TO KNOW OURSELVES means to know our relationship with the world — not only with the world of ideas and people, but also with nature, with the things we possess. That is our life — life being relationship to the whole. Does the understanding of that relationship demand specialization? Obviously not. What it demands is awareness to meet life as a whole. How is one to be aware? That is our problem. How is one to have that awareness — if I may use this word without making it mean specialization? How is one to be capable of meeting life as a whole? — which means not only personal relationship with your neighbour but also with nature, with the things that you possess, with ideas, and with the things that the mind manufactures as illusion, desire and so on. How is one to be aware of this whole process of relationship? Surely that is our life, is it not? There is no life without relationship; and to understand this relationship does not mean isolation. On the contrary, it demands a full recognition or awareness of the total process of relationship.
How is one to be aware? How are we aware of anything? How are you aware of your relationship with a person? How are you aware of the trees, the call of a bird? How are you aware of your reactions when you read a newspaper? Are we aware of the superficial responses of the mind, as well as the inner responses? How are we aware of anything? First we are aware, are we not?, of a response to a stimulus, which is an obvious fact; I see the trees, and there is a response, then sensation, contact, identification and desire. That is the ordinary process, isn’t it? We can observe what actually takes place, without studying any books.
So through identification you have pleasure and pain. And our ‘capacity’ is this concern with pleasure and the avoidance of pain, is it not? If you are interested in something, if it gives you pleasure, there is ‘capacity’ immediately; there is an awareness of that fact immediately; and if it is painful the ‘capacity’ is developed to avoid it. So long as we are looking to ‘capacity’ to understand ourselves, I think we shall fail; because the understanding of ourselves does not depend on capacity. It is not a technique that you develop, cultivate and increase through time, through constantly sharpening. This awareness of oneself can be tested, surely, in the action of relationship; it can be tested in the way we talk, the way we behave. Watch yourself without any identification, without any comparison, without any condemnation; just watch, and you will see an extraordinary thing taking place. You not only put an end to an activity which is unconscious — because most of our activities are unconscious — you not only bring that to an end, but, further, you are aware of the motives of that action, without inquiry, without digging into it.
When you are aware, you see the whole process of your thinking and action; but it can happen only when there is no condemnation. When I condemn something, I do not understand it, and it is one way of avoiding any kind of understanding. I think most of us do that purposely; we condemn immediately and we think we have understood. If we do not condemn but regard it, are aware of it, then the content, the significance of that action begins to open up. Experiment with this and you will see for yourself. Just be aware — without any sense of justification — which may appear rather negative but is not negative. On the contrary, it has the quality of passivity which is direct action; and you will discover this, if you experiment with it.
After all, if you want to understand something, you have to be in a passive mood, do you not? You cannot keep on thinking about it, speculating about it or questioning it. You have to be sensitive enough to receive the content of it. It is like being a sensitive photographic plate. If I want to understand you, I have to be passively aware; then you begin to tell me all your story. Surely that is not a question of capacity or specialization. In that process we begin to understand ourselves — not only the superficial layers of our consciousness, but the deeper, which is much more important; because there are all our motives and intentions, our hidden, confused demands, anxieties, fears, appetites. Outwardly we may have them all under control but inwardly they are boiling. Until those have been completely understood through awareness, obviously there cannot be freedom, there cannot be happiness, there is no intelligence.
Is intelligence a matter of specialization? — intelligence being the total awareness of our process. And is that intelligence to be cultivated through any form of specialization? Because that is what is happening, is it not? The priest, the doctor, the engineer, the industrialist, the business man, the professor — we have the mentality of all that specialization.
To realize the highest form of intelligence — which is truth, which is God, which cannot be described — to realize that, we think we have to make ourselves specialists. We study, we grope, we search out; and, with the mentality of the specialist or looking to the specialist, we study ourselves in order to develop a capacity which will help to unravel our conflicts, our miseries.
Our problem is, if we are at all aware, whether the conflicts and the miseries and the sorrows of our daily existence can be solved by another; and if they cannot, how is it possible for us to tackle them? To understand a problem obviously requires a certain intelligence, and that intelligence cannot be derived from or cultivated through specialization. It comes into being only when we are passively aware of the whole process of our consciousness, which is to be aware of ourselves without choice, without choosing what is right and what is wrong. When you are passively aware, you will see that out of that passivity — which is not idleness, which is not sleep, but extreme alertness — the problem has quite a different significance; which means there is no longer identification with the problem and therefore there is no judgement and hence the problem begins to reveal its content. If you are able to do that constantly, continuously, then every problem can be solved fundamentally, not superficially. That is the difficulty, because most of us are incapable of being passively aware, letting the problem tell the story without our interpreting it. We do not know how to look at a problem dispassionately. We are not capable of it, unfortunately, because we want a result from the problem, we want an answer, we are looking to an end; or we try to translate the problem according to our pleasure or pain; or we have an answer already on how to deal with the problem. Therefore we approach a problem, which is always new, with the old pattern. The challenge is always the new, but our response is always the old; and our difficulty is to meet the challenge adequately, that is fully. The problem is always a problem of relationship — with things, with people or with ideas; there is no other problem; and to meet the problem of relationship, with its constantly varying demands — to meet it rightly, to meet it adequately — one has to be aware passively. This passivity is not a question of determination, of will, of discipline; to be aware that we are not passive is the beginning. To be aware that we want a particular answer to a particular problem — surely that is the beginning: to know ourselves in relationship to the problem and how we deal with the problem. Then as we begin to know ourselves in relationship to the problem — how we respond, what are our various prejudices, demands, pursuits, in meeting that problem — this awareness will reveal the process of our own thinking, of our own inward nature; and in that there is a release.
