” Don’t depend on anyone for the understanding of life, for the understanding of that book. To read that book, there is nobody between you and the book, no philosopher, no priest, no guru, no god, nothing. You are the book and you are reading it “
~ J Krishnamurti, The Book of Life
Whenever we want to learn anything in life, we always try to consult a specialist. While this may be of use in functional or technological matters, what should we do when we want to learn about life and ourselves? Do we need a specialist, whose knowledge acts as an authority in our life? Are we not bartering our freedom of learning for a false sense of security in authority?
Learning about something as vast and complex as life has to begin with freedom, not with a mind burdened with the authority of experts or beliefs. Life teaches us if we know how to listen and learn from it.
I am reproducing here a rare gem of Krishnamurti’s talks. It is a very novel style of presentation which Krishnamurti adopts here. He compares the whole of life to a book of many chapters, and sustains the metaphor throughout as he goes into various problems like disorder, order, authority, relationship, fear and time.
And like a developing plot of a story, Krishnamurti shows that the entire drama of life is being perpetrated by time. So, he puts the inevitable question, “Can time end?”. The question is not put so as to elicit an answer but if one has come so far in one’s inquiry so as to deeply see and understand that the root cause of conflict is psychological time then what is the state of such a mind. Such a state of mind has entered into an effortless meditation. Following is the talk
Second Public Talk in Colombo, Sri Lanka
I hope you can all hear. There is a loudspeaker so – you can hear? Can you hear clearly? Yes? Right at the end, not here. Can you hear right at the end, sirs? Yes? Good.
May we continue with what we were saying yesterday evening. We said that the whole story of mankind is in you – the vast experiences, the deep-rooted fears, anxieties, sorrow, pleasure, and all the beliefs that man has accumulated throughout the millennia. You are that book. That’s what we said yesterday. And it is an art to read that book. It is not printed by any publisher. It is not for sale. You can’t buy it in any book shop. You can’t go to any analyst because his book is the same as yours; nor to any scientist. The scientist may have a great deal of information about matter, and the astrophysics, but his book, the story of mankind, is the same as yours. That’s what we said yesterday afternoon. And without carefully, patiently, hesitantly reading that book, you will never be able to change the society in which we live, the society that is corrupt, immoral, there is a great deal of poverty, injustice and so on. Any serious man concerned with the things as they are in the world at present, with all the chaos, corruption, war – the greatest crime, which is war – and in order to bring about a radical change in our society and its structure, one must be able to read the book which is yourself, and that society is brought about by each one of us, by our parents, grandparents and so on. All human beings have created this society, and when the society is not changed there will be more corruption, more wars and greater destruction of the human mind. That’s a fact.
So, to read this book, which is yourself, one must have the art of listening to what the book is saying. That is, to listen to it, which means to listen implies not to interpret what the book is saying. Just to observe it as you would observe a cloud. You can’t do anything about the cloud, nor the palm leaf swaying in the wind, nor the beauty of a sunset. You cannot alter it, you cannot argue with it, you cannot change it. It is so. So one must have the art of listening to what the book is saying. The book is you, so you can’t tell the book what it should reveal. It will reveal everything. So that must be the first art, to listen to the book. And there is another art, which is the art of observation, the art of seeing. When you read the book which is yourself, there is not you and the book. Please understand this. There is not the reader and the book separate from you. The book is you. So you are observing the book, not telling the book what it should say. Am I making this clear? That is, to read, to observe all the reactions that the book reveals. To see very clearly without any distortion what the lines, the chapters, the verse, the poems, the beauty, the struggle, everything that it is telling you, revealing. So there is the art of seeing and the art of listening.
There is also another art: the art of learning. The computers can learn. They can be programmed and they will repeat what it has been told. If a computer plays with a master of chess, the master may beat it two or three or four times, but it is learning where it has made a mistake, where it can correct it, so through experience it is learning so that after a few games the computer can beat the master chess player. That’s how our mind works, our mind. We first experience, accumulate knowledge, store in the memory, in the brain, then thought as memory, and then action. From that action, you learn. And so the learning is the accumulation of further knowledge. So you begin again. Knowledge – experience, knowledge, memory, and thought and action. This cycle is going on all the time with all of us. I hope I am making this clear, that every action either gives further knowledge, and though the mind changes, modifies its past experience, and goes on. This is what a mind that is aware, awake is doing this all the time, like the computer. Experience, knowledge, memory, thought, action, and the action modifies or adds more knowledge, and you go on that way. Is this clear?
