Freedom from the Known Summary
Jiddu Krishnamurti asks some compelling questions about our biases, cultural conditioning and urges not to follow anyone blindly but to explore the world on our experience. I found his writing style to be difficult to grasp in the first time.
- Truth is a pathless land and that is the beauty of truth, it is living.
- We are the product of the conditioning right from birth whether through culture, associations, training or inclinations.
- Thought is never new, for thought is the response of memory, experience, knowledge.
- When you seek you are really only window-shopping.
- To realize that psychologically there is nothing permanent - gives a totally different approach to life.
Man has always asked the question: what is it all about? Has life any meaning at all?
We look to someone to tell us what is right or wrong behaviour, what is right or wrong thought, and in following this pattern our conduct and our thinking become mechanical, our responses automatic.
For centuries we have been spoon-fed by our teachers, by our authorities, by our books, our saints. We are secondhand people.
It is a most extraordinary thing that although most of us are opposed to political tyranny and dictatorship, we inwardly accept the authority, the tyranny, of another to twist our minds and our way of life.
Then you will find that you are no longer seeking. That is the first thing to learn - not to seek. When you seek you are really only window-shopping.
To understand yourself is the beginning of wisdom.
The individual is the little conditioned, miserable, frustrated entity, satisfied with his little gods and his little traditions, whereas a human being is concerned with the total welfare, the total misery and total confusion of the world.
It can only happen, I think, if each one of us recognises the central fact that we, as individuals, as human beings, in whatever part of the world we happen to live or whatever culture we happen to belong to, are totally responsible for the whole state of the world.
Truth has no path, and that is the beauty of truth, it is living.
Normally we thrive on blaming others, which is a form of self-pity.
And when we look at what is taking place in the world we begin to understand that there is no outer and inner process; there is only one unitary process, it is a whole, total movement, the inner movement expressing itself as the outer and the outer reacting again on the inner.
First of all, can you reject all authority? If you can it means that you are no longer afraid. Then what happens? When you reject something false which you have been carrying about with you for generations, when you throw off a burden of any kind, what takes place? You have more energy, haven’t you? You have more capacity, more drive, greater intensity and vitality. If you do not feel this, then you have not thrown off the burden, you have not discarded the dead weight of authority.
So you are left with yourself, and that is the actual state for a man to be who is very serious about all this; and as you are no longer looking to anybody or anything for help, you are already free to discover.
What we are now going to do, therefore, is to learn about ourselves, not according to me or to some analyst or philosopher - because if we learn about ourselves according to someone else, we learn about them, not ourselves - we are going to learn what we actually are.
If you do not follow somebody you feel very lonely. Be lonely then. Why are you frightened of being alone? Because you are faced with yourself as you are and you find that you are empty, dull, stupid, ugly, guilty and anxious - a petty, shoddy, secondhand entity. Face the fact; look at it, do not run away from it. The moment you run away fear begins.
Understanding is not an intellectual process.
Accumulating knowledge about yourself and learning about yourself are two different things, for the knowledge you accumulate about yourself is always of the past and a mind that is burdened with the past is a sorrowful mind.
Most of us are not sensitive even physically. We overeat, we do not bother about the right diet, we over-smoke and drink so that our bodies become gross and insensitive; the quality of attention in the organism itself is made dull. How can there be a very alert, sensitive, clear mind if the organism itself is dull and heavy?
In order to observe the movement of your own mind and heart, of your whole
being, you must have a free mind, not a mind that agrees and disagrees, taking
sides in an argument, disputing over mere words, but rather following with an
intention to understand - a very difficult thing to do because most of us don’t know how to look at, or listen to, our own being any more than we know how to look at the beauty of a river or listen to the breeze among the trees.
Each of us has an image of what we think we are or what we should be, and that image, that picture, entirely prevents us from seeing ourselves as we actually are.
It is one of the most difficult things in the world to look at anything simply. Because our minds are very complex, we have lost the quality of simplicity.