What is important, surely, is to be aware without choice, because choice brings about conflict. The chooser is in confusion, therefore he chooses; if he is not in confusion, there is no choice. Only the person who is confused chooses what he shall do or shall not do. The man who is clear and simple does not choose; what is, is. Action based on an idea is obviously the action of choice and such action is not liberating; on the contrary, it only creates further resistance, further conflict, according to that conditioned thinking.
The important thing, therefore, is to be aware from moment to moment without accumulating the experience which awareness brings; because, the moment you accumulate, you are aware only according to that accumulation, according to that pattern, according to that experience. That is your awareness is conditioned by your accumulation and therefore there is no longer observation but merely translation. Where there is translation, there is choice, and choice creates conflict; in conflict there can be no understanding.
Life is a matter of relationship; and to understand that relationship, which is not static, there must be an awareness which is pliable, an awareness which is alertly passive, not aggressively active. As I said, this passive awareness does not come through any form of discipline, through any practice. It is to be just aware, from moment to moment, of our thinking and feeling, not only when we are awake; for we shall see, as we go into it more deeply, that we begin to dream, that we begin to throw up all kinds of symbols which we translate as dreams. Thus we open the door into the hidden, which becomes the known; but to find the unknown, we must go beyond the door — surely, that is our difficulty. Reality is not a thing which is knowable by the mind, because the mind is the result of the known, of the past; therefore the mind must understand itself and its functioning, its truth, and only then is it possible for the unknown to be.
Text copyright © 1954 Krishnamurti Foundation Trust Limited. Reprinted from The First and Last Freedom, Chapter XII, ‘Awareness.’
Photo of black-crested macaque on Sulawesi Island, Indonesia by Stefano Unterthiner. Copyright 2008 Stefano Unterthiner. National Geographic named him Wildlife Photographer of the year in 2008 for this photo.
J. Krishnamurti was a lecturer and author.
By Jiddu Krishnamurti
Benjamin, an Amazon reviewer, writes:
This book helped to trigger a mutation in life. It is utterly relevant. What he said on p. 81 is what occured, what continues to occur, and what can occur for any human being who is sincere in this:
“When you see the whole process, the cunning, extraordinary inventions, the intelligence of the self, how it covers itself up through identification, through virtue, through experience, through belief, through knowledge; when you see that the mind is moving in a circle, in a cage of its own making, what happens? When you are aware of it, fully cognizant of it, then are you not extraordinarily quiet — not through compulsion, not through any reward, not through any fear? When you recognize that every movement of the mind is merely a form of strengthening the self, when you observe it, see it, when you are completely aware of it in action, when you come to that point - not ideologically, verbally, not through projected experiencing, but when you are actually in that state — then you will see that the mind, being utterly still, has no power of creating. Whatever the mind creates is in a circle, within the field of self. When the mind is non-creating there is creation, which is not a recognizable process.”
By Jiddu Krishnamurti
Some quotes from this book:
“Meditation is not a means to an end. It is both the means and the end.”
“Meditation is the ending of thought, not by the meditator, for the meditator is the meditation. If there is no meditation, then you are like a blind man in a world of great beauty, light and colour.”
“Meditation… is not a silence which the observer can experience. If he does experience it and recognise it, it is no longer silence. The silence of the meditative mind is not within the borders of recognition, for this silence has no frontier. There is only silence — in which the space of division ceases.”
“It is one of the illusions most people have — that there is such a thing as inward comfort; that somebody else can give it to you or that you can find it for yourself. I am afraid there is no such thing. If you are seeking comfort you are bound to live in illusion, and when that illusion is broken you become sad because the comfort is taken away from you. So, to understand sorrow or to go beyond it, one must see actually what is inwardly taking place, and not cover it up. To point out all this is not cruelty, is it? It’s not something ugly from which to shy away. When you see all this, very clearly, then you come out of it immediately, without a scratch, unblemished, fresh, untouched by the events of life.”
This page was published on June 7, 2017 and last revised on June 7, 2017.