Comparison and the Dull Mind

A Painting by Lucian Freud

Throughout childhood, our society, education and culture constantly bombards us with the message that whatever one is, is inadequate, dull, stupid or unintelligent. And then it further goes on to show or model what is intelligence through erecting various ideals or role models which one must aspire to. One has to become wealthy, famous, knowledgeable, respectable or enlightened.

So one is put in an enormous sense of conflict with oneself. There is the fact of what one is and there is an ideal or goal to be reached. There is a constant comparison between the two and a relentless pursuit of that imagined state of perfection or a resigned sense of depression and frustration for that perfect state which one has been unable to achieve.

Now, the question is whether one has inquired into this whole state of dullness?

Are we dull because someone has told us or we have ourselves seen it as a fact for ourselves that we are dull?

If we see that our mind is dull, can we recognize something as dullness without a standard of comparison?

It’s obvious that we cannot “recognize” dullness till we do not compare it with an ideal. So the further question is

Is comparison making us dull ?

Probing into these questions is a fascinating and wide-ranging dialogue between Krishnamurti and another questioner, which I am reproducing below.

Interestingly, the dialogue begins with a questioner asking Krishnamurti that he has got an awakened brain while he has not got it. So seeing this, what is one supposed to do?

J. Krishnamurti, Flight of the Eagle, Chapter 10, Saanen 4th Public Dialogue, 6th August 1969, `On Radical Change’

Questioner: You have already got it, whereas to us it seems refinement upon refinement, but the drive is the same.

Krishnamurti: Yes. Is that what is taking places – refinement? Or has the mind, the brain, the whole being, become very dull through various means as pressures and activities and so on? And we are saying that the whole being must be awakened completely.

Questioner: This is the tricky bit.

Krishnamurti: Wait, I am coming to it, you will see it. Intelligence has no evolution. Intelligence is not the product of time. Intelligence is this quality of sensitive awareness of `what is.’ My mind is dull and I say, `I must look at myself’ and this dull mind is trying to look at itself. Obviously it sees nothing. It either resists or rejects, or conforms; it is a very respectable mind, a bourgeois little mind that is looking.

Questioner: You began to speak of ideological systems of morality and now you go further and suggest that we should use self-observation, that all other systems are futile. Is this not also an ideology?

Krishnamurti: No, Sir. I say on the contrary, if you look with any ideology, including mine, then you are lost, then you are not looking at all. You have so many ideologies, respectable, not respectable and all the rest of it; with those ideologies in your brain, in your heart, you are looking. Those ideologies have made the brain and the mind and your whole being dull. Now the dull mind looks. And obviously the dull mind, whatever it looks at, whether it meditates, or goes to the moon, it is still a dull mind. So that dull mind observes and somebody comes along and says, `look, my friend, you are dull, what you see will be equally dull; because your mind is dull, what you see will inevitably be dull also.’ That is a great discovery, that a dull mind looking at something which is extraordinarily vital has made the thing it looks at also dulls

Questioner: But the same thing keeps reaching out.

Krishnamurti: Wait, go slowly, if you don’t mind, just move step by step with the speaker.

Questioner: If a dull mind recognizes that it is dull, it is not so dull.

Krishnamurti: I don’t recognize it! That would be excellent if the dull mind recognized that it was dull, but it doesn’t. Either it tries to polish itself more and more, by becoming learned, scientific and all the rest of it, or if it is aware that it is dull it says, `This dull mind cannot look clearly.’ So the next question is: How can this dull, spotted mind become extraordinarily intelligent, so that the instrument through which one looks is very clean?

Questioner: Are you saying that when the mind puts the question in that way, it has put an end to the dullness? Can one do the right things for the wrong reasons?

Krishnamurti: No. I wish you would leave your conclusion and find out what the speaker is sayings

Questioner: No, Sir. You stay with me.

Krishnamurti: What you are saying is this: you are trying to get hold of something, which will make the mind which is dull much sharper, clearer. I don’t. I am saying: watch the dullness.

Questioner: Without the continual movement?

Krishnamurti: To watch the dull mind without the continual movement of distortion – how does that happen? My dull mind looks; therefore there is nothing to see, I ask myself, `How is it possible to make the mind bright? ` Has this question come into being because I have compared the dull mind with another, clever mind, saying, `I must be like it’? You follow? That very comparison is the continuation of the dull minds

Questioner: Can the dull mind compare itself with a clever one?

Krishnamurti: Doesn’t it always compare itself with some bright mind? That’s what we call evolution, don’t we?

Questioner: The dull mind doesn’t compare, it asks, `Why should I’? Or you can put it a little differently: one believes that if one can be a little cleverer one will get something more.

