The Observer Is the Observed
Ojai, California. 1st Public Talk 1946
For what are we striving? What is it that each one is seeking? Till we are aware of our separate pursuits it is not possible to establish right relationship between us. One might be seeking fulfillment and success, another wealth and power, another fame and popularity; some may wish to accumulate and some to renounce; there might be some who are earnestly seeking to dissolve the ego while others may wish merely to talk about it. Is it not important for us to find out what it is we are seeking? To extricate ourselves from the confusion and misery in and about us we must be aware of our instinctive and cultivated desires and tendencies. We think and feel in terms of achievement, of gain and loss, and so there is constant strife; but there is a way of living, a state of being, in which conflict and sorrow have no place.
So to make these discussions fruitful it is necessary, is it not, first to understand our own intentions? When we observe what is taking place in our lives and in the world we perceive that most of us, in subtle or crude ways, are occupied with the expansion of the self. We crave self-expansion now or in the future; for us life is a process of the continuous expansion of the ego through power, wealth, asceticism or the cultivation of virtue and so on. Not only for the individual but for the group, for the nation this process signifies fulfilling, becoming, growing and has ever led to great disasters and miseries. We are ever striving within the framework of the self, however much it may be enlarged and glorified. If this be your aim and mine wholly different then we will have no relationship though we may meet; then our discussions will be purposeless and confused. So first we must be very clear in our intention. We must be clear and definite as to what we are seeking. Are we craving self-expansion, the constant nourishment of the ego, the me and the mine, or are we seeking to understand and so transcend the process of the self? Will self-expansion bring about understanding, enlightenment; or is there illumination, liberation only when the process of self-expansion has ceased? Can we reveal ourselves sufficiently to discern in which direction our interest lies? You must have come here with serious intent; therefore we will discuss in order to clarify that intent, and consider if our daily life indicates what our pursuits are and whether we are nourishing the ego or not. So these discussions can be a means of self-exposure to each one of us. In this self-exposure we will discover the true significance of life.
Must we not first have freedom to discover? There can be no freedom if our action is ever enclosing. Is not the action of the ego, the sense of the me and the mine, ever a process of limitation? We are trying to find out, are we not, if the process of self-expansion leads to Reality or if Reality comes into being only when the self ceases?
Questioner: Must one not go through the self-expansive process in order to realize the Immeasurable?
Krishnamurti: May I put the same question differently? Must one go through drunkenness to know sobriety? Must one go through the various states of craving only to renounce them?
Questioner: Can one do anything with regard to this self-expansive process?
Krishnamurti: May I elaborate this question? We are, are we not, positively encouraging through many actions the expansion of the ego? Our tradition, our education, our social conditioning sustain positively the activities of the ego. This positive activity may take a negative form - not to be something. So our action is still a positive or negative activity of the self. Through centuries of tradition and education thought accepts as natural and inevitable the self-expansive life, positively or negatively. How can thought free itself from this conditioning? How can it be tranquil, silent? If there is that stillness, that is, if it is not caught in self-expansive processes, then there is Reality.
Questioner: If I rightly understand, surely you are reaching way out into the abstract, are you not? You are speaking about reincarnation, I presume?
Krishnamurti: I am not, sir, nor am I reaching out into the abstract. Our social and religious structure is based on the urge to become something, positively or negatively. Such a process is the very nourishment of the ego, through name, family, achievement, through identification of the me and mine which is ever causing conflict and sorrow. We perceive the results of this way of life: strife, confusion and antagonism, ever spreading, ever engulfing. How is one to transcend strife and sorrow? This is what we are attempting to understand during these discussions.
Is not craving the very root of the self? How is thought which has become the means of self-expansion to act without giving sustenance to the ego, the cause of conflict and sorrow? Is this not an important question? Do not let me make it important to you. Is this not a vital question to each one? If it is, must we not find the true answer? We are nourishing the ego in many ways and before we condemn or encourage we must understand its significance, must we not? We use religion and philosophy as a means of self-expansion; our social structure is based on the aggrandizement of the self; the clerk will become the manager and later the owner, the pupil will become the Master and so on. In this process there is ever conflict, antagonism, sorrow. Is this an intelligent and inevitable process? We can discover Truth for ourselves only when we do not depend on another; no specialist can give us the right answer. Each one has to find the right answer directly for himself. For this reason it is important to be earnest.
We vary in our earnestness according to circumstances, our moods and fancies. Earnestness must be independent of circumstances and moods, of persuasion and hope. We often think that perhaps through shock we shall be made earnest but dependence is never productive of earnestness. Earnestness comes into being with inquiring awareness and are we so alertly aware? If you are aware you will realize that your mind is constantly engaged in the activities of the ego and its identification; if you pursue this activity further you will find the deep seated self-interest. These thoughts of self-interest arise from the needs of daily life, things you do from moment to moment, your role in society and so on, all of which build up the structure of the ego. This seems so strangely inevitable but before we accept this inevitability must we not be aware of our purposive intention, whether we desire to nourish the ego or not? For according to our hidden intentions we will act. We know how the self is built up and strengthened through the pleasure and pain principle, through memory, through identification and so on. This process is the cause of conflict and sorrow. Do we earnestly seek to put an end to the cause of sorrow?
Questioner: How do we know our intention is right before we understand the truth of the matter? If we do not first comprehend truth then we shall go off the beam, founding communities, forming groups, having half baked ideas. Is it not necessary, as you have suggested, to know oneself first? I have tried to write down my thoughts-feelings as has been suggested but I find myself blocked and unable to follow my thoughts right through.
