The Observer Is the Observed
Madras, India. Public Talk 26th October, 1947
Because we are too close to the problem, we do not know yet how to observe. Because we are too close to the problems such as poverty, the war that is coming, etc., we are incapable of real observation, and real study and understanding. So let us not jump to conclusions. I am only going to paint a picture, which though I paint it, is also yours, because you are dealing with life, the life which is in Europe, in Russia, in Japan, in chaotic China or in the somewhat orderly America. We deal with the whole of it and if we are to deal with it sanely, there must be no conclusion as the moment we conclude we put a stop to thinking.
I am not here to give you ideas but on the contrary, I am here to discuss together with you if we can, seriously and earnestly the problem of living. We are too much accustomed to listening to leaders and to discussions, and therefore it is unfortunate that it is difficult for us to discuss without jumping to conclusions or trying to find out what are the inner motives of the speaker. I have no inner motive but I want to state something which is yours, not mine, and I want to describe something which is true.
As life is not merely one phase, let us not at any time approach it through any exclusive path, either the intellectual, or the emotional. Because by emphasizing one phase or one path, we will not have the whole picture, and you and I are trying to understand the whole picture. If we have a canvas in front of us with a picture, if we merely study one corner of it, surely we will miss the whole picture. If you are an economist and view life from the economic point of view you will miss the whole picture. The same is true if you are a socialist or a communist or a capitalist, etc. So even though you are specialized in philosophy, economy or law, etc., put them aside for the moment at least because in that problem and not merely in a part of it lies the solution. The more we specialize the more we are going to destroy ourselves. It is a biological fact. Animals that have specialized have perished. So, similarly, as our problem is not a specialized problem let us look at it from every point of view. There are only very few who can look at the canvas and get the whole significance of the picture and it is they who are the real saviours and not the specialists.
As I was saying, life is a very complex problem and a very complex problem must naturally be approached very simply. Take for example a child which is a very complex entity; yet to understand a child our mind should be very simple. If you see a beautiful picture or a lovely sunset if you are comparing them with other pictures or sunsets, you won't understand the picture or the sunset. Similarly life is very complex and it involves actual thinking, feeling, earning one's livelihood, relationship, search for truth, etc. So to understand life we must have an extraordinarily simple mind, not an innocent one, a very simple mind that sees directly everything as it is and not translated according to what it wants. This is one of our difficulties: to approach the complex problem of life simply. To understand and to approach simply, we have naturally to ask ourselves this question: what is our relationship to this problem, this chaos and this degradation that we see about us, where man is against man, ideas against another set of ideas, where despair is prevailing? Perhaps you do not know about this despair. In Europe they feel it vitally because they see how everything has failed: education, religion, one system after another has collapsed.
So, how do you regard this chaos, this frightful confusion? How would you set about to bring order out of this chaos? Where would you begin? Obviously with yourselves because your relationship with the chaos is direct. Let us not blame a few insane leaders. Because you and I have created this chaos, to bring order we must begin with our house, with our- selves. We are not to begin with a system; we are not to begin with an idea; we are not to begin with a revolution; we are not to begin with a theory; we must begin with ourselves, because we are responsible for ourselves. Without us there is no world and so we are the world and we are the problem, which is not an intellectual theory but a fact. So do not rush to put it aside, which is usually one of our escapes, one of our clever means of getting out of it. Because when we deal with it so directly, what we feel and what we do is of vital significance and because we are unwilling to face it we say `get on'.
As it is an irrefutable fact that we are the world and we have created the mess, it is through us alone that the salvation lies and not through something else and that is the basis of what I am going to say about the whole problem. Because the problem is not external to you; to understand it you have to understand yourself. Though it sounds very simple it is extremely complex. If everyone in the world would observe decently and kindly without condemnation and exploitation, there would be peace in the world. So the problem is your responsibility, a responsibility you have shirked; the moment you recognize that you are in the mess you have to act positively and vigorously but we do not want to act positively, therefore we look to a leader and to a system. So in my talks and discussions the only starting point and the only essential point is you.
For several reasons we have overshadowed our responsibility, it has been put away, discharged, hidden, dispelled or submerged. This chaos is the result of systems whether the capitalistic, the socialistic, the communistic or the brahminic. That is, we have systems and formulae and they are more important to us than the individual. If we will observe still further we will find that organized society, in which we include education, religion, etc., has smothered our individual responsibility. You believe and your belief is merely a condition imposed upon you because it gratifies you and gives you security in society, factually, psychologically and abstractively. So, when you believe, your individual responsibility is taken away and you are working just like a machine. When society becomes more important the importance of bureaucracy becomes overwhelming. Take the example of a political party. When you join it you become a party-machine. You want to dominate, you want to put your ideas through. So the party, the organization, the system become much more important than you and yet you do not realize it.