Also in order to understand ourselves we need a great deal of humility. Are you aware that you are conditioned? That is the first thing to ask yourself, not how to be free of your conditioning.
If you are satisfied with your conditioning you will obviously do nothing about it, but if you are not satisfied when you become aware of it, you will realize that you never do anything without it. Never! And therefore you are always living in the past with the dead.
So long as the animal is petted he reacts nicely, but the moment he
is antagonized the whole violence of his nature comes out.
If one gets used to disturbance it means that one’s mind has become dull, just as one can get so used to beauty around one that one no longer notices it. One gets indifferent, hard and callous, and one’s mind becomes duller and duller. If we do not get used to it we try to escape from it by taking some kind of drug, joining a political group, shouting, writing, going to a football match or to a temple or church or finding some other form of amusement.
Why, then, if you see the danger of your conditioning, don’t you act? Is it because you are lazy, laziness being lack of energy? Yet you will not lack energy if you see an immediate physical danger like a snake in your path, or a precipice, or a fire. Why, then, don’t you act when you see the danger of your conditioning? If you saw the danger of nationalism to your own security, wouldn’t you act?
Consciousness is the total field in which thought functions and relationships exist.
But we have come to divide the consciousness into the active and the dormant, the upper and lower level - that is, all the daily thoughts, feelings and activities on the surface and below them the so-called subconscious, the things with which we are not familiar, which express themselves occasionally through certain intimations, intuitions and dreams.
We live in fragments. You are one thing at the office, another at home; you talk about democracy and in your heart you are autocratic; you talk about loving your neighbours, yet kill him with competition; there is one part of you working, looking, independently of the other.
Attention is not the same thing as concentration. Concentration is exclusion; attention, which is total awareness, excludes nothing.
We are always measuring, comparing. Now is there such a state as the shallow and the deep in oneself? When I say,My mind is shallow, petty, narrow, limited, how do I know all these things? Because I have compared my mind with your mind which is brighter, has more capacity, is more intelligent and alert. Do I know my pettiness without comparison?
When I am hungry, I do not compare that hunger with yesterday's hunger. Yesterday’s hunger is an idea, a memory.
If I am all the time measuring myself against you, struggling to be like you,
then I am denying what I am myself.
Up to now we can describe, explain, but no words or explanations can open the door. What will open the door is daily awareness and attention - awareness of how we speak, what we say, how we walk, what we think.
Pleasure comes into being through four stages - perception, sensation, contact and desire.
Thought wants to repeat the experience, and the more you repeat, the more mechanical it becomes; the more you think about it, the more strength thought gives to pleasure. So thought creates and sustains pleasure through desire, and gives it continuity, and therefore the natural reaction of desire to any beautiful thing is perverted by thought. Thought turns it into a memory which is then nourished by thinking it over and over again.
Thought is never new, for thought is the response of memory, experience, knowledge.
So if you can look at all things without allowing pleasure to creep in - at a face, a bird, the colour of a sari, the beauty of a sheet of water shimmering in the sun, or anything that gives delight - if you can look at it without wanting the experience to be repeated, then there will be no pain, no fear, and therefore tremendous joy.
When some particular faith or ideology which you have held for years is shaken or torn away from you by logic or life, aren’t you afraid of standing alone? That belief has for years given you satisfaction and pleasure, and when it is taken away you are left stranded, empty, and the fear remains until you find another form of pleasure, another belief.
Living in the present is the instant perception of beauty and the great delight in it without seeking pleasure from it.
Satisfaction in all sorts of ways, subtle and obvious, is what we want. When we say we want freedom we want it because we think it may be wonderfully satisfying, and the ultimate satisfaction, of course, is this peculiar idea of self-realization. What we are really seeking is a satisfaction in which there is no dissatisfaction at all.
Everyone in the world wants a position, whether in society, in the family or to sit on the right hand of God, and this position must be recognized by others, otherwise it is no position at all.
Fear is one of the greatest problems in life. A mind that is caught in fear lives in confusion, in conflict, and therefore must be violent, distorted and aggressive.