Krishnamurti: Yes, that’s the same thing. So I have discovered something. The dull mind says, I am dull through comparison, I am dull because that man is clever. It is not aware that it is dull in itself. There are two different states. If I am aware that I am dull because you are bright, that’s one things If I am aware that I am dull, without comparison, that’s quite different. How is it with you? Are you comparing yourself and therefore saying, `I am dull’? Or are you aware that you are dull, without comparisons. Can that be? Do please stay with that a little bit.

Questioner: Sir, is this possible?

Krishnamurti: Please give two minutes to this question. Am I aware that I am hungry because you tell me so, or do I feel hungry? If you tell me that I am hungry, I may feel a little hunger but it is not real hunger. But if I am hungry, I am hungry. So I must be very clear whether my dullness is the result of comparison. Then I can proceed from there.

Questioner: What has brought it home to you in such a way that you can leave it and only be concerned with whether you are dull or not?

Krishnamurti: Because I see the truth that comparison makes the mind dull. At school when one boy is compared with another boy, you destroy the boy comparing him with another. If you tell the younger brother that he must be as clever as the elder brother, you have destroyed the younger brother, haven’t you? You are not concerned with the younger brother, you are concerned with the cleverness of the older boys

Questioner: Can a dull mind look and find out if it is dull?

Krishnamurti: We are going to find out. Please let’s begin again. Could we not stick to this one thing this morning?

Questioner: So long as there is that drive, what validity has it whether I am dull in myself or by comparison.

Krishnamurti: We are going to find out. Please, just go along with the speaker for a few minutes, not accepting or rejecting but watching yourself. We said at the beginning of this morning’s dialogue that the revolution must take place at the very root of our being, and that it can take place only when we know how to observe what we are. The observation depends on the brightness, the clarity and the openness of the mind that looks. But most of us are dull, and we say we see nothing when we look; we see anger, jealousy and so on, but it doesn’t result in anything. So we are concerned with the dull mind, not with what it is looking at. This dull mind says. `I must be clever in order to looks’ So it has a pattern of what cleverness is and is trying to become that. Somebody tells it, `Comparison will always produce dullness.’ So it says, `I must be terribly careful of that, I won’t compare as I only know what dullness was through comparison. If I don’t compare, how do I know I am dull?’ So I say to myself, `I won’t call it dull’ I won’t use the word `dull’ at all. I will only observe `what is’ and not call it dull. Because the moment I call it dull, I have already given it a name and made it dull. But if I don’t call it dull, but only observe, I have removed comparison, I have removed the word `dull’ and there is only `what is.’ This is not difficult, is it? Please do watch it for yourself. Look what has happened now! Look where my mind is now.

Questioner: I see that my mind is too slow.

Krishnamurti: Will you please just listens I’ll go very slowly, step by step.

How do I realize my mind is dull? Because you have told me? Because I have read books that seem extraordinarily clever, intricate and subtle? Or I have seen brilliant people and in comparing myself with them I call myself dull? I have to find out So I won’t compare; I refuse to compare myself with somebody else. Then do I know I am dull? Is the word preventing me to observe? Or is the word taking the place of `what actually is’? Are you following this? So I will not use a word, I won’t call it dull, I won’t call it slow, I won’t call it anything, but find out `what is.’ So I have got rid of comparison, which is the most subtle things My mind has become extraordinarily intelligent because it doesn’t compare, it doesn’t use a word with which to see `what is,’ because it has realized the description is not the described. So what is actually the fact of `what is’?

Can we go from there? I am watching it, the mind is watching its own movements Now do I condemn it, judge and evaluate and say, `This should be,’ `This should not be’? Has it any formula, any ideal, any resolution, any conclusion, which will inevitably distort `what is’? I have to go into that. If I have any conclusion I cannot looks If I am a moralist, if I am a respectable person, or a Christian, a Vedantist, or an `enlightened one,’ or this or that – all that prevents me from looking. Therefore I must be free of it all. I am watching if I have a conclusion of any kinds So the mind has become extraordinarily clear and it says, `Is there fear?’ I watch it and I say, `There is fear, there is a desire for security, there is the urge for pleasure,’ and so on. I see that I cannot possibly look if there is any kind of conclusion, any kind of pleasurable movement taking places So I am watching, and I find I am very traditional and I realize such a traditional mind can’t looks My deep interest is to look and that deep interest shows me the danger of any conclusion. Therefore the very perception of danger is the discarding of that danger. So my mind then is not confused, it has no conclusion, does not think in terms of words, of descriptions, and is not comparing. Such a mind can observe and what it observes is itself. Therefore a revolution has taken place. Now you are lost – completely lost!

Questioner: I don’t think that this revolution has taken place. Today I managed to look at the mind in the way you say, the mind becomes sharper, but tomorrow I will have forgotten how to looks

Krishnamurti: You can’t forget it, Sir. Do you forget a snake? Do you forget a precipice? Do you forget the bottle marked `poison’? You can’t forget it. The gentleman asked, `How can I cleanse the instrument?’ We said the cleansing of the instrument is to be aware how the instrument is made dull, clouded, unclear. We have described what makes it clouded, and we also said the description is not the actual thing described; so don’t be caught in words. Be with the thing described, which is the instrument that is made dull.