Again take the case of education. I do not know why we are educated. What does it all mean? What is the purpose of education? You become lawyers, mathematicians, chemical engineers and so on. You are educated to be something and therefore you cease to be the individual who is responsible, but you are specialized. The more we are educated the more conditioned we are. The more we read the more we repeat. "Teach the people how to read and then we will have no revolution" is a famous saying. With education we have the regimentation through the Army, the Navy, the Police, etc. So these are the many factors which make us unconscious of our responsibility. We all function as machines because as we are members of a party or group, we have no responsibility.
So in order to transform this chaos and darkness we have to start with ourselves and not with the machine, because, psychologically you are always the master of the machine or the system. So we shall start from this point: you are the only person that matters and not the society because your relationship with one another is the society. What you think, what you feel, what you do is of the utmost importance because you create the society and the environment.
I will now answer some of the questions sent to me.
I do not prepare beforehand the answers to these questions. Generally I do not even like to look at them in advance as I wish to answer directly and so I am not choosing what I want to answer. The question will receive the right answer if the questioner is serious in his intentions. If you merely ask an intellectual question to trap me you may trap me but you will lose out. But if you ask really seriously, you will find that there is a serious answer. Question: What is the kind of thinking needed today to live in peace? At the same time could you show a way by which millions of unemployed people can lead a life without starvation.
Krishnamurti: To have peace you must live peacefully. Property is one of the causes of contention. To own things, whether through control of property by which you gain more and more or through relationship with ideas, will create contention. So if you want peace you must live without greed, because greed leads to nationalism and it is a factor which divides people. From greed we come to envy and a desire to possess. All these create competition between man and man. Organized religion is also one of the factors that separate man from man for we say we are Christians, Hindus, etc. You believe and I do not believe and therefore there is contention. You want to convert me and I think my religion is much better than yours, nearer the supreme. So to have peace in the world, which is very essential now, we must be peaceful. You cannot have peace through communalism. You cannot have peace through intelligence whether it is the intelligence of the Brahmin or of one of another caste or of the American or of the German. To have peace in the world we must cease to be greedy. To have peace in the world we must cease to be a Brahmin, a Hindu, a Muslim or an Englishman and so on. All the divisions have to be dropped because you and I are one biologically. When this is done we can feed the starving millions. If not, we will be wrangling to find out which is the better system, or the best set of ideas. So the starving man is left out. This does not mean that we should not organize to feed the many, the one. One has to think in terms of the world. The scientist can be put to work to feed, clothe and provide shelter for everybody. But scientists are also nationalists like you and me. If you are spreading this poison of separatism you are also contributing to this disaster. Separatism not only economically but psychologically as well; the organized separatism of religion or societies, etc. If you really felt that they are wrong, would you not stop them and thereby bring about a different world tomorrow? Nobody is worried about what is going to happen five hundred years hence. I want to be fed tomorrow, immediately and you could provide food, clothing and shelter if we all acted immediately. But unfortunately the crisis is far away from most of us or at least we think it is far away and therefore we are not faced with it. Nobody is going to give you peace, certainly not God, because we are not worthy of it. We have made this mess and we have to get out of it and we cannot get out of it through any system.
Question: More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of. Mahatma Gandhi has wonderfully exemplified its efficacy in his daily life. If individuals without distraction and materialistic aggrandizement lift their hearts to God in penitent prayer, then the mercy of God will dispel the catastrophe that has overtaken the world. Is this not the right attitude to develop?