So the brain cells have created a pattern and those brain cells refuse to create another pattern which may be uncertain. The movement from certainty to uncertainty is what I call fear.
But beyond the actual moment there is a deeper layer in the mind which is consciously or unconsciously thinking of what might happen in the future or worrying that something from the past may overtake me. So I am afraid of the past and of the future.
You were ill two years ago, let us say, and the memory of that pain, that
illness, remains, and the memory now functioning says,
Be careful, don't get ill, again. So the memory with its associations is creating fear, and that is not fear at all because actually at the moment you have very good health.
Thought, which is always old, because thought is the response of memory and memories are always old - thought creates, in time, the feeling that you are afraid which is not an actual fact.
There is only one desire; there is only desire. You desire. The objects of desire change, but desire is always the same.
So perhaps in the same way there is only fear. You are afraid of all sorts of things but there is only one fear.
If you look merely at the details of fear or try to deal with your fears one by one, you will never come to the central issue which is to learn to live with fear.
FEAR, PLEASURE, SORROW, thought and violence are all interrelated. Most of us take pleasure in violence, in disliking somebody, hating a particular race or group of people, having antagonistic feelings towards others. But in a state of others. But in a state of mind in which all violence has come to an end there is a joy which is very different from the pleasure of violence with its conflicts, hatreds and fears.
Violence is not merely killing another. It is violence when we use a sharp word, when we make a gesture to brush away a person, when we obey because there is fear. So violence isn’t merely organized butchery in the name of God, in the name of society or country. Violence is much more subtle, much deeper, and we are inquiring into the very depths of violence.
When you call yourself an Indian or a Muslim or a Christian or a European, or anything else, you are being violent. Do you see why it is violent? Because you are separating yourself from the rest of mankind. When you separate yourself by belief, by nationality, by tradition, it breeds violence. So a man who is seeking to understand violence does not belong to any country, to any religion, to any political party or partial system; he is concerned with the total understanding of mankind.
The moment you protect your family, your country, a bit of coloured rag called
a flag, a belief, an idea, a dogma, the thing that you demand or that you hold, that very protection indicates anger. So can you look at anger without any explanation or justification, without saying,
I must protect my goods, or
I was right to be angry, or
How stupid of me to be angry? Can you look at anger as if it were something by itself? Can you look at it completely objectively, which means neither defending it nor condemning it? Can you?
Most of us have accepted violence as a way of life.
To live completely, fully, in the moment is to live with what is, the actual, without any sense of condemnation or justification - then you understand it so totally that you are finished with it. When you see clearly the problem is solved.
Relationship between human beings is based on the image-forming, defensive mechanism. In all our relationships each one of us builds an image about the other and these two images have relationship, not the human beings themselves.
So is it at all possible for man to live a completely orderly inward life without any form of compulsion, imitation, suppression or sublimation?
I think we should go into this question very carefully because there is not one spot in our consciousness untouched by conflict. In all our relationships, whether with the most intimate person or with a neighbour or with society, this conflict exists - conflict being contradiction, a state of division, separation, a duality. Observing ourselves and our relationships to society we see that at all levels of our being there is conflict - minor or major conflict which brings about very superficial responses or devastating results.
Man has accepted conflict as an innate part of daily existence because he has accepted competition, jealousy, greed, acquisitiveness and aggression as a natural way of life.
If we do not accept it - and no religious person can possibly accept such a society - then we will be completely free from the psychological structure of society.
Most of us are rich with the things of society. What society has created in us and what we have created in ourselves, are greed, envy, anger, hate, jealousy, anxiety - and with all these we are very rich.
One must become poor inwardly for then there is no seeking, no asking, no desire, no - nothing! It is only this inward poverty that can see the truth of a life in which there is no conflict at all. Such a life is a benediction not to be found in any church or any temple.
To understand and to be free of any problem we need a great deal of passionate and sustained energy, not only physical and intellectual energy but an energy that is not dependent on any motive, any psychological stimulus or drug.