So this is what we are doing all the time, which is called learning. Learning from experience. This has been the story of man. Constant challenge and response to that challenge. And that response can be equal to the challenge, or not quite up to the challenge. But it learns, and accumulates knowledge, and the next challenge it responds again more fully, or less fully. So this process is going on all the time in our minds, which is called learning. Right? You learn a language. That is, you learn the meaning of the words, the syntax, the grammar, put two sentences together and gradually accumulate a vocabulary, and then, if you have got a good memory, you begin to talk that particular language which you have spent time on. This is the human process of learning. That is, always moving from knowledge to knowledge. And the book is the whole knowledge of mankind, which is you. Am I making all this clear? Which is you. And either – please listen to this with a little care and patience – either you keep that circle going all the time, or find a way of moving out of that circle. I am going to show it to you in a minute. That is, we are always functioning from the past – knowledge – modified by the present, and moving forward. The forward is modified again which becomes the past, and this process is part of our life. Are we getting all this?
I am making this, if you don’t mind – I know you are probably very learned, very educated – but I am putting all this into very, very simple language; but the word is not the thing. Right? Ceylon… Sri Lanka – forgive me – is not the land, the beauty of the land, the palm trees, the rivers, the marvellous trees and the fruit and the flowers. So the word is not the thing. Right? Please bear that in mind all the time when are talking together – that the word is not the thing. The word ‘husband’ is not the man, it’s a word. By word we measure. So please bear in mind throughout this talk, and the other two talks that are to take place, and the discussion, public discussion, that the word is never the thing. The symbol is never the actual. The picture is not that which is. So if that is deeply rooted in our mind, then words have very little significance. You follow? The thing matters, not the word.
So, as I said, there is the art of seeing, the art of listening and the art of learning. The learning is movement from the past to the present, modified, the future, and that is experiencing, and so on. This whole cycle is what we call learning. That is psychological learning as well as technological learning. Right? Which means what? The mind is never free from the known. Are we all getting somewhere together, or am I making this awfully difficult? It is not difficult. Probably, if the speaker may point out, you are not used to this kind of thinking, this kind of enquiry, constant moving forward. So, as we said, our learning is always within the field of the known, and so the mind becomes mechanical. Right? If I have a particular habit and I live with that habit my mind becomes mechanical. If I believe in something and that I repeat, repeat, repeat, it becomes mechanical. So we are saying that we are living always within the area of the known, and so our minds have become a network of words, never the actual, but words, words, words, and moving, changing, altering within the narrow, limited area of knowledge. Right?
So, learning implies something totally different. We are going to go into it together. We have said very clearly what is seeing, how to see the book, read the lines, how to listen… no, the art of listening to the book, never distorting, never interpreting, never choosing what you like and don’t like, what you appreciate and don’t appreciate – then you are not reading a book. Right? And we are saying also that we all live within the narrow limits of the known. And that has become our constant habit. Therefore our minds, if you examine your mind, is repetitive, habitual, accustomed, you believe in god, and you believe in god for the rest of your life. If anybody says there is no god perhaps, then you call him irreligious. So you are caught in habit. Now we are saying that is not learning at all. Learning is something entirely different. Learning means enquiring into the limits of knowledge and moving away from it. Right? This will be difficult, we will go into it as we go along.