Krishnamurti: We must differentiate between prayer and meditation. What do we mean by prayer? Generally it means supplication or petition. You demand, beg, or ask from what you call God, something which you want. To put it plainly it means that you are in need and you pray. You are in suffering and you pray. You are mentally confused and you pray. That is, you petition or you supplicate somebody to tell you what to do. To whom are you praying? You say to God. But surely God or Truth is something unknown and which cannot be formulated. If you say I know God it is no longer God. God and Truth are not created. it must come to you and you cannot go to it and ask. When you ask you are creating it and therefore it ceases to be God or Truth. So before you ask, you must know whether you want peace from God, that is, Truth. When you yourself create this chaos in this world you look to another for help. So God cannot give you peace, because it is your fabrication. What is the good of praying? Is not then prayer an escape? Please do not bring personalities into it. Let us think about it directly. It does not matter who prays. Once a person in America came to see me and he said that he had prayed to God to give him a refrigerator and he said that he had the refrigerator. But you pay for it in the end. If you want peace you will have it, but it will not be peace, it will only be decay, stagnation and regimentation. Peace is something very dynamic which is creative and you cannot have something creative through supplication. But prayer is completely different from meditation. A man who prays can never understand what is meditation, because he is concerned with gain. Meditation is a process of understanding. Understanding is not a result and it is not something you gain. It is a process of self-discovery. That means meditation is an awareness of your whole process of living. Meditation is a process of understanding, the process of your whole being, not only a part of it, and that means that you have to be aware of everything that you are doing. it is not concentration. You take a picture and you focus your attention on that. That is comparatively easy. That is exclusive, you exclude all thoughts and you focus your attention on one point. Surely that is not meditation. Meditation is an awareness constantly becoming deeper and deeper as a result of clearly seeing through the many layers of consciousness. It is like a pool that is still when the process is over. When the problem ceases through awareness the solution becomes stillness. It cannot be made quiet. So prayer, concentration, meditation, are entirely different things and he who prays can never know what meditation is; neither he who concentrates can ever know what meditation is. For meditation is spontaneous and therefore it requires spontaneity and not a regimented mind. Spontaneity comes into being when there is awareness, awareness in which there is no condemnation, no judgment and no identification. If you go deeper and deeper and let it flow freely it becomes meditation, in which the thinker is the thought and there is no division between the thinker and the thought.
Question: You deride the Brahmins. Have they not played an important part in the culture of India.
Krishnamurti: Perhaps they have. But what of it? Surely such a question indicates hereditary pride. Does it not? It is like saying that I was something marvellous in my past incarnation but now I am a boot-black. This idea that you are the exclusive race of Brahmins, this idea that you have a master-creed which cannot be handed down, is detrimental to society. So what matters is not whether you are a Brahmin or not, but what you are now, not what you were in the past. Originally every society in the world had a group of people who were devoted to something real. You call them Brahmins, somebody else calls them Hebrews, Christians, and so on. But what they were essentially concerned with was the pursuit of the real, irrespective of what the society around was doing. By what name they are called does not matter. it is they who gave to society, culture, and not the people who were embroiled in society whether politicians, lawyers or warmongers. These do not make society, they do not make culture, but the people who really preach culture are those who are peaceful and not the politicians. So in the past there were such people who were not concerned with ambition, with power, with position, with property, with systems. Not only here but right through the world. There were few who were not concerned, here, and in China there were large groups, and practically everywhere throughout history. And here now, what has happened to the hereditary Brahmins, who are supposed to guide society, to help man to think rightly? They have become merchants, they have become lawyers, they have become politicians. Do you think culture can exist on that kind of basis? On a structure that is really destructive to men?
So, what matters is, not the past, but the result of the past which is the present. To understand the past you have to look through the present, psychologically and factually. The present is the passage of the past to the future. If you do not change in the present, the future will be biased, which means chaos. So we are concerned with the present, not with the Brahmins of old times who were concerned with something far greater than merely grabbing for money, for position, and coding up systems. So since the present is of the highest importance, what are we doing? In what way are we changing ourselves and guiding culture, not Indian culture or Christian culture, but human culture. It is only by setting up peaceful thinking in daily life that we can realize Truth. There is a responsibility for those who are not themselves immediately concerned with food, clothing, and shelter. It is your responsibility to ensure food and clothing for the naked and the starving; instead you are intellectually indulging in verbiage. You must completely shed your opinions and that means revolution in your mind.
Question: You have attained illumination, but what about us, the millions?
Krishnamurti: So, what about you? You and I are the millions, but are we aware of it? The moment we are in despair, we are confused, but who can save us, not the illumined, I assure you, not the leader, not the church, not the temple, not the politician. You are the only person who can save yourself and none other. it is like a man who is in sorrow. If he is unaware of his sorrow, he goes to another and talks about saving the world. If he is aware of his sorrow, of his constant loneliness, emptiness, strife, pains, struggle, then he begins with himself, and he is not concerned about who is illumined, and who is not illumined. He is concerned with his own transformation, with his own regeneration, and that is what matters, not the leader, not the follower, but you; because you yourself are the mass, the life; and life is painful and you feel anxious when you do not understand it, but you can understand it only through yourself, and not through another.