So all stimulation, whether of the church or of alcohol or of drugs or of the written or spoken word, will inevitably bring about dependence, and that dependence prevents us from seeing clearly for ourselves and therefore from having vital energy.
Contradiction exists when there is comparison, not only with something or somebody, but with what you were yesterday, and hence there is conflict between what has been and what is. There is what is only when there is no comparison at all, and to live with what is, is to be peaceful. Then you can give your whole attention without any distraction to what is within yourself - whether it be despair, ugliness, brutality, fear, anxiety, loneliness - and live with it completely; then there is no contradiction and hence no conflict.
This comparison has been taught from childhood.
Your mind has ceased to create the opposite and has become highly intelligent, highly sensitive, capable of immense passion, because effort is a dissipation of passion - passion which is vital energy - and you cannot do anything without passion.
What I want to know is why conflict should exist at all.
I simply see that desire itself is contradictory. It is not the objects of desire but the very nature of desire which is contradictory.
Why do we have duality at all? There is, of course, duality in nature - man and woman, light and shade, night and day - but inwardly, psychologically, why do we have duality?
When you have an ideal you think it helps you to
get rid of
what is, but it never does.
Trying to become like somebody else, or like your ideal, is one of the main causes of contradiction, confusion conflict. A mind that is confused, whatever it does, at any level, will remain confused; any action born of confusion leads to further confusion.I see this very clearly; I see it as clearly as I see an immediate physical danger. So what happens? I cease to act in terms of confusion anymore. Therefore inaction is complete action.
To come upon truth the mind must be completely free, without a spot of distortion.
The youth of today, like all youth, are in revolt against society, and that is a good thing in itself, but revolt is not freedom because when you revolt it is a reaction and that reaction sets up its own pattern and you get caught in that pattern. You think it is something new. it is not; it is the old in a different mould. Any social or political revolt will inevitably revert to the good old bourgeois mentality.
Freedom is a state of mind - not freedom from something but a sense of freedom, a freedom to doubt and question everything and therefore so intense, active and vigorous that it throws away every form of dependence, slavery, conformity and acceptance.
You are never alone because you are full of all the memories, all the conditioning, all the mutterings of yesterday; your mind is never clear of all the rubbish it has accumulated. To be alone you must die to the past.
If you live by a river, after a few days you do not hear the sound of the water any more, or if you have a picture in the room which you see every day you lose it after a week.
We think that changes in ourselves can come about in time, that order in ourselves can be built up little by little, added to day by day. But time doesn’t bring order or peace, so we must stop thinking in terms of gradualness.
Problems exist only in time, that is when we meet an issue incompletely. This incomplete coming together with the issue creates the problem.
Time is the interval between the observer and the observed. That is, the observer, you, is afraid to meet this thing called death.
You cannot be frightened of the unknown because you do not know what the unknown is and so there is nothing to be frightened of. Death is a word, and it is the word, the image, that creates fear.
We think that living is always in the present and that dying is something that awaits us at a distant time. But we have agonies. Death is a renewal, a mutation, in which thought does not function at all because thought is old.
THE DEMAND TO be safe in relationship inevitably breeds sorrow and fear. This seeking for security is inviting insecurity.
What is love? The word is so loaded and corrupted that I hardly like to use it
Is love an idea? If it is, it can be cultivated, nourished, cherished, pushed around, twisted in any way you like. When you say you love God what does it mean? It means that you love a projection of your own imagination, a projection of yourself clothed in certain forms of respectability according to what you think is noble and holy; so to say, `I love God’, is absolute nonsense. When you worship God, you are worshiping yourself - and that is not love.
The government says,
Go and kill for the love of your country. Is that love?
Give up sex for the love of God. Is that love? Is love desire? Don’t say no. For most of us it is - desire with pleasure, the pleasure that is derived through the senses, through sexual attachment and fulfilment. I am not against sex, but see what is involved in it. What sex gives you momentarily is the total abandonment of yourself, then you are back again with your turmoil, so you want a repetition over and over again of that state in which there is no worry, no problem, no self.
