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Jiddhu Krishnamurti (1895 - 1986)


Question: Insight is a word now used to describe anything newly seen, or any change of perspective. This insight we all know. But the insight you speak of seems a very different one. What is the nature of the insight of which you speak?

If you have understood with insight, your whole daily life will be affected. The first part of the question refers to the sort of experiments carried out on monkeys. Hang up a bunch of bananas and a monkey takes a stick and beats it and the bananas drop; the monkey is said to have insight. There is the other monkey who piles furniture together, one piece on top of another; by that means he reaches the bananas. That is also called insight. There are also experiments with rats; they have to do all kinds of tricks, press this button or that button in order to get at food. That is also called insight. Through experiment, through trial and error, through constantly trying this button and the other button the right button is ultimately pressed and the door of the trap is opened. This process of so-called insight is essentially based on knowledge and that is what we are all doing. You may not call it insight, but it is the actual process of our activity. Try this; if it does not suit, try that. Medically, physically, sexually and so-called spiritually we are doing this all the time. Trying, experimenting and achieving, which becomes acquired knowledge, and from that knowledge we act. This is called insight.

We are referring to an insight which is something entirely different. When the monkey pushes that button and achieves a result, his brain has recorded, memorized, that button as giving that result; it becomes automatic. Then the experimenter changes the button. The monkey presses the original button but it does not work so he gets disturbed. This is what happens to you. Through experiment, through trial, you find a way of living, which suits you. That then is called insight. That insight is based on the repetition of knowledge. Knowledge is acquired or discarded. That insight is always based on knowledge, and knowledge is the past. There is no knowledge of the now or of the future.

The brain is accustomed to one button, to one pattern; it will not accept basic change, it does not know where it is, like the monkey; if the buttons are constantly changed it gives up; it will not move; it is paralysed and does not know what to do. You can see all this in your own self; not knowing what to do, you rush off asking somebody what buttons to press.

We are talking about something very serious. This constant change, happening throughout the world, brings about a sense of paralytic inaction. One cannot do anything. One can go into a monastery, but that is too immature, too childish when you are facing something tremendous. So, unless there is a change in the brain cells themselves, the mere pressing of buttons is the same process repeated. Unless the brain - which is composed of a million, a trillion, or whatever number of cells - undergoes a radical change it will be repeating the old pattern, modifying itself, uncertain, insecure, in a paralysing state of inaction, and, being paralysed it will go off to ask somebody else for help. This is what we are doing.

Can those brain cells change - not by being operated upon, not by being given new drugs, not as a result of entering into new modes of scientific investigation? If not we will keep on endlessly repeating this pattern of certainty, uncertainty, certainty, uncertainty.

I say they can be changed. This movement from certainty to uncertainty and vice versa, is a pattern of time. The brain is used to that - that is why there are all these questions about enlightenment, systems and so on. The speaker says they can be changed, rationally, not in some illusory, fanciful, romantic manner. The brain, the mind and so the nerves, the whole, can observe itself. Which means no direction, no motive. When there is no motive or direction, the movement has already changed. The brain is accustomed to function with motives and when there is no motive in observation one has changed the whole momentum of the past. When there is no motive, no direction, the mind becomes absolutely quiet. There is inward observation and that observation is insight. Therefore the pattern to which the brain cells have been accustomed has been broken.

We are brought up on ideals - the greater, the nobler, the better. The ideal has become more important than `what is'. `What is' and the ideal are opposed and must breed conflict. Look what you are doing: the ideal is the creation of thought in order to overcome `what is', or to use the future as a lever to change `what is'. You are using non-fact to deal with fact. Therefore there is no result; that way there can never be change. It is so simple once you see it. Discard the ideal because it is valueless and observe only the fact. The discarding of the ideal has changed the pattern of the brain cells; the brain has lived in that pattern and now the pattern is broken. One has lived in the hope that one will gradually change; then one sees that gradualness is really the same thing repeated, modified, repeated, modified, repeated - therefore there is no basic change. When you see that, the whole structure of the brain has changed: that is insight.