So there is the art of seeing, the art of learning, the art of listening, and the art of learning, never to be caught in the same pattern, or invent another pattern. The constant breaking down of patterns, the norms, the values, which doesn’t mean living without any restraint. Society is now permissive. It doesn’t mean that at all. This constant awareness of this pattern formation of the mind, and breaking it down, so that the mind is constantly aware, alert. Right? Now with those three factors: listening, observing, learning, with those basic factors will let us read the book together. You are reading the book with me. I am not reading your book. We are reading the human book, which is you and the speaker, and the rest of mankind. Clear? Please, give a little attention to this because we live in a society that is so unhappy, that is in such conflict, struggle, strife, and there seems to be no end to it. And we are saying if we know how to read that book, which is yourself, all conflict, all noise, travail, all that comes to an end. It is only then that you can find out… that there can be… truth can come then into your field. It is only such a mind that is really a religious mind, not the believing mind, not the mind that does all kinds of rituals, not the mind that puts on strange garb, but the mind that is free after having read completely all the book. And it is only such a mind that receives the benediction of truth. It is only such a mind that can go infinitely far beyond time.
So, together, I mean together, we are reading the book, not the printed book, the book that is you. So it is your responsibility not merely to listen what the speaker is saying, but also what the speaker is saying is your book, opening it chapter by chapter, page by page, till the very end, if you can travel that far. And we must travel together if we are to solve the human problems as they exist. Together we can solve it, not one person. So what is the first chapter? Please, think together, don’t let me tell you. What is the first chapter in that book? That is, your book, and the first chapter in that book, the content of that chapter. All right, let’s go on together.
Apart from the physical existence, the physical organism with all the travail of the body, the disease, the laziness, the sluggishness, the lack of proper food, proper nourishment – apart from all that, what is the first movement? I am asking you. We are together exploring; I am not exploring and telling you, that would be very easy for you. But if we do it together it will be yours, and when you are able to read it you don’t have to have a priest, you don’t have a psychologist, you don’t depend on anybody. You will begin to have that extraordinary freedom which gives you tremendous vitality, the vitality of psychological freedom. So please, let us share this book together. Are you waiting for me? I am afraid you are because you have never even looked at yourself deeply. You may have looked at your face, combed your hair, powdered your face, and all the rest of it, but you have never looked into yourself. But when you look into yourself don’t you discover for yourself that you are a second-hand human being? Right? Are you following this? It may be rather unpleasant to consider oneself as a second-hand human being, but we are full of other people’s knowledge – what somebody has said, what some philosopher, for some teacher, for some guru, what the Buddha said, what the Christ said, and so on – we are all full of that. And also, if you have been to school and college and university, there you have also been told what to do, what to think. So if you realise that you are a second-hand human being, then you can put aside that second quality of the mind, and look. You are following? I am going on, if you will kindly… The speaker will go on if you will kindly follow it, follow it, if you don’t it’s up to you.
The first observation is that we live in contradiction. Right? That there is no order in us. Order is not a blueprint, saying order is putting the same thing in the same place every day, but order implies something far greater than the mechanical discipline of a particular habit, norm, sanction. Right? We are saying order is something entirely different from the accepted normal discipline. The word ‘discipline’ means – comes from Latin and so on – which means ‘to learn’, not to conform, not to imitate, not to copy, obey, but to learn. You understand? Is this clear? So, one discovers in that book, the first chapter, that we live an extraordinarily confused, disorderly life – wanting one thing and denying that which you want; saying one thing and doing something else; thinking one thing and acting something else. So there is constant contradiction. Where there is contradiction there must be conflict. Right? Are you following all this? Or are you bored with this? Come with me, sirs, please tell me, are you following this or not?
Krishnamurti: Good! At last somebody says yes. You are following not the speaker. You are following the book which is yourself, that you are living in a disorderly way, that you are in perpetual conflict. That conflict expresses itself as ambition, fulfilment, conformity, identification with a person, with a country, with an idea, and never living with the actual. Right? So, we live in disorder, both politically, religiously, in our family life. So we have to find out what is order. The book will tell you if you know how to read the book. It says you live in disorder. Follow – turn the next page. There you will find what it is… means to live in disorder. If we don’t understand what is the cause of disorder, order will never come into being. You are following all this? You know, it is like fighting a mass of people who don’t understand a thing of all this. But it doesn’t matter – it is the speaker’s responsibility.