Questioner: Surely if you look at yourself in the manner you described you expect something.

Krishnamurti: I am not expecting a transformation, enlightenment, a mutation, I am expecting nothing, because I don’t know what is going to happens I know only one thing very clearly, that the instrument that is looking is not clean, it is clouded, it is cracked. That’s all I know and nothing else. And my only concern is, how can this instrument be made whole, healthy?

Questioner: Why are you looking?

Krishnamurti: The world is burning and the world is me. I am terribly disturbed, terribly confused, and there must be some order somewhere in all this. That is what is making me look. But if you say, `The world is all right, why do you bother about it, you have got good health and a little money, wife and children and a house, leave it alone’ – then, of course, the world isn’t burning. But it is burning all the same, whether you like or not. So that is what makes me look, not some intellectual conception, nor some emotional excitement, but the actual fact that the world is burning – the wars, the hatred, the deception, the images, the false gods and all the rest of its And that very perception of what is taking place outwardly, makes me aware inwardly. And I say the inward state is the outward state, they are both one, indivisible.

Questioner: We are back at the very beginning. The fact is the dull mind doesn’t see that by comparison it will think it should be different.

Krishnamurti: No, it is all wrong. I don’t want to be different! I only see that the instrument is dull. I don’t know what to do with it. So I am going to find out, which doesn’t mean I want to change the instrument. I don’t.

Questioner: Is using any word an obstacle to seeing?

Krishnamurti: The word is not the thing; therefore if you are looking at the thing, unless you put the word aside, it becomes extraordinarily important.

Questioner: I think that I disagree with you. When one looks, one sees the instrument has two parts, one is perception, the other is expression. It is impossible to sever these two parts. It is a linguistic problem, not one of dullness. The difficulty lies in language, in the randomness of expression.

Krishnamurti: Are you saying, in observation there is perception and expression, the two are not separate. Therefore when you perceive, there must also be the clarity of expression, the linguistic understanding, and the perception and the expression must never be separated, they must always go together. So you are saying that it is very important to use the right word.

Questioner: I am saying `expression,’ I am not saying `intention.’

Krishnamurti: I understand – expression. Out of that comes another factor: perception, expression and action. If action is not expression and perception – expression being expressing it in words – then there is a fragmentation. So is not perception action? The very perceiving is the acting. As when I perceive a precipice and there is immediate acting; that action is the expression of the perception. So perception and action can never be separated, therefore the ideal and action are impossible. If I see the stupidity of an ideal, the very perception of the stupidity of it is the action of intelligence. So the watching of dullness, the perceiving of dullness, is the clearing of the mind of dullness, which is action.

Saanen, Switzerland, August 6, 1969


4 thoughts on “Comparison and the Dull Mind

  1. Is there part of the dialogue which remains??

    The mind started looking at itself, without comparison, but there was no perception and hence no expression or action or realization of the state.

    Can you help me lead this further?



    1. Dear Abhinav,

      The dialogue was complete.

      How can there be no perception Abhinav? Perception is not a state to be achieved. It is a moment to moment looking at whatever is arising without modifying it or interpreting it according to any ideal.

      Even if we are looking at something with an intent to dissolve it or end it, interferes with the act of direct perception. It only happens when there is a motiveless looking.

      We can discuss this further.



  2. I think i used to agree to motiveless looking, but having tried it for sometime, I think I am tending to differ on that notion.

    Even in motiveless looking, there is still a level of observation the mind is making. Analyzing, diagnosing and looking to dissect the observation to take way a learning.

    So, if there is a motiveless looking by the mind, then too the realization to the instrument being dull, without comparison, either rests on the premise that the instrument we are working with is in fact dull, which again has to be cognitive, i.e. an idea caught by the mind from surroundings, readings, etc.or on faith.

    So, the point is, that how does an instrument, the mind, looking at itself, without any binding or comparison, realize that it is dull. Only then the quest to polish it would take root and cognition will lead to faith.


    1. Dear Abhinav,

      You have actually stated what is stated in the article and what Krishnamurti too says. Though you have put it in a form of a question.

      When you look without comparisons, you cannot “recognize” dullness because there are no comparisons to make at all. It is already a very intelligent mind that can come to this. If it hasn’t come to this, well we can start one step back and see the fact that one is making comparisons all the time and understand the whole mechanism and psychology of comparison.

      Secondly, motiveless looking is not about analyzing. In motiveless looking there is a watching of the fact from moment to moment. There is no accumulation of knowledge, no measurement of where one is, how much progress one has made. There is simply an ever fresh looking.

      Faith? Where does faith come into all this. We do not require it at all because we are only concerned with direct seeing of facts as they arise, from moment to moment, without any standpoint of a belief or ideology.

      Warm wishes,


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