So when one loves there must be freedom, not only from the other person but from oneself.
Love is not the product of thought which is the past. Thought cannot possibly cultivate love. Love is not hedged about the past. Love is always active present.
When you lose someone you love you shed tears - are your tears for yourself or for the one who is dead? Are you crying for yourself or for another?
Apparently you are crying because your heart is touched, but it is not touched for him, it is only touched by self-pity and self-pity makes you hard, encloses you, makes you dull and stupid.
I had my brother three years ago, now he is dead, now I am lonely, aching, there is no one to whom I can look for comfort or companionship, and it brings tears to my eyes.
You can see in a moment the whole structure and nature of this shoddy little thing called `me’, my tears, my family, my nation, my belief, my religion - all that ugliness, it is all inside you.
It seems to me that one thing is absolutely necessary and that is passion without motive - passion that is not the result of some commitment or attachment, passion that is not lust. A passion that is not lust. A man who does not know what passion is will never know love because love can come into being only when there is total self-abandonment.
But when you are driven into a corner to look, you realize that what you have always thought of as love is not love at all; it is a mutual gratification, a mutual exploitation.
Now, to look is one of the most difficult things in life - or to listen - to look and listen are the same. If your eyes are blinded with your worries, you cannot see the beauty of the sunset.
I don’t know if you have noticed how few of us look at a sunrise or a sunset or the moonlight or the reflection of light on water.
Why is it that we depend so much upon art? Is it a form of escape, of stimulation?
When you are looking at something with complete attention there is no space for a conception, a formula or a memory. This is important to understand because we are going into something which requires very careful investigation.
When I say I know you, I mean I knew you yesterday. I do not know you actually now. All I know is my image of you.
Therefore it is important to understand, not intellectually but actually in your daily life, how you have built images about your wife, your husband, your neighbour, your child, your country, your leaders, your politicians, your gods - you have nothing but images.
Every problem is related to every other problem so that if you can solve one problem completely - it does not matter what it is - you will see that you are able to meet all other problems easily and resolve them. We are talking, of course, of psychological problems. We have already seen that a problem exists only in time, that is when we meet the issue incompletely.
The like or dislike is the result of my culture, my training, my associations, my inclinations, my acquired and inherited characteristics. It is from that centre that I observe and make my judgement, and thus the observer is separate from the thing he observes.
But the observer is aware of more than one image; he creates thousands of images. But is the observer different from these images? Isn’t he just another image? He is always adding to and subtracting from what he is; he is a living thing all the time weighing, comparing, judging, modifying and changing as a result of pressures from outside and within - living in the field of consciousness which is his own knowledge, influence and innumerable calculations. At the same time when you look at the observer, who is yourself, you see that he is made up of memories, experiences, accidents, influences, traditions and infinite varieties of suffering, all of which are the past. So the observer is both the past and the present, and tomorrow is waiting and that is also a part of him.
Ask yourself as I am asking myself - why is one a slave to thought - cunning, clever, thought which can organize, which can start things, which has invented so much, bred so many wars, created so much fear, so much anxiety, which is forever making images and chasing its own tail - thought which has enjoyed the pleasure of yesterday and given that pleasure continuity in the present and also in the future - thought which is always active, chattering, moving, constructing, taking away, adding, supposing?
Ideas have become far more important to us than action - ideas so cleverly expressed in books by the intellectuals in every field. We have separated ideas from action because ideas are always of the past and action is always the present - that is, living is always the present. We are afraid of living and therefore the past, as ideas, has become so important to us.
Thought is so cunning, so clever, that it distorts everything for its own convenience. Thought in its demand for pleasure brings its own bondage.
Those who think a great deal are very materialistic because thought is matter. Matter and energy are interrelated. The one cannot exist without the other, and the more harmony there is between the two, the more balance, the more active the brain cells are.