Krishnamurti: Through being choicelessly aware of your intentions the truth of the matter is known. We are often blocked because unconsciously we are afraid to take action which might lead to further trouble and suffering. But no clear and definite action can take place if we have not uncovered our deep and hidden intention with regard to nourishing and maintaining the self. Is not this fear which hinders understanding the result of projection, speculation? You imagine that freedom from self-expansion is a state of nothingness, an emptiness and this creates fear, thus preventing any actual experience. Through speculation, through imagination you prevent the discovery of what is. As the self is in constant flux we seek, through identification, permanency. Identification brings about the illusion of permanency and it is the loss of this which causes fear. We recognize that the self is in constant flux yet we cling to something which we call the permanent in the self, an enduring self which we fabricate out of the impermanent self. If we deeply experienced and understood that the self is ever impermanent then there would be no identification with any particular form of craving, with any particular country, nation or with any organized system of thought or religion, for with identification comes the horror of war, the ruthlessness of so-called civilization.
Questioner: Is the fact of this constant flux not enough to make us identify? It seems to me that we cling to something called the me, the self, for it is a pleasant habit of sound. We know a river even when it is dry; similarly we cling to something that is me, even though we know its impermanency. The me is shallow or deep, in full flood or dry, but it is always the me to be encouraged, nourished, maintained at any cost. Why must the I process be eliminated?
Krishnamurti: Now why do you ask this question? If the process is pleasurable you will continue in it and not ask such a question; when it is disagreeable, painful, then only will you desire to put an end to it. According to pleasure and pain thought is shaped, controlled, guided and upon such a weak, changing foundation we make an attempt to understand Truth! Whether the self should be maintained or not is a very vital issue for on it depends the whole course of our action, and so how we approach this problem is all important. On our approach depends the answer. If we are not earnest then the answer will be according to our prejudices and passing fancies. So the approach matters more than the problem itself. Upon the seeker depends what he finds; if he is prejudiced, limited, then he will find according to his conditioning. What then is important is for the seeker first to understand himself.
Questioner: How do we know if there is an abstract truth?
Krishnamurti: Surely, sir, we are not considering now an abstract truth. We are attempting to discover the true and lasting answer to our problem of sorrow, for on that depends the whole course of life. Questioner: Can the conditioned mind observe its conditioning?
Krishnamurti: Is it not possible to be aware of our prejudices? Cannot we know when we are dishonest, when we are intolerant, when we are greedy?
Questioner: Is not the nourishment of the body equally wrong?
Krishnamurti: We are considering the psychological nourishment, the expansion of the self, which causes such strife and misery. One can accept the activity of the self as inevitable and follow that course or there may be another way of life. If it is an intense problem to each one of us then we shall find the right answer.
Questioner: Shall we not know the true answer when the desire for it is greater than for any other thing?
Questioner: Is the ego always harmful? Is selfishness ever beneficial?
Krishnamurti: Self-centred attention and activity, positively or negatively, is the cause of strife and pain. How seriously is each one considering this problem? How earnest are we about discovering the truth of the nature and activity of the ego, the self? Our meditation and spiritual discipline have no meaning if first we are not clear upon this point. True meditation is not self-expansion in any form. So till we can have a common understanding of our purpose there will be confusion, and right relationship between us will not be possible.
Questioner: Is there not a way straight to the problem, to find out the truth?
Krishnamurti: There is, but this demands utter stillness, open receptivity. This requires right understanding; otherwise effort to be open, to be tranquil becomes another means of self-expansion. I am saying that there is a different way of life, a way that is not of self-expansion, in which there is ecstasy, but it has no validity if you merely accept my statement; such acceptance will become another form of egotistic activity. You must know for yourself, directly, the truth of yourself and you cannot realize it through another, however great. There is no authority that can reveal it. Truth can be uncovered only through your own understanding and understanding comes only through self-knowledge. We have a common problem to which we are trying to find the right answer. Questioner: Writing a book could be a self-expansive action, could it not?
Questioner: Should we not establish a purpose in our lives?
Krishnamurti: The ego can choose a noble purpose and so utilize it as a means for its own expansion.
Questioner: If there is no self-expansion is there a purpose, as we know it now?
Krishnamurti: A man who is asleep dreams that he has a purpose or must choose a purpose but does he who is awake have a purpose? He is simply awake. Our frames of reference, our purposes are a means, negatively or positively, of measuring the growth of the self.
Questioner: Is fulfillment self-expansion?
Krishnamurti: If fulfillment is prevented is there not the pain of frustration of the self? Questions of similar kind will find their answer in discovering the truth concerning the self-expansive process; this depends on earnestness and on the open receptivity of the mind-heart.
Questioner: Must we not know what is the other way of life before we can relinquish self-aggrandizement?
Krishnamurti: How can we know or be aware of another way of life till we can perceive the falseness, the futility of acquisition and self-expansion? In understanding the ways of self-aggrandizement we shall become aware. To speculate about the way becomes a hindrance to the very understanding of that life which is not one of self-perpetuation. So must we not discover the truth concerning the habitual activities of the self? It is knowledge of the hindrance that is the liberating factor, not the attempt to be free from the hindrance. Effort made to be free without the liberating action of Truth is still within the enclosing walls of the self. You can discover Truth only if you are willing to give your whole mind and heart to it, not a few moments of your easily spared time. If we are earnest we will find Truth; but this earnestness cannot depend on stimulation of any kind. We must give our full and deep attention to the discovery of the truth of our problem, not for a few grudging moments but constantly. It is Truth alone that liberates thought from its own enclosing process.