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Jiddhu Krishnamurti (1895 - 1986)

The Observer Is the Observed

Madras, India. Group Discussion 8th November, 1947

Awareness is not of anything abstract or being aware of Reality, God or Truth; we must be aware of what we are doing, what we are thinking and feeling. Have you ever watched you mind? One thought precipitates on another before the original one is complete. All these thoughts relate either to the past memories or to the hopes of the future. The mind wanders, ceaselessly and restlessly, back to the past or forward to the future. In longing to find out what it is which we are thinking, we find that most of us are merely accepting, not thinking, and automatically responding according to our particular profession or reacting to a particular conditioning.

The world problem is your problem. To understand the world, you must understand yourself. To transform the world, you must regenerate yourself. You cannot change yourself until there is self-knowledge. The mind finds it difficult to know itself because it is full of conclusions and suppositions and because it is disciplined; without understanding the ways of itself, the mind cannot proceed further. The mind has to be aware of its own activities and its own conditioning before it can be free, and understanding can come only when the mind is free.

How can the mind which is restless and going swiftly backwards and forwards, be aware of its activities? Finding itself restless, the mind, without becoming aware of the causes of this restlessness, quickly directs itself along certain channels, chosen patterns, based on gratification; for a split second it remains so, but moves off again. The mind is very active and extraordinarily complex: there are the conscious layers and the innumerable unconscious layers. To understand any- thing, there must be observation. An object in swift movement can be watched only when the movement is slowed down. The problem therefore is how to slow down the movement of the mind. Without understanding the problem in all its implications, the mind jumps to meet the problem with ready-made answers like the following -

i) Stopping the activity of the mind by force. Then, the mind is 'dead' and not living. Our observation of the 'dead' mind will not help us to understand the mind in movement.

ii) Disciplining, controlling the mind - then, all your energy is taken up with controlling or disciplining, and you do not understand the mind in movement. Discipline implies conformity, practice, habit, which deadens the mind.

iii) Inviting a higher entity or an outside interference - Paramatman, some entity beyond the mind - to come and study the mind. This does not work because it is still the product of the mind and therefore the result of the known. It is only a trick of the mind.

iv) Repetition of particular activities of the mind to enable the mind to watch and understand such activities. Repetition makes the mind automatic, thoughtless and therefore not alert but dull. This does not therefore lead to the understanding of the mind in movement.

v) Various points of view - Each point of view is a preconceived path and is conditioned. The problem will then be translated in terms of that particular point of view only. Therefore, it does not lead to the understanding of the whole.

When any one of the above methods of approach to this problem is taken up by the mind and pursued to its completion, it is found that it does not lead to the solution of the problem and that each such approach is false. Therefore, the method of approach is more important. Without understanding the problem, the mind rushed off with a prepared answer and, after following it through, realised that it was no answer to the problem. The mind must pursue each thought that arises in it, right through till it is complete - just like following up a stream along its course right up to its source; in that very process, the restless mind is slowed down, it becomes extraordinarily quiet and receptive, and understanding comes. For example, you are listening attentively to me when I describe something which is true because I have experienced it. While listening, your mind has slowed down and remained quiet and receptive.