So we find disorder exists as long as there is contradiction. Not only verbal contradiction but psychological contradiction. As we said, doing… that is, not being honest, absolute honesty: you say one thing, you mean it. To have great integrity. So if one understands the nature of disorder, not intellectually or verbally, but actually – the book is saying don’t translate what you read into intellectual concept; read it properly. When you read it, it says your contradiction exists, and it can only end if you understand the nature of contradiction. Contradiction exists when there is division – right? – like the Hindus and the Muslims, like the Jews and the Arabs, the communists and the non-communists, this constant divisive process between the various types of Buddhists, various types of Hindus, Christians, and so on. Where there is division there must be conflict, which is disorder, and when you understand the nature of disorder, out of that comprehension, out of the depth of understanding the nature of disorder, comes naturally order. Order is like a flower coming out naturally. And that order, that flower, never withers. Always there is order in one’s life because you have really, deeply read the book, which says where there is division there must be conflict. Right? Now, have we read that book, those books so clearly that we understand the nature of disorder? I’ll go into it a little more deeply. That is next chapter.
Next chapter says, as long as you are working from a centre towards the periphery, there must be contradiction. That is, as long as you are acting self-centredly, selfishly, egotistically, personally, narrowing the whole of this vast life into that little ‘me’, you will inevitably create disorder. Right? Because the ‘me’ is a very small affair, put together by thought. Thought is my name, the form, the psychological structure and the image it has built about itself – I am somebody. So as long as there is self-centred activity there must be contradiction, therefore there must be disorder. And the book says don’t ask how to be not self-centred. Right? Please follow this carefully. When you ask how… The book says when you ask how, then you are asking a method, then if you pursue that method it is another form of self-centred activity. Got it? The book is telling you all this. I am not telling you this. The speaker is not translating the book for you. We are reading it together. And as long as you belong to any sect, group, religion, you are bound to create conflict. Right? This is difficult to swallow because we all believe in something. You believe in god, another doesn’t; another believes in the Buddha, another believes in Jesus, and the Islam says there is only something else. So, belief brings division in relationship between man and man. Though you believe in god, you are not living the life of god. You understand? Belief has no value. You don’t believe the sun rises and sun sets, you never say, ‘I believe the sun rises’, or the sun sets. If it doesn’t rise we will all be dead in three or four days. So there is no need for belief when you are only concerned with facts. Facts being that which is actually happening in your book. Right? Please, come on sirs.
So, then the problem arises also, which I am going to go into presently, which is, how you read the book, whether you are separate from the book. You understand? When you pick up a novel or a thriller, you are reading it as an outsider, turning the pages over, with all the exciting story and so on, but here the reader is the book. You understand the difficulty? The reader is the book. So he is reading it as though part of himself is reading. He is not reading a book. I wonder if you understand this. We will go into it as I go along.
The book also says man has lived under authority – political, religious, the leader, the guru, the man who knows, the intellectual philosopher – he has always conformed to a pattern of authority. Please be very careful, listen very carefully to what the book is saying, which is, there is the authority of law – whether you approve of that law or not there is the authority of law – there is the authority of the policemen, the authority of an elected government, and there is the authority of the dictator. We are not talking about that authority. We are talking, we are reading in the book the authority that mind seeks in order to be secure. You follow? The mind is always seeking security, the book says. And the books says, when you are seeking security psychologically, you are inevitably bound to create authority – the authority of the priest, the authority of the image, the authority of man who says, ‘I am enlightened, I will tell you’. You understand all this? So it says, be free of all that kind of authority. Which means be a light to yourself, and don’t depend on anyone for the understanding of life, for the understanding of that book. To read that book there is nobody between you and the book – no philosopher, no priest, no guru, no god, nothing. You are the book and you are reading it. And so there must be freedom from that authority of another, whether the authority of the husband over the wife, and the wife over the husband. It means to be able to stand alone, and most people are so frightened.
The book, the next chapter says – you have discussed, you have read the first chapter of disorder and order, authority – and the chapter says, life is relationship. Life is relationship in action. And not only relationship with your intimate person but you are related to the whole of mankind, because you are like the rest of the man… rest of the human, wherever he may live, because he suffers, you suffer, and all the rest of it. Psychologically you are the world and the world is you. Therefore you have tremendous responsibility.
