The Monkey Mind and it’s Tricks

Our minds are constantly functioning. There is incessant activity of the surface consciousness and also the unnoticed activity of the subconscious.

If we observe the mind, it is always acting from a center, the center is one with an agenda. While there are innumerable nuances of the agendas, one can resolve them effectively into two basic movements – fear and desire. We can resolve this too into a single movement – desire, for fear is a negative desire.

Till there is a center, there is a periphery, which means the mind is moving in a limited sphere. The activities may keep changing. Instead of following material pursuits, one may be following spiritual pursuits like meditation, reading of scriptures, following a guru or joining an ashram. But the center, the monkey remains. The monkey dons saffron robes, burns incense sticks, grows a beard, recites mantras and joins satsangas but the monkey remains, playing the same old tricks. One cannot transform the monkey into another. Sometimes the monkey becomes silent and then one has a wonderful experience. But then the monkey comes back and wants to repeat the same experience. The monkey is now desiring spiritual experiences.

Seeing this, one asks whether this monkey can come to an end. Is there a movement which is not a creation of this monkey mind? Is there a movement without a center? Because if there is not, then one is always a monkey.

There is the movement of passive awareness in which there is no movement in time whatsoever. This movement is called “passive” because any effort is an indication that the monkey is working.

Having said this, I love monkeys 🙂

Following is a discussion by J Krishnamurti on the monkey mind

Krishnamurti Impossible Question Part II Chapter 6 7th Public Dialogue Saanen 8th August 1970

Realizing all this what is one to do?

Questioner: Can this consciousness with its limitations go beyond itself?

Krishnamurti: Can the monkey with all its intentions and aspirations, with all its vitality, free itself from its conditioning and go beyond the frontiers of consciousness which it has created?

To put it differently, can the `me’, which is the monkey, by doing all kinds of things meditating, suppressing, conforming, or not conforming being everlastingly active, can its movement take it beyond itself. That is, does the content of consciousness allow the `me’ – and therefore the attempt on the part of the monkey – to free itself from the limitation of the pool? So my question is: can the monkey be completely quiet to see the extent of its own frontiers? And is it at all possible to go beyond them?

Questioner: At the centre there is always the monkey, so there is not empty space, no space for freedom.

Krishnamurti: Sir, do you notice for yourself that you are always acting from a centre? The centre may be a motive, the centre may be fear, may be ambition – you are always acting from a centre, aren’t you? `I love you’, `I hate you’, `I want to be powerful’ – all action as we know it, is from a centre. Whether that centre identifies with the community or with a philosophy, it is still the centre; the thing identified with becomes the centre. Are you aware of this action always going on, or are there moments when the centre is not active? It happens – suddenly you are looking, living, feeling without a centre. And that is a totally different dimension. Then thought begins to say, `What a marvellous thing that was, I’d like to continue with it?’ Then that becomes the centre. The remembrance of something which happened a few seconds ago becomes the centre through thought. Are we aware of the space that centre creates round itself? – the isolation, resistance, escapes. As long as there is a centre, there is the space which the centre has created and we want to expand this space, because we feel the expansion of space is necessary to live extensively. But in that expansive consciousness there is always the centre, therefore the space is always limited, however expanded. Observe it in yourself, don’t listen to me, watch it in yourself, you will discover these things very simply. And the battle in relationship is between two centres: each centre wanting to expand, assert, dominate – the monkeys at work!

So I want to learn about this. The mind says, `I see that very clearly; the mind is learning. How does that centre come into being? Is it the result of the society, the culture, or is it a divine centre – forgive me for using that word `divine’ – which has always been covered up by society, by the culture? The Hindus and others call it the Atman, the Great Thing inside which is always being smothered. Therefore you have to free the mind from being smothered, so that the real thing, the real monkey can come out.

Obviously the centre is created by the culture one lives in, by one’s own conditioned memories and experiences, by the fragmentation of oneself. So it is not only the society which creates the centre, but also the centre is propelling itself. Can this centre go beyond the frontiers which it has created? By silencing itself, by controlling itself, by meditating, by following someone, can that centre explode and go beyond? Obviously it can’t. The more it conforms to the pattern, the stronger it gets, though it imagines that it is becoming free. Enlightenment, surely, is that state, that quality of mind in which the monkey never operates. How is the monkey to end these activities? Not through imitation, not through conformity, not through saying, `Somebody has attained enlightenment, I’ll go and learn from him’ – all those are monkey tricks.

Does the monkey see the tricks it plays upon itself by saying, `I’m ready to help, to alter society, I am concerned with social values and righteous behaviour and social justice’. You answer this, Sir! Don’t you think it is a trick that it plays upon itself?


The monkey has to come in if there is some functional work to be done. But does that operation on the part of the monkey spring from attention, or is that monkey separate from attention? Going to the office and working in the office, is that a movement of attention, or is it the movement of the monkey which has taken over, the monkey who says, `I must be better than the others, I must make more money, I must work harder, I must compete, I must become the manager’ – whatever it is. Go into it, Sir. Which is it in your life? A movement of attention, and therefore much more efficient, much more alive; or is the monkey taking over? Answer it Sir, for yourself. If the monkey takes over and makes some kind of mischief – and monkeys do make mischief – can that mischief be wiped away and not leave a mark? Go on, Sirs, you don’t see the beauty of all this!

Yesterday somebody said something to me which was not true. Did the monkey come into operation and want to say, `You’re a liar’? Or was it the movement of that attention in which the monkey is not operating? – then that statement which is not true doesn’t leave a mark. When the monkey responds, then it leaves a mark.

So I am asking: can this attention flow? Not, `how can I have continuous attention’, because then it is the monkey who is asking. But when there is a movement of attention all the time, the mind just moves with it.

You must answer this; it is really an extraordinarily important question. We only know the movement of the monkey and only occasionally do we have this attention in which the monkey doesn’t appear at all. Then the monkey says, `I want that attention; then it goes to Japan to meditate, or to India to sit at someone’s feet, and so on.

We are asking: is this movement of attention totally unrelated to consciousness as we know it? Obviously it is. Can this attention, as a movement, flow as all movements must flow? And when the monkey becomes active, can the monkey itself become aware that it is active and so not interfere with the flow of attention?

Somebody insulted me yesterday and the monkey was awake to reply; and because it has become aware of itself and all the implications of the monkey tricks, it subsides and lets the attention flow. Not, `how to maintain the flow’ – this is really important – the moment you say `I must maintain it’, that is the activity of the monkey. So the monkey knows when it is active and the sensitivity of its awareness immediately makes it quiet.

 Dialogue by Krishnamurti has been taken from

Picture taken from


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