasure, no time, no death - thought is responsible. Right? Not only responsible for the beauty of a marvellous cathedral, but thought is also responsible for all the nonsense that is inside the cathedral. All the great paintings, the poems, the music, all that is the activity of thought: perceiving the sound, hearing the marvellous sound and transmitting it on paper. That is the movement of thought. The poet imagining, like Keats, and putting into words the many odes, the marvellous Odes of Keats. And thought is responsible for all the gods in the world, all the saviours, all the gurus and all the obedience, following, the whole works is the result of thought, which may be turned into pleasure, gratification, escape from loneliness and all that. Thought is the common factor of all mankind. The poorest villager in India or in the Asiatic world, thinks, as the business man, the chief executive thinks, as the religious head thinks. That is a common, everyday fact. That is the ground on which all human beings stand. You cannot escape from that. And we have to find out whether thought has not only brought about great things in the world like surgery, communication, satellites, you know what technologically it has done in the world, and also thought has been responsible for the division of man - the American, the Russian, the English, the French, the Swiss, the Muslim - you follow? - thought has been responsible for the division of man. Thought has been responsible for the division of all religions. Right? Obviously. If there was no thought there would be no religions, as organised now, baptism, you know all that stuff.
So thought has done marvellous things to help man but also thought has brought about great destruction, terror in the world. So we have to understand the nature and the movement of thought: why you think in a certain way; why you cling to certain forms of thought; why you hold on to certain experience; why thought has never understood the nature of death and so on, so on, so on. If, when you are serious, and not relying on some philosopher, brain specialist and so on, you can watch it for yourself, which is: why thought, which has done extraordinary things to help man, and also why thought at the same time brings about such degradation, degeneration, destruction. Right?
We have to enquire what is thought. Not why you think in a particular way, we will come to that later. But we are examining the very structure of thought, not your thought - because it is fairly obvious what your thought is, because you have been programmed, as an engineer, as a poet, as a scientist, as a housewife, as a scholar, as a religious man, a guru, you have been trained, trained, trained. And if you begin to look at your particular programmed brain, you are limiting your outlook. Right? But if you enquire seriously into what is thinking then you enter into quite a different dimension. Not the dimension of your particular little problem - which we will come to a little later, but first you must understand the tremendous movement of thought, the nature of thinking, not as a philosopher, not as a religious man, not as a particular profession, or a housewife, this or that, but the enormous vitality of thinking. Right? Is this clear?
Should we stop here? It is half past eleven. Can you tolerate more?
Krishnamurti: (Laughs) Because probably you are merely listening to the speaker, you are not actually working. You are not actually listening, watching, examining, exploring into yourself. Because we are, again, programmed to listen to somebody. Please, there is no teacher and the taught. There is no prophet and the disciple. There is no guru and his follower, the one who knows and the one who does not know, but only a human being in travail. It is only the man who has stepped out of all this, he knows what is truth. We will come to that much later.
So since it is half-past eleven shall we go on with it? Briefly let's we'll continue the day after tomorrow with this: thought is responsible for all the cruelty, the wars, the war machines and the brutality of war, the killing, the terror, the throwing bombs, taking hostages in the name of a cause, or without cause. Thought is also responsible for the cathedrals, the beauty of their structure, the lovely poems, it is also responsible for all that. Thought is also responsible for all the technological development, the computer with its extraordinary capacity to learn and go beyond man: thought. So we have to enquire into thought. What is thinking? Thinking is a response, is a reaction to memory. Right? If you had no memory you wouldn't be able to think. Memory is stored in the brain as knowledge, as knowledge which has come through experience. Listen carefully to this. This is how our brain operates. The speaker is not a brain expert - thank god! - nor a neurological expert but you can watch it, how you act, for yourself, without going to any professor, without any psychologist and so on, you can watch the operation of your own brain. First experience, that experience may have been from the beginning of man, which we have inherited, that experience gives knowledge, then that knowledge is stored up in the brain, from knowledge there is memory and from that memory thought. From thinking you act. Right? So from that action you learn more. So you repeat the cycle. You understand? Experience, knowledge, memory, thought, action, from that action learn more and repeat. You follow this? Right?
So this is being programmed. Right? We are always doing this: having remembered pain, in the future to avoid pain, and not do the thing that will cause pain, which becomes knowledge, repeat that. Sexual pleasure, repeat that. This is the movement of thought. Please, this is clear, see the beauty of it, how mechanically thought operates. And thought says to itself, 'I am free to operate'. Thought is never free because it is based on knowledge and knowledge is always limited, obviously. Right? Just watch it please, carefully watch it. Knowledge must be always limited because knowledge is part of time. Right? I will learn more and to learn more I must have time. Right? I do not know Russian but I will learn Russian. It'll take me six months or a year or whatever time. So knowledge is the movement of time. Right? Right? So time, knowledge and thought and action, in this cycle we live. So thought is limited, obviously, so whatever action that thought does must be limited, and any form of limitation of thought must create conflict. Right? Anything that is limited must be divisive. Right? You understand? Come on, sirs!
That is, if I say I am a Hindu, an Indian, that is limited and that limitation brings about not only corruption but conflict because you say 'I am a Christian', 'I am a Buddhist'. I am this - which is limitation, so there is conflict between us. You understand? Do you understand? Yes? So. Whatever is limited, and thought is always limited because knowledge and ignorance always go together - right? - and thought is the child of knowledge and therefore it is limited, and whatever its action is, that action must be limited, therefore it must bring conflict. And our life from birth to death is a series of struggles and conflict and we are always trying to escape from that conflict, which again becomes another conflict. So we live and die in this perpetual, endless conflict. And we never ask the root of that conflict, which is thought, because thought is limited. Please don't say, 'How am I to stop thought?' - that is not the point. The point is to understand the nature of thought, to look at it.
I think that is enough. May I get up now?