Then the book – next chapter (laughs) says, man has lived with fear from time immemorial – fear. Not only fear of nature, fear of the environment, fear of disease, fear of accidents and so on, but also there is much deeper layers of fear; deeper, unconscious, untrodden ways of fear. So we are going to read the book together till the chapter ends and says, watch it and you will be able to end it. We are going together to see, to read the book so carefully, so patiently, so that when you have read, come to the chapter, your mind is free of all fear. What is – the book again says, next page – what is fear? How does it arise? What is its nature? Why has man not solved the thing, this problem? Why does he live with it? Has he become accustomed to it? Has he accepted it as the way of life? Why man, human being, you, have not resolved that problem, so that your mind is totally free from fear. Because as long as there is fear you live in darkness. You may worship whatever you will, out of that darkness. You follow? Your worship may be out… is out of that darkness, and therefore your worship is absolutely meaningless. So it is very important to read further into the nature of fear.
Now, if you examine closely, if you read that book, every word of it, it asks you how does fear arise? Is it remembrance of things past? – you are following all this? – a remembrance of some pain, of some thing which you have done which you oughtn’t have done; a lie that you have told and you don’t want it to be discovered and you are frightened that it might be discovered; an action that has corrupted your mind and you may be afraid of that corruption, of that action. Or you may be afraid of the future, or you may be afraid of losing a job, and not becoming a prominent citizen in a particular little backyard of a country. So there are innumerable forms of fear. Right? People are afraid of the dark, people are afraid of public opinion, people are afraid of death – we will deal with death later – people are afraid of not fulfilling, whatever that may mean. Apart from the fear of disease, one may have a great deal of pain, physical pain; that pain is registered in the mind and one is afraid that pain might return. You know all this.
So we are trying… the book says go on, read more. What is fear? Is it brought about by thought? You are following all this? Is it brought about by time? I am healthy now, but as I grow older I will be ill, and I am frightened. That is time. Or is it thought that says anything might happen to me – I might lose my job, I might go blind, I must have – follow? – I must lose my wife – whatever it is. Is that the root of fear? The book is asking you. So you say, turn the page and you will find the answer. In yourself – the speaker is not telling you. There it says thought and time are the factors of fear. Right? So it says thought is time. Right?
So the question then is, the next page it says, is it possible for the human mind, for you who are reading that book who is yourself, the book asks you, is it possible to be completely free of fear so that there is not a breath of fear? Right? Which is what? I hope you are reading it with me, I am not reading it by myself. You’ve got the energy to go with this? So it says, again don’t ask for a method. Method means a repetition, a system; the system which you invent will not solve fear, because you are then following a system, not understanding the nature of fear. Right? So don’t look for a system, but only understand, understand the nature of fear. It says, what do you mean by understand? I am going into it. When is it that you say, even now, ‘I understand something’? What do you mean by that? Either you understand the verbal construction and the meaning of the word, which is particular form of the intellectual operation, or you see the truth of it. When you see the truth of this, then the thing disappears. You understand? When you see clearly for yourself that thought and time are the factors of fear, not as a verbal statement but it is part of you, it is in your blood, in your mind, in your heart, that time is the factor, then you will see that fear has no longer a place, only time. You understand? I wonder if you have got that. Because fear has been brought about by time and thought. Right? I am afraid of what might happen. I am afraid of my loneliness. I never examine my loneliness, what it means, but I am afraid of it, which means I run away from it. But that loneliness is my shadow, it pursues you. You can’t run away from your shadow. So you have to have the patience of observation, which is not to run away but to observe, to look, to listen, to hear what that book is saying. It says, time is the factor, not fear. So you have to understand time. You are following all this?
Please, sirs, if you are tired, tell me. It’s half past seven. If you are tired tell me and we will stop for a few minutes and then continue. Are you tired? Yes, or no?
K: How does it happen you are not tired? You have had a long day in the office, from nine to five or whatever it is – oh, today is a holiday (laughs), so you are not tired because you have a holiday. But you have an office and you will be tired. All right, you are not tired, let’s go on.