It can perform the most extraordinary tricks, and therefore it cannot be depended upon. But if you understand the whole structure of how you think, why you think, the words you use, the way you behave in your daily life, the way you talk to people, the way you treat people, the way you walk, the way you eat - if you are aware of all these things then your mind will not deceive you, then there is nothing to be deceived.
There is a battle going on all the time between one thought and another, one desire and another, one pleasure dominating all other pleasures. But if there is an awareness of the beginning of thought, then there is no contradiction in thought.
You can observe in yourself that as long as there is no thought - which doesn’t mean a state of amnesia, of blankness - as long as there is no thought derived from memory, experience or knowledge, which are all of the past, there is no thinker at all.
That is what we do. We carry our burdens all the time; we never die to them, we never leave them behind. it is only when we give complete attention to a problem and solve it immediately - never carrying it over to the next day, the next minute - that there is solitude.
To have inward solitude and space is very important because it implies freedom to be, to go, to function, to fly.
It seems to me that one of the greatest stumbling blocks in life is this constant struggle to reach, to achieve, to acquire. We are trained from childhood to acquire and to achieve - the very brain cells themselves create and demand this pattern of achievement in order to have physical security, but psychological security is not within the field of achievement. We demand security in all our relationships, attitudes and activities but, as we have seen, there is actually no such thing as security. To find out for yourself that there is no form of security in any relationship - to realize that psychologically there is nothing permanent - gives a totally different approach to life. It is essential, of course, to have outward security such as shelter, clothing, food - but that outward security is destroyed by the demand for psychological security.
The very act of learning is discipline (after all the root meaning of the word discipline is to learn), the very act of learning becomes clarity.
In order to deny authority (we are talking of psychological authority, not the law) - to deny the authority of all religious organizations, traditions and experience, one has to see why one normally obeys - actually study it.
You are waiting for me to describe what this silence is so that you can compare it, interpret it, carry it away and bury it. It cannot be described. What can be described is the known, and the freedom from the known can come into being only when there is a dying every day to the known, to the hurts, the flatteries, to all the images you have made, to all your experiences - dying every day so that the brain cells themselves become fresh, young, innocent. But that innocency, that freshness, that quality of tenderness and gentleness, does not produce love; it is not the quality of beauty or silence.
So if in seeking something fundamental, such as what is truth, pleasure is the measure, you have already projected what that experience will be and therefore it is no longer valid.
Experience is a bundle of memories responding to a challenge and it can respond only according to its background, and the cleverer you are at interpreting the experience the more it responds.
We cannot recognize a new experience. It is impossible. We recognize only something we have already known and therefore when we say we have had a new experience, it is not new at all.
Demand is born out of duality: `I am unhappy and I must be happy’. In that very demand that I must be happy is unhappiness.
Meditation is to be aware of every thought and of every feeling, never to say it is right or wrong but just to watch it and move with it. And out of this awareness comes silence. Silence put together by thought is stagnation, is dead, but the silence that comes when thought has understood its own beginning, the nature of itself, understood how all thought is never free but always old - this silence is meditation in which the meditator is entirely absent, for the mind has emptied itself of the past.
Every day we see or read of appalling things happening in the world as the
result of violence in man. You may say,
I can't do anything about it, or,
How can I influence the world?
I think you can tremendously influence the world if in yourself you are not violent, if you lead actually every day a peaceful life - a life which is not competitive, ambitious, envious - a life which does not create enmity.
we ask ourselves is it possible to break through this heavy conditioning of centuries immediately and not enter into another conditioning - to be free, so that the mind can be altogether new, sensitive, alive, aware, intense, capable? That is our problem. There is no other problem because when the mind is made new it can tackle any problem. That is the only question we have to ask ourselves.
It is a brutal thing to have ideals. If you have any ideals, beliefs or principles you cannot possibly look at yourself directly.
Passion is a rather frightening thing because if you have passion you don’t know where it will take you.
A man who knows that he is silent, who knows that he loves, does not know what love is or what silence is.