The Cup is Most Useful When It is Empty

Freedom begets freedom. In order to look into any problem, one has to start simply, without any baggage of past knowledge, prejudice or affiliations. One has to be empty and silent so that the problem can be seen by unfolding itself. When one is choicelessly aware of ‘what is’, one is not imposing anything on the way the problem has to be seen, nor is one knowing beforehand, how the problem is going to unfold. In such a process, the problem yields it’s own insight, which ends the problem.

But this is not the end of the story. Unlike technological problems which have a point of arrival, or a solution, life is not something bound. Life or creation is constantly renewing itself. It is in a state of boundless creation. So, to say that one has “arrived”, at any point, is a contradiction of the phenomena of life.

In my own inquiry, I have seen the vital importance of not clinging to any insights, any experience or knowledge. The self is a pattern that seeks continuity. So the only way to end this pattern is to die to oneself every moment. In our lives we create a division between living and dying. As Heraclitus says,

You could not step into the same river twice

Which means that there is no person, which inheres from one moment to the next. And what is this person? It is nothing but a psychological pattern, a memory, a set of tendencies that are resisting dissolution.

Attachment to knowledge, to one’s knowing, to one’s past insights is an extremely subtle form of attachment. If not detected, it forms the seed for the pattern of self to re-establish itself. Like stagnant waters, psychological knowledge starts reeking.

There are further and further insights, only if we die to every knowing. So paradoxically, what becomes important is not, knowing, but emptiness – a state of innocence and unknowing – in which instants of knowing arise and dissolve in an infinite series.

I am presenting below, a dialogue by J Krishnamurti. When I read him, I find a mind that was always looking at the problem afresh, right till the time he died.

The cup is useful only when it is empty

To discuss intelligently, there must also be a quality not only of affection but of hesitation. You know, unless you hesitate, you can’t inquire. Inquiry means hesitating, finding out for yourself, discovering step by step; and when you do that, then you need not follow anybody, you need not ask for correction or for confirmation of your discovery. But all this demands a great deal of intelligence and sensitivity.

By saying that, I hope I have not stopped you from asking questions! You know, this is like talking things over together as two friends. We are neither asserting nor seeking to dominate each other, but each is talking easily, affably, in an atmosphere of friendly companionship, trying to discover. And in that state of mind we do discover, but I assure you, what we discover has very little importance. The important thing is to discover, and after discovering, to keep going. It is detrimental to stay with what you have discovered, for then your mind is closed, finished. But if you die to what you have discovered the moment you have discovered it, then you can flow like the stream, like a river that has an abundance of water.

Question: You are advocating that we liquidate the environment within us. Why do you advocate that? What is the use of it?

Krishnamurti: I am not advocating anything. But you know, the cup is useful only when it is empty. With most of us, the mind is clouded, cluttered up with so many things – pleasant and unpleasant experiences, knowledge, patterns or formulas of behavior, and so on. It is never empty. And creation can take place only in the mind that is totally empty. Creation is always new, and therefore the mind is made constantly fresh, young, innocent; it doesn’t repeat, and therefore doesn’t create habits.

I don’t know if you have ever noticed what sometimes happens when you have a problem, either mathematical or psychological. You think about it a great deal, you worry over it like a dog chewing on a bone, but you can’t find an answer. Then you let it alone, you go away from it, you take a walk; and suddenly, out of that emptiness, comes the answer. This must have happened to many of us. Now, how does this take place? Your mind has been very active within its own limitations about that problem, but you have not found the answer, so you have put the problem aside. Then your mind becomes somewhat quiet, somewhat still, empty; and in that stillness, that emptiness, the problem is resolved. Similarly, when one dies each minute to the inward environment, to the inward commitments, to the inward memories, to the inward secrecies and agonies, there is then an emptiness in which alone a new thing can take place. I am not advocating it; I am not doing propaganda for that emptiness – good God! I am only saying that unless that emptiness comes into being, we shall continue with our sorrow, with our anxiety, with our despair, and our activities will bring more and more confusion.

To bring about a different human being, and therefore a different society, a different world, there must be the ending of sorrow; for it is only with the ending of sorrow that there is a new life.

Tenth Talk in Saanen, August 1, 1965

Dialogue of Krishnamurti from

Photograph has been taken from


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