So it says, time is the factor, if you can understand time then perhaps there will be end to fear. So you are to ask what is the relationship between time and thought – you understand? – the book is asking you: find out what is the relationship between time and thought. Thought is a movement from the known to the known. Right? It is a movement. The past memories meeting the present, modifying itself and going on. This movement from yesterday to today to tomorrow is the movement of time, by sunrise and by sunset. Right? There is also psychological time. That is, I have known pain, I hope I shan’t have it, it might occur again, which is the movement of the past through the present modifying itself, and the future. Right? There is time by the watch; there is time inwardly – I hope to be. You are not, but you hope. You are violent but you hope to be non-violent. You are greedy, envious, but through time, through evolution, you will gradually get rid of it. So, time is a movement from the past, present, future. Thought is also from the past – knowledge, memory, movement to the future. So time is thought. Right? Clear?
So, the next question, which is much more difficult to answer – you have to have patience so far. Patience means – please understand, patience – I am using the word ‘patient’ in a particular sense. Patience means the absence of time. You understand? Generally patience means go slow, be patient, take time, don’t react quickly, be quiet, take it easily, give the other fellow an opportunity to express himself, so on, so on, so on. We are not using the word ‘patient’ in that sense. We are saying patience means the forgetting of time so that it can have… look, you can observe. But if you have time through which you are observing, you are impatient. You get what I’m talking? I am saying something extraordinary. I’ll go into it by myself later. So you have to have patience to read the chapter, which says time is the factor of fear. Thought is time. And as long as thought is functioning you are bound to be afraid. Right? Logically.
So the next chapter says, is there a stopping of time? Is there an ending to time? Time is a great factor in our life – I am, but I will be; I don’t know, but I will know; I don’t know this particular language, I will learn, give me time. Time will heal our wounds. Time blunts sensitivity. You follow? Time destroys relationship between man, woman. Time destroys understanding because understanding is immediate, not ‘I will learn to understand’. So I am saying… the book is saying time plays an extraordinarily important part in our life. Our brains have evolved through time. It is not your brain or my brain but the human brain, the human brain which is you, you have identified that brain as your brain, as your mind. But it is not your mind or your brain, it is the human brain which has evolved through millions of years. So see the brain, which is conditioned by time, can only operate in time. Right? You understand all this? So we are asking the brain to do something totally different. Which is, the book says your brain, your mind, functions in time. Time has played an important part in your life. Time is not the solution of any problem, except technological problems. Don’t use time as a resolution of a problem – between you and your wife, between you and your job, and so on. It is very difficult to understand this. Please give your mind to this, to read the book properly. So it says, can time end? If you don’t end it fear will go on, and with all its consequences. And it says, don’t ask how to end it. You understand? The moment you ask somebody how to end it, he has not read the book, he will give you a theory. I wonder if you understand this.
So, this is real meditation. You understand? This is real meditation, which is to enquire whether time can ever stop. The speaker says it can, and it does. Careful, please. The speaker says so, not your book. So if you say, the speaker says it ends, I hope it ends, and you believe in that hope, you are not reading the book, you are just living on words. And living on words doesn’t dissolve fear. So you have to read the book of time, and go into it, explore the nature of time, how you react to time, how your relationship is based on time. I know you, which is time. You follow? Go into it. Which means also, knowledge means time. But if you are using knowledge as a means of advancement, you are caught in time and therefore fear, anxiety – whole process goes on.
So to enquire into the nature of ending of time requires a silent mind, a mind that is free to observe, not frightened. You understand? Free to observe the movement of time in yourself, how you depend on it. You know, if somebody told you there is no such thing as hope – just listen carefully – there is no such thing as hope, you would be horrified, wouldn’t you? Right? You understand what I am saying? Hope is time. So you have to investigate the nature of time and realise that your brain and your mind and your heart, which are one, are functioning, conditioned in time. And therefore you are asking something totally different. You are asking the brain, the mind to function differently, and that requires great attention in your reading. You understand?
So sirs, that is enough for this evening. We will go into matters of pleasure, death, birth, all that, next Saturday and Sunday. After that unfortunately we have